Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves in 2020

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

With their four-game series in the rearview mirror, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves have completed 40 percent of their contests. However, the other six games are before August’s end, and the trading deadline may not affect their current rosters unless either club acquires pitching prior to Aug. 30.     

 

Two New Obstacles:

For the Phillies and Braves, the keys are avoiding injuries caused by the lack of a player’s usual routine and/or downtime exposure to COVID-19. To illustrate, Joe Girardi has indicated in his interviews the important  differences are management’s and the players’ approach. Ergo, healthy talent wins!       

IN OTHER WORDS:

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” - Roger Staubach

For the third consecutive summer, winning the National League East boils down to four organizations with the potential for the divisional pennant. But it requires good fortune and health even under normal circumstances because you can’t pull the wagon over the finish line without the horses.  

In ‘20, stars must have the discipline to avoid risky situations off the field, and the skipper must keep them from doing too much. Even so, some Phils fans may question Girardi’s bullpen moves by, for instance, counting one pitch Hector Neris threw but ignoring the 30 warmup tosses before the save.     

In 2019, I had questioned Mike Soroka’s workload, and some Braves supporters obviously disagreed. Including all frames --minors, majors and playoffs-- the rookie had worked 56 ⅓ innings in 2018 and accumulated 191 frames in 2019. I don’t know, but did more than tripling his innings lead to his injury?   

RotationsRotations:
 
 
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While some fans believe they are disagreeing with me, they are really not concurring with a retired general manager from an American League franchise: not a rival to Philly or Atlanta. According to the GM, though, a player makes an impact in or after his third season: 60 to 105 starts. 
 

#

Phillies

Starts

Braves

Starts

1

Aaron Nola

130

Max Fried

43

2

Zack Wheeler

129

Kyle Wright

7

3

Jake Arrieta

VET

Touki Toussaint

9

4

Zach Eflin

76

Bryce Wilson

5

5

Vince Velasquez

101

Mike Foltynewicz*

118

--

Spencer Howard

1

Sean Newcomb*

57

--

Nick Pivetta*

71

* not on 28-man roster

 

--

Ranger Suarez**

3

** on IL (injured list)

 

 

Numbers through 8/12.

 

 

 

Both teams have young starters who are having growing pains. Realistically, neither has a second-year Cole Hamels or Tim Lincecum: Hamels only needed 23 starts to Lincecum’s 24. Before they developed, however, Nola required 60 outings to Wheeler’s 75, but other youngsters here are works in progress.  
 

Phillies Rotation:

  • Nola: 60 Gms., 356 ⅔ Inn., 151 ER and a 3.81 ERA.
  • Nola: 69 Gms., 426 Inn., 153 ER and a 3.23 ERA.
  • Wheeler: 75 Gms., 421 ⅔ Inn., 189 ER and a 4.03 ERA.
  • Wheeler: 54 Gms., 346 ⅓  Inn., 131 ER and a 3.40 ERA.
  • Stats through Aug. 13.

Due to doubleheaders, 10 starts will probably be tops for most rotation arms, plus Fried and Arrieta are having early 2020 success. But Arrieta has suffered June injuries in both 162s here, and Fried faded in ‘19 after May. Otherwise, no comparison exists between them. 

Starters in 2019:

  • Fried: 10 Gms., 54 ⅔ Inn., 18 ER and a 2.96 ERA.
  • Fried: 20 Gms., 104 ⅔ Inn., 56 ER and a 4.68 ERA.
  • Arrieta: 11 Gms., 70 Inn., 28 ER and a 3.60 ERA.
  • Arrieta: 13 Gms., 65 ⅔ Inn., 42 ER and a 5.76 ERA.
  • Eflin: 10 Gms., 62 Inn., 19 ER and a 2.76 ERA.
  • Eflin: 18 Gms., 95 ⅔ Inn., 55 ER and a 5.17 ERA with experiment.
  • Eflin: 14 Gms., 80 ⅔ Inn., 33 ER and a 3.58 ERA without experiment.

While Fried felt growing pains compared to Arrieta’s maladies, Eflin literally had two good performances out of every three, and the coach had wanted him to advance to one clunker out of four: management’s expectation for all moundsmen. But the high fastball with a sinkerballer was disastrous.      

With the starting staff, the Fightins will need 6-7 hurlers due to five twin bills in September and one on Aug. 20. But although some want rookie Howard to replace Velasquez, both will have more starts through September. And lefty Suarez --heading to Allentown-- could be here before August’s end.     

After Fried, the Braves rotation is an adventure due to Soroka’s and Hamels’ injuries, plus Foltynewicz had a six-mph drop in velocity: DFA (designated for assignment). And if his fastball doesn’t return, he won’t because he’s two starts shy of free agency with 2020’s pay: He may not be an option.                 

Rotation

ERA

NL #

MLB #

Phillies

3.34

5

7

Nationals

3.88

7

10

Mets

5.18

12

25

Braves

5.57

13

27

Stats through 8/11.

 

 

 

 

Relief Corps:

Most pens have 3-5 solid relievers including the closer and setup men, and expanded rosters mean 10-11 bullpen pieces instead of the usual eight. Therefore, most clubs have 5-8 middle relievers instead of 3-5 extra arms. Translation: Any pen with five solid pitchers or more is fortunate.

Relief-corps usage baffles many locals because they believe the manager doesn’t go with his best hurler, but he instead makes a lesser choice. Well, the next day’s starter and relievers’ workloads dictate who is available before the contest. But other considerations are the scoreboard, a hurler’s record against a team and their lineup. 

If there’s a lopsided score, the skipper goes with the least of these, but a close game dictates his best options depending on the frame. Before Nola’s last outing, though, Girardi had Jose Alvarez and Tommy Hunter to set up for Neris hinging on Nola’s pitch count and/or the scoreboard. 

Basically, seven-inning doubleheaders should be beneficial for the red pinstripes, yet they are 1-3 against the New York Yankees and Atlanta. But those 14-frame affairs exist because of their stop-and-start campaign producing rusty moundsmen. To fanatics, though, reality can be an excuse.  

The Phils have one twin bill on Aug. 20 and five twofers in September for their six starters. However, Suarez and David Robertson are nearly ready to throw to batters in Allentown, and Victor Arano is there as well. 

 

Bullpen

ERA

NL #

MLB #

Braves

3.05

4

7

Nationals

3.42

6

10

Mets

5.11

11

24

Phillies

10.19

15

30

Stats through 8/11.

 

 

 

 

Bullpens protect leads or keep the score close after the starter has worked 5-7 innings. Therefore, the stats indicate the Phils can’t protect an advantage, and the Braves don’t have a lead frequently enough. But Atlanta can be victorious using an opener, while Philly starters must eat innings to triumph.     

Besides Neris, Hunter and Alvarez, the Phillies have Adam Morgan: four total for ‘20. And a winning streak means excellent pitching appearances or an offensive onslaught. So, a .500 record is their future barring heavy run scoring or help from Suarez, Robertson and Arano (situation unknown).    

For the Braves, they eventually will have Will Smith closing and Mark Melancon for the eighth frame. And their other setup arms are Shane Greene, Darren O’Day and Luke Jackson, but AJ Minter could be in this group if he can avoid another demotion: a tally of five or six.    

Moreover, they’ve also received nice outings from Chris Martin (now on the IL), Grant Dayton, Josh Tomlin and Tyler Matzek. But Matzek's last major league stint was 2015 with the Colorado Rockies. So, the southpaw must have a story involving the expanded rosters.     

Offense:

While each organization has three main hitting weapons, the Braves have a more balanced attack so far due in part to no stoppages in play. But the Phillies went 2-2 each against them and the Yankees including Gerrit Cole, and Atlanta was 0-2 against them in Gotham.           

For the Fightins, JT Realmuto (5 HRs, 13 RBIs), Bryce Harper (4 HRs, 10 RBIs) and Didi Gregorius (3 HRs, 11 RBIs) are the heart of the order. And they’ve hit 12 of the 20 homers and driven in 34 of 59 RBIs.        

