Phillies-Dodgers thoughts: Kershaw, Darvish on tap for Phils' young bats

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Phillies-Dodgers thoughts: Kershaw, Darvish on tap for Phils' young bats

Phillies (58-91) vs. Dodgers (96-53)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on and the NBC Sports App

On a light night in baseball — only seven games tonight — the Phillies welcome the MLB-best Dodgers to Citizens Bank Park to open a four-game series.

With 13 games remaining, the Dodgers are six games ahead of the Nationals for home-field advantage in the NL playoffs, so these games matter for L.A.

Let's take a look at Game 1:

• The Dodgers were 91-36 on Aug. 25, a 116-win pace. Then in the most improbable of turns, they lost 16 of 17 games. Dave Roberts' club appears to now be back on track, having won four of the last five, including a series win over the weekend in Washington.

• This will be a very interesting four-game series for the Phillies' young hitters. Tonight, they'll face Clayton Kershaw (17-3, 2.12), the best pitcher in baseball. 

Tuesday night, they get Yu Darvish (9-12, 4.08), who's having a disappointing season but is still one of the toughest right-handers to face. Only 10 starting pitchers have a higher strikeout rate than Darvish (9.96 per nine), and he's coming off seven shutout innings.

On Wednesday, the Phils face Alex Wood (15-3, 2.69), a finesse-based lefty having a career year.

These next three games will be among the toughest Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro have played. The Phils are obviously not expected to win this series, but a few successful nights from these rookies could build some major confidence moving forward.

• For the first time since his 0-for-12 start, Hoskins is in a slump of sorts. He went 0 for 11 with six strikeouts and a walk against the A's over the weekend. Don't be shocked if he sits Tuesday night against Darvish. Since coming up on Aug. 10, Hoskins has started 37 of 38 games.

The numbers, of course, are still ridiculous. Through 159 plate appearances, Hoskins is hitting .287/.415/.736 with 18 homers and 39 RBIs. 

Against lefties, Hoskins is 6 for 28 and all six hits have been home runs.

• Kershaw missed nearly six weeks with a back strain, which was the only thing that could have prevented him from claiming his fourth Cy Young award in seven years. He was on such a roll before the injury that he still leads the majors with 17 wins despite missing seven or eight starts.

Kershaw still might be the Cy Young frontrunner. His main competition is Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. If Kershaw wins each of his last three starts, he'll get to 20 with an ERA right around 2.00 or below. That'll be tough to top, even with the six weeks on the shelf.

• Not that pitcher wins matter a whole lot, but the Phillies are one of only two teams Kershaw has faced more than once and has a losing record against. He's 3-4 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts vs. the Phils. (He's 2-3 with a 3.18 ERA vs. the Pirates.)

• To avoid 100 losses, the Phils must go 5-8 or better in these final four series against the Dodgers, Braves, Nationals and Mets. Only the three games against the Braves are on the road.

Ben Lively states his case for spot on Phillies' pitching staff

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Ben Lively states his case for spot on Phillies' pitching staff


CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies will be without Mark Leiter Jr.'s versatile arm for about six weeks. An MRI performed Monday on the pitcher's sore right forearm showed a strained flexor muscle.

Leiter had a good chance to make the opening day roster as a long reliever or fifth starter. With him out, the Phillies could be in need of a swingman.

Could Ben Lively be that guy?

"I can pitch anywhere," the competitive 26-year-old right-hander said. "I don't care. Wherever they want, I'll pitch."

Lively did nothing to hurt his chances of making the club as he turned in five shutout innings against the Toronto Blue Jays in a rain-shortened 2-0 win Tuesday afternoon. He allowed just three hits, walked none and struck out four. He was particularly impressive in the fourth inning, striking out Justin Smoak and retiring Russell Martin on a tapper back to the mound with runners on second and third.

"I just tried to bear down and stick to the game plan," Lively said. "There's too much technology around here now. We have all the heat maps and we talked about it before the game and I just stayed with it."

Lively made 15 starts with the big club last year and 10 of them were quality starts in which he went at least six innings and gave up three or fewer earned runs. Lively doesn't have power stuff. He gave up 9.1 hits per nine innings last season and struck out just 5.3 per nine. Management would love to see some improvement in those areas — i.e., more of what he displayed on Tuesday.

"Lively was strong today," manager Gabe Kapler said. "He came out and attacked the zone.

"One of the things that is important is that we see some swing and misses with Lives and we saw a couple of bat-missing moments today that were, to me, a big deal. He induces quick contact, which is important, but we also like to see the ability to miss bats and we saw that on a couple of occasions, (Curtis) Granderson being most notable."

Granderson struck out twice against Lively.

"We look at past tendencies from recent years," Lively said of his pregame study. "The main one we looked at today was Granderson. He has a low slugging percentage on the outer half (of the plate), so we pounded him on the outer half the whole time."

With Jerad Eickhoff headed to the disabled list and Nick Pivetta likely to join Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta and Vince Velasquez in the starting rotation, Lively appears to be vying for the fifth starter's job with Zach Eflin and non-roster invite Drew Hutchison. But he and Hutchison also could be vying for a long man's job in the bullpen.

By mid-April, the Phillies will probably have an eight-man bullpen. But they could break with an extra reliever because they won't need a fifth starter until April 11.

However it shakes out, Lively did not hurt his chances of landing some role with his performance Tuesday.

Roster moves
The Phillies sent catcher Logan Moore, infielder Mitch Walding and outfielder Andrew Pullin to minor-league camp.

What's up with Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez?

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What's up with Phillies top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez?

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Sixto Sanchez, the Phillies' top pitching prospect, has been noticeably absent from game action in minor-league camp.

Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development, says there's nothing to be alarmed about.

"He had the flu and he's over it now," Jordan said. "He's fine now. No issues. He's 100 percent."

Jordan said Sanchez got up to 30 pitches in a bullpen session this week.

"He let it go with all his pitches," Jordan said.

Jordan added that Sanchez would pitch in a game in the next few days. He added that Sanchez would open the season on time with the Clearwater club, though his innings will be watched at the outset until he's fully stretched out.

Sanchez, 19, is a power-armed right-hander with remarkable control. He went 5-7 with 3.03 ERA in 18 starts at Lakewood and Clearwater, both Single A affiliates, last season. He pitched 95 innings, struck out 84, walked 18 and had a WHIP of 0.958.