Series Preview: Red Hot Phillies host Giants for 4-Game Series

Philadelphia Phillies’ Zack Wheeler pitches during the second inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Saturday, April 20, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Phillies return home after a 10 game road trip, including a little 6 game west coast swing, for a quick 6 game set at home. They kick that off with a four game series against their once-upon-a-time rival, the San Francisco Giants. Part of the beginning of the downfall of those Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard led championship contending teams was a 2010 NLCS loss against the Giants at home. That Phillies squad would not reach the NLCS again before falling off after two more seasons, while the Giants went on to win their first of three World Series titles in a five year span.

Despite the Phillies looking like the better team on paper, the Giants still find themselves in second place in the NL West and are just three years removed from winning 107 games. Will this weekend spark a new chapter in that short-lived feud, or will one team walk away on Monday night feeling much better about themselves? Let’s break it down.

Phillies- Giants Pitching Matchups

Friday night means it’s city connect jersey night. The Phillies will send Aaron Nola (4-1, 3.20 ERA) to the mound, opposed Jordan Hicks (2-0, 1.59 ERA). Hicks’ early season success is one of the biggest surprises across the league so far. San Francisco signed the long-time Cardinal reliever in the off-season to a four year, $44 million deal and they announced they would be converting him to a starter.

Since being called up by St. Louis in 2018 at 21 years old, Hicks worked almost exclusively in a bullpen role. He even lost some time in 2020 as he opted not to play in the shortened season. The last time he started was in 2022, and it did not go well. He finished five full innings just once in his eight starts, going 0-4 with a 5.47 ERA in that role.

This year, the script has flipped – Hicks has a minuscule 1.59 ERA, good for 6th best in the majors, and has made the Giants front office look like they knew something everyone else didn’t. Due to his history as a reliever, he hasn’t faced Phillies hitters too often. Hicks did make two appearances for the Cardinals in the 2022 Wild Card series, allowing one walk and no hits across 1.2 IP.

Nola has not had much success against the Giants in his career, going 3-2 with a 6.87 ERA in seven starts against San Fran. However, 19 of those 27 earned runs came when pitching on the road. His ERA at home against the Giants in three starts drops to a 3.60.

A few hitters in the Giants lineup have seen Nola more than a handful of times and half of them have handled him well. Wilmer Flores and Jorge Soler are both batting over .300, and LaMonte Wade Jr. and Mike Yastrzemski each have a HR off the right-hander in limited at-bats. With Nola’s propensity for the long ball, these are the guys he shouldd try and avoid.

Saturday night will see the newly crowned NL Pitcher of the Month, Ranger Suárez (5-0, 1.32 ERA) face off against right-hander Keaton Winn (3-3, 3.18 ERA). Suarez is more than deserving of every accolade he receives, he’s just pitching his best every night and using both sides of the plate and his full repertoire to get batters out. In his last start, he snapped a 32-inning scoreless streak, surrendering one earned runs – his first since April 6.

Winn was called up just last season and the Phillies did not face him, the only player on the roster who has is Whit Merrifield who went 0-2. Suárez, however, has seen a few hitters more than just one start. Soler has an astounding 1.364 OPS against him in 11 plate appearances, including two home runs. Flores is always one to watch, and he has a .500 average against Ranger in 10 ABs.

Sunday’s contest will be on ESPN for Sunday Night Baseball. Taijuan Walker (1-0, 8.53 ERA) will toe the rubber for just his second start after beginning the year on the injured list. He will be opposed by 2023 NL Cy Young runner-up Logan Webb (3-2, 2.98 ERA). Webb only has two starts against the Phillies in his career, with a 5.25 ERA in two starts – both coming in Philadelphia.

Trea Turner is the only Phillie with more than five career ABs against Webb. In limited exposure, Castellanos, Harper, and Schwarber have combined to go 7-for-14 (.500) with two home runs against Webb. Walker looked great through his first six innings of the year and appeared to be on cruise control, allowing just 3 earned runs for a quality start to that point.

The seventh inning did not go as well, as he quickly gave up a 3-run HR after retiring the first batter, doubling the damage against him, and Jeff Hoffman quickly replaced Walker. However, the opportunity for a quality start was there, and he only went out for the 7th because of the small amount of pitches he threw to that point. The two Giants who are on my radar Friday and Saturday are the same two who have had success against Walker, albeit in limited opportunities.

Monday’s finale will be an afternoon game, where Cristopher Sánchez (1-3, 3.68 ERA) will start for Philadelphia. San Fran has not yet announced who their starters will be. Last time through their rotation, they used rookie and former Phillies prospect Erik Miller (traded for Yunior Marté) as an opener in a bullpen game, as well as 22-year-old left-hander Kyle Harrison.

In Harrison’s first big league start last year, he faced the Phillies going 3.1 innings, 2 runs on 5 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 5. Harper took him deep, while Schwarber and Stott both recorded doubles against the then-rookie. If he is the man they turn to, the Phillies lefties seemed to handle him well. Sánchez hasn’t faced many Giants hitters, but their roster is hitting a combined .200 (2-for-10) against him in their careers.

Phillies Castellanos
Philadelphia Phillies’ Nick Castellanos hits an RBI single during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)

Other notes

Despite maybe not doing what he would expect from himself, Castellanos has started to find himself as of late. In his last 6 games, he hit his first two home runs of the season, has two multi-hit games, and has a game with three walks. He may only have a .227 average during that stretch, but his BAbbip is .300 which should be a good sign for things to come, and he continues to hit the ball hard. His OBP is .320 and his OPS is .820 in that stretch.

Spencer Turnbull was assumed to be coming out of the bullpen moving forward, but reports from MLB Network’s Jon Heyman and NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Corey Seidman note that might not yet be the case. There appear to be many options on the table for the Phillies in an attempt to keep Turnbull stretched out, rewarding him for his stellar performance so far.

Whether that is a six-man rotation, piggybacking two starters often, or switching turns in the rotation depending on the match up is not yet determined. Manage Rob Thomson said they will likely know today what their plan is for the next series against the Toronto Blue Jays, starting Tuesday.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)