On the Braves, Ronald Acuna Jr. (4 HRs, 9 RBIs), Freddie Freeman (3 HRs, 12 RBIs) and Marcell Ozuna (4 HRs, 11 RBIs) are the run producers. But they’ve only launched 11 of 27 home runs and knocked in just 32 of 99 RBIs.

 

Offense

Runs 

NL #

MLB #

Braves

101

1

1

Mets

71

9

21

Phillies

64

10

22 tie

Nationals

53

13

27

Overall

fWAR *

NL #

MLB #

Phillies

2.5

4

10

Braves

2.3

6

13 3-way tie

Mets

1.9

7

16 tie

Nationals

0.3

14 tie

27

Stats through 8/11.

 

 

 

 * Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement

 
In the two hole, an RBI slot, Dansby Swanson is averaging .276 with 14 RBIs, and he stands to benefit by being between Acuna and Freeman. Meanwhile, Andrew McCutchen atop the Phils’ lineup is off to a slow start in comparison to last summer with a .184 average instead of 2019’s .261 with 10 bombs and 29 RBIs through May.  
 
The wild cards in each batting order are Rhys Hoskins and Austin Riley, but one huge difference is Hoskins had a solid track record for over two years before his continuing struggles. As for Riley, he was on fire for his first MLB month. Currently, Riley has three long balls and eight RBIs, and Hoskins has 14 walks and a .404 OBP. 
 
Both franchises have enough offense to capture the NL East, but the Phillies have the stronger rotation, while the Braves have a solid pen. However, the red pinstripes will have two more successful relievers for at least a full month, but --the big but is-- what is 2020 to most people? Upside down!  
 
 
NEXT:
Rsz_howard
Spencer Howard
 
 

Flyers 5: Takeaways from Game 1 of Flyers-Canadiens

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

As the top seed, expectations start to get high. Even if the Flyers came in with the fourth-best points percentage in the conference, they sure didn’t look like it in the Round Robin.

As expected in the first game of a first-round series, there was a new level of intensity. There were new challenges now that the games count for something different. It was unlike any game the Flyers have played yet since arriving in Toronto.

But one thing remained a constant. Carter Hart was excellent again. That is the main reason the Flyers find themselves with a 1-0 series lead following a 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1.

Here are 5 takeaways from the Game 1 win.

Continue reading "Flyers 5: Takeaways from Game 1 of Flyers-Canadiens" »


Hart Helps Flyers Claim Game 1 Over Canadiens

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

In his playoff debut against Boston last Sunday, Carter Hart said he was going to treat it like any other game. He certainly did then. In his first game in a playoff series, there was no difference. It was just another game for the netminder.

Calm, cool and collected, Hart made 27 saves to help the Flyers claim a 2-1 win in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.

Continue reading "Hart Helps Flyers Claim Game 1 Over Canadiens" »


Sixers Fall in Close Game Against Raptors

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Sixers were in action on Wednesday for their second to last seeding game. They would finish up the back end of a back to back falling to the Toronto Raptors by a final score of 125-121.

Brett Brown rested most of his starters on Tuesday against the Suns, but they would make a return in this one. With the playoffs looming right around the corner they would only appear in the first half of this game.

Tobias Harris looked like the day of rest did well for him. He played just 24 minutes but managed to rack up 22 points, six rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. This was a strong performance from Harris heading into the postseason.

Al Horford played well in his time on the floor as well. He did a little bit of everything in his 18 minutes on the court, finishing with nine points, four rebounds, and five assists. Horford also continues to shoot well knocking down a pair of threes. Horford's defense stood out in this game as well, as he defended Toronto's Pascal Siakam well when matched on him.

The Toronto Raptors have been one of the few teams that have been able to slow down Joel Embiid in the past, and the same stayed true in this game. Embiid has been extremely dominant in the bubble but looked mortal in this one. In 13 minutes of action, Embiid scored just five points and committed five turnovers.

Coach Brown has given the second unit a lot of time on the floor in recent games, and some guys have made the most of the opportunity. Mike Scott was very impressive in the game against the Suns and followed up that performance well. He scored 12 points against the Raptors and knocked down a pair of threes.

