Phillies-Brewers 5 things: Trying to avoid yet another sweep

Phillies-Brewers 5 things: Trying to avoid yet another sweep

Phillies (29-60) at Brewers (52-41)
2:10 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on and the NBC Sports App

Thanks to a late home run off Joaquin Benoit, the Phillies lost their second straight game to the Milwaukee Brewers coming out of the All-Star break. With Jeremy Hellickson on the hill, the team will look to avoid yet another sweep. Matt Garza takes the ball for the Brewers.

Here are five things to know for the series finale.

1. The question of trade value
Last season, Hellickson took a 3.70 ERA and an expiring contract into the trade deadline, only to find himself a Phillie in August. In much of the same situation a year later, the 30-year-old starter is hardly a stranger to his circumstances.

The veteran has been traded twice before and it would make plenty of sense for him to be shipped out against before the calendar flips to August. The Phils aren't going to offer him the qualifying offer again and he'll surely want to pursue a long-term deal if one is out there this winter. 

The issue for the Phillies? Hellickson hasn't been quite as effective this season. He had a brilliant April followed by one of the worst months of his career in May. He's been so-so since in seven starts, pitching to a 4.54 ERA over his last 41 2/3 innings. Furthermore, he's allowed 20 home runs, on pace to go well beyond his career-high 25 allowed. He's striking out the fewest batters of his career while his walk and hit rates have both gone up from last season. 

Any return for the righty would be preferable for the Phillies, who would want his rotation spot to give their younger arms a chance this fall. One would have assumed a similar logic last season. However, at the same time, the Phillies' young starters struggled to stay healthy at the end of last year, so maybe it makes sense to keep a veteran who can at least absorb innings. It's unclear which contenders, if any, would want Hellickson as a back-of-the-rotation piece.

2. Going Garza
It's been nine years since a 24-year-old Matt Garza started against the Phillies in the World Series. The former Tampa Bay Ray is still pitching in the last year of his four-year deal with the Brewers at 33. 

He's no longer quite the same pitcher, the one that inspired promise and led the Cubs to trade a young Chris Archer and other prospects for his services. But unlike the last couple seasons, the right-hander is a more than respectable pitcher, throwing above-average innings for the NL Central leaders.

Through 13 starts in 2017, Garza is 4-4 with a 3.98 ERA over 72 1/3 innings. He's struck out just 51 but dished out just 19 free passes and brought his WHIP down to 1.272 after it exceeded 1.5 the last two seasons. The veteran earned a four-year, $50 million contract during the 2013-14 offseason and hasn't quite lived up to it. However, it's tough to argue that if he helped Milwaukee to its second ever division crown, he'd be a lot closer to being worth the investment.

These days, his fastball averages just 91.7 mph. He still utilizes his four-seamer and sinker close to 60 percent of the time, mixing in his go-to offspeed pitch, a slider, along with a curveball and changeup. In that way, he's still the same pitcher as always. He's coming off 6 1/3 shutout innings against the Orioles on July 5.

In eight career non-playoff starts dating back to 2009, Garza is 2-2 with a 2.32 ERA over 54 1/3 innings against the Phillies. He hasn't faced them since 2015, when he allowed four runs on 10 hits in six innings. Four current Phils have two or more hits against him: Freddy Galvis (3), Andres Blanco, Cameron Rupp and Odubel Herrera. All but Blanco have a double against him.

3. The road ahead
The Phillies close out their brief post-All Star break road trip with a three-game set in Miami, the site of this year's ASG. The Phils are 2-3 against the Marlins this season with each team undefeated at home. The Fish swept a three-game set at Marlins Park on May 29-31. 

After that, the Phillies return to Citizens Bank Park for a 10-game homestand, one of three home stretches of that length remaining this year. This homestand, which will bring the Brewers, Astros and Braves to CBP, will take the Phillies up to the trade deadline. It will be their longest homestand of the year to date. In their two 10-game stretches at CBP in 2016, the Phillies went 5-5 and 3-7, respectively.

