Phillies-Marlins thoughts: All set for a pitchers' duel at Marlins Park?

Phillies-Marlins thoughts: All set for a pitchers' duel at Marlins Park?

Phillies (51-83) at Marlins (66-68)
7:10 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on and the NBC Sports App

After the Phillies picked up their second straight win Friday, here are some thoughts prior to the third of four games with the Fish in Marlins Park this weekend:

• Friday's 2-1 win is one of the many types of games that normally have gone against the Phillies this season. They have 31 one-run losses, the most in baseball, and typically would have put up a little fight down 1-0 in the ninth or blown their newfound lead soon after scoring two. 

In picking up the save, Hector Neris looked quite sharp. Four swinging strikes in 10 total pitches while pitching a 1-2-3 inning against Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto. That's an impressive inning of work. 

Maikel Franco and Jorge Alfaro had the big hits in the inning, but you can't overlook Andres Blanco's game-winning groundout. You never see guys pump their fist on a 4-3 groundout, but those GOs don't usually come with the winning RBI. Big AB from the veteran, who did his job with men on third and first with one out. 

• Saturday night is as close to a pitchers' duel on paper as these two teams can provide with Aaron Nola vs. Dan Straily. That says a lot about how far the two pitchers have come this year. Straily has followed up last season's strong results with better peripherals and fewer home runs, albeit in a much bigger ballpark. 

And Nola is Nola. He comes into Saturday with a 10-9 record and a 3.46 ERA in 137 2/3 innings. His 1.184 WHIP is a career best, as are his 141 strikeouts. 

• Straily has been effective against the Phillies this season, although his 4.08 ERA in three starts may indicate otherwise. However, in 17 2/3 innings, he's struck out 27 batters and walked seven. He's been done in by 20 hits, but those strikeouts stand out.

He's come back down to earth slightly in the second half, though that was mostly because of a bad July. A brief rise in his home run rate was the culprit as his K-BB ratio has actually improved significantly since the All-Star break.

Franco has the best numbers of any Phillie regular against Straily, going 4 for 9 with a walk against the right-hander. Daniel Nava is 3 for 3 with a home run while Cameron Rupp has a home run in two at-bats.  

• Nola was rocked by the Fish two starts ago on Aug. 22. It was easily his worst start of the season. He allowed two home runs, making the appearance his first multi-homer game since May 26 and just his second overall this season. He rebounded vs. the Braves, but Atlanta isn't much of a test. Despite the spacious confines of Marlins Park, the Marlins are much tougher for the Phils' righty.

Giancarlo Stanton, Ichiro Suzuki and Ozuna each have a home run off Nola in their careers. Stanton is 3 for 6 with a double and the HR against Nola. He