Furkan Korkmaz caught fire from deep as well. He finished the game as the Sixers' second-leading scorer with 12 points and shot an impressive 5-9 from three-point range. Korkmaz looks to be finding his stroke again from deep and the timing couldn't be any better.

Although they haven't been winning games, the Sixers look to be trending in the right direction. They have brought good energy and the role players look to be finding a groove and growing more confident in recent games.

The Sixers will play their eight and final seeding game this Friday against the Houston Rockets at 9 p.m. on ESPN. This will be the Sixers' last chance to build momentum before their first-round matchup with the Boston Celtics.

Sixerdelphia


Baltimore Orioles (8-7) at Philadelphia Phillies (5-7) Preview 8/12

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

Last night was embarrassing.

There is no other way to put it. The fans are embarrassed. The team is embarrassed. United States Representative Brendan Boyle is embarrassed.

Through 12 games, the Phils have had some rough losses. Last night’s loss however, stings the most. They could have won the game, they should have won the game. The offense did it’s job. To no one’s surprise, the bullpen did not. The defense in the final two innings more resembled the Bad News Bears than a professional baseball team.

Jean Segura had no right to call off Rhys Hoskins for the pop up that ultimately cost the Phillies the game in the ninth, given that they scored in the bottom half of that inning. Roman Quinn dove for a ball that landed a good five feet in front of him, leading to an inside-the-park homer that scored two runs. These are mistakes that 11-year-old AAU teams don’t even make.

Speaking of 11-year-old AAU teams, Matt Klentak might want to reach out to a few teams in the area to check the availability of some of their pitchers. Maybe they could swing a deal for about seven of them. For those of you who think that may be too harsh, just know that the Phillies bullpen literally cannot get any worse.

Not one Phillies relief pitcher has an ERA under eight. The bullpen’s ERA as a whole is over ten. Not only is that by far the worst in the league, it is statistically the worst bullpen ever. For reference, Major League Baseball began in 1869, four years after the Civil War ended.


Phillies Lineup vs. Wade LeBlanc (1-0, 6.91 ERA)

1. Andrew McCutchen LF

2. Rhys Hoskins 1B

3. Bryce Harper RF

4. J.T. Realmuto DH

5. Jean Segura 3B

6. Didi Gregorius SS

7. Phil Gosselin 2B

8. Andrew Knapp C

9. Roman Quinn CF

Orioles left-hander Wade LeBlanc will get the start tonight for the Orioles. The 36-year-old has a career 4.50 ERA, so he can be scored on. The Phillies offense has also seemed to hit better against left-handed pitching this season, so expect a good offensive effort again tonight from the Phils offense.

The Phillies bats were pretty dormant through the first seven innings of last night’s game. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, Bryce Harper homered to tie the game and Jean Segura gave the Phils the lead with a titanic shot.

In the bottom of the ninth, once again down two, Didi Gregorius tied the game on a bloop two run single with the bases loaded. Try as the might to tie the game in the tenth, yet another two run deficit was too much to overcome. It was just the second time in Phillies history that the Phils lost despite scoring runs in the eighth, ninth, and tenth innings, according to Doug Kern on Twitter.

Needless to say, the Phillies offense has hardly been the problem of late. They scored 13 runs on Monday night and nine runs last night, more than enough to secure victories in both games. They lost last night’s contest, and nearly imploded with a 12-run ninth inning cushion on Monday.

Bryce Harper has been hotter than fish grease to start the season, as he’s hitting a smooth .324 with a .479 on base percentage, four home runs (one in each of the last two games), and ten RBI’s. J.T. Realmuto was 0-3 last night, but he has had a fantastic start to the season as well. Didi Gregorius has been clutch and consistent, and the DH platoon of Jay Bruce and Phil Gosselin has proved to be advantageous. Who knew Bruce would be wearing his PF Flyers this season?

Now let’s get to the other guys. Last week, I said that McCutchen, Hoskins, Segura, and Kingery needed to get going for this offense to be successful.

Segura has started to turn it around with home runs in each of the last two games. Therefore, it’s an easy choice to keep him in the lineup. Just remind him that pop-ups on the first base side of the infield are balls he should not be catching, and he’ll be okay.