By the time the Phillies head to the West Coast on Aug. 1, they'll have a much different roster than they do now. Vince Velasquez will likely be back in the rotation. Same goes for Cesar Hernandez, who is expected back Monday in Miami. Pat Neshek and others will be wearing new uniforms after the deadline, opening up spots for players currently in the minors. 

Over the next few weeks, or months for that matter, wins and losses won't mean a ton for a squad that is 24.5 back in the division. However, for a team in the midst of a rebuild, some signs of hope, whether continued success for Aaron Nola/Altherr or a rebound from a player like Herrera or Maikel Franco, would be huge for a team on its way to a sixth straight season outside the playoffs.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Herrera has a home run in three consecutive games. On Saturday, he put together his first game with multiple extra-base hits since June 22

Brewers: Last night, Travis Shaw hit his 20th home run in his 340th plate appearance. In 530 PAs last year, Shaw hit 16 home runs. 

5. This and that
• The Phillies have been swept seven times this season. They were swept eight times in all of 2016. They haven't been swept at Miller Park since a four-game series on June 29-July 2, 2015. Matt Garza started the series finale of that series.

• The Phillies have not been more than 31 games under .500 since the final day of the 2015 season. 

• Nola in his last five starts: 1.78 ERA in 35 1/3 innings, 41 strikeouts, five quality starts. 

• Phillies leadoff hitters have produced a .686 OPS, seventh worst in baseball.

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

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Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

Gabe Kapler on Friday added to his coaching staff by naming Jim Gott the Phillies' bullpen coach.

Gott was the minor-league pitching coordinator for the Angels the last five seasons and the pitching coach for the Arizona League Angels the three years prior to that role.

He played for the Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers over 14 major-league seasons as a starter and reliever. Gott, now 58 years old, compiled a 3.87 ERA while making 96 starts and converting 91 saves.

Kapler and the Phillies still need to name a pitching coach and first-base coach. Last week, they named Dusty Wathan third-base coach and hired John Mallee as hitting coach, while retaining Rick Kranitz, who was the assistant pitching coach last season (see story). He could fill the main pitching coach vacancy, although his role is currently to be determined.

In 2017, Bob McClure served the Phillies as pitching coach and Mickey Morandini was first-base coach.

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

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MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

Houston Astros dynamo Jose Altuve has won the American League MVP award, towering over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge by a wide margin.

The 5-foot-6 Altuve drew 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Altuve batted a major league-best .346. He hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base.

The 6-foot-7 Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year award Monday. He set a rookie record with 52 home runs.

Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians finished third. The award was announced Thursday.

Altuve helped lead the Astros to their first World Series championship. Voting for these honors was completed before the postseason began.

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP award, barely edging Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

In the closest MVP vote since 1979, Stanton became only the sixth player to win from a losing team. Stanton led the big leagues with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs (see full story).

MLB: Manfred says pace changes will happen with or without union
Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

There are ongoing talks for a new posting system with Japan to replace the deal that expired Nov. 1, one that would allow star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani to leave the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters to sign with a big league team (see full story).

Mariners: Team makes trade, raises available money for Japan's Otani​
The Seattle Mariners have gained more flexibility if they want to try to sign star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani.

They acquired an additional $500,000 for their international signing bonus pool from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira.

Otani, a 23-year-old right-hander, would be limited to a minor league contract with a signing bonus under Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. The trade announced Thursday increases the Mariners' available money for a signing bonus to $1,557,500. Seattle has spent $3,942,500 on bonuses in the signing year that started July 2 from a pool that rose to $5.5 million with the trade.

The 24-year-old Vieira made his major league debut with a scoreless inning against Baltimore on Aug. 14, his only big league appearance. He was 2-3 with two saves and a 3.72 ERA in 29 games this year for Double-A Arkansas and 0-1 with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma.

Chicago is restricted to a maximum $300,000 signing bonus because it exceeded its pool in a previous year under the old labor contract.