It’s time to move McCutchen and Hoskins down in the lineup. They both had hits last night, but in watching their at-bats it is clear that neither one of them are seeing the baseball well. The only reason I say keep them in the lineup instead of an outright benching is because both these guys still find ways to get on base via the walk. They're skating on thin ice.

As much as I want to root for the young man, it was time to take Scott Kingery out of the lineup. He looks so uncomfortable at the plate and has just four hits in 40 at-bats. It was about time to put Phil Gosselin in the everyday lineup until he stops swinging a hot bat. Gosselin is a seamless fit at second base, as he has 98 career games at the position and will get the start there tonight. He is my choice to bat leadoff or in the two hole in place of McCutchen or Hoskins. He’s earned it.

Whether Gosselin starting over Kingery tonight is just a one night thing remains to be seen. Regardless of what the future holds, props to Joe Girardi for making this decision today. If Goose hits tonight the way he has all season, I don’t see a way Girardi can justify putting Kingery back in the lineup.


Orioles Lineup vs. Zach Eflin (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

1. Hanser Alberto 2B

2. Anthony Santander RF

3. Jose Iglesias SS

4. Rio Ruiz 3B

5. Renato Nunez DH

6. Dwight Smith LF

7. Austin Hays CF

8. Chris Davis 1B

9. Chance Sisco C

The Orioles had their second best offensive output of the season last night. They managed to muster up three runs against Zack Wheeler, all coming in the sixth inning. They went on to score seven runs in the final 4.1 innings against the Phillies bullpen. Four of those runs were scored due to atrocious fielding by the Phillies, but I’ve ranted about that enough.

Zach Eflin gets the start tonight for the Phils. In his last, and only, start of the season he pitched four innings and gave up only four hits to go along with five punch-outs. He surrendered two unearned runs. Last week, I said that what the Phillies really need from Eflin is consistency. They don’t need him to be an ace, they need him to be a guy who won’t implode and can get through five or six innings while limiting damage. His first start was a good place to begin.

The better Eflin pitches, the longer he stays in the game. The longer he stays in the game, the less jokers Joe Girardi will be forced to summon from behind the center field wall and on to the mound.

If the Phillies bullpen is called into action before the seventh inning, expect some offensive fireworks for Baltimore.

The Orioles lineup has been extremely under-appreciated through their first 15 games. The top five guys in their lineup are all hitting over .260 (must be nice) and as a team they sport the fourth highest batting average in the league. This is the main reason they are over .500 a quarter of a way through their schedule. The Orioles would find themselves in the expanded postseason if the season ended today.

Second baseman Hanser Alberto has the third highest average in the American League and is tied for second in hits with 24. He is the guy that gets their offense going and I think he is the main guy to watch in this game for the O’s. He collected two hits in six at-bats last night to go along with an RBI.

Another guy to look out for is designated hitter Renato Nunez. He is hitting over .300 and has a team-leading five home runs on the season. He is Baltimore's best power threat by far, and playing in a hitter friendly ballpark like Citizens Bank Park is perfect for him. Nunez went 3-4 last night with two RBI's.


My Prediction

Let me start off by saying that both the Sixers and Flyers also play tonight. It may be in this city’s best interest to watch either of them instead, as I think we all need some space from the Phillies after last night.

That being said, I think the Phils will bounce back tonight. The offense roughs up Wade LeBlanc for five runs in the first five innings, and Eflin puts up six solid frames, allowing three runs. The Phillies turn to their bullpen in the seventh, which ultimately fails them yet again, as they surrender the lead. Not to be discouraged, I think the offense saves the day and continues to hit well against Baltimore’s bullpen.

The Phillies retake the lead in the eighth and Neris holds on in the ninth this time. The Phillies win 7-6, proving once and for all they are the most unpredictable team in Major League Baseball.


Broadcast Information

Time: 7:05 p.m.

TV: COZI TV (Channel 248 on Comcast, 460 on FIOS, and no, I have never heard of this channel in my lifetime either.)

Radio: 94.1 FM WIP & WTTM1680

Online: MLB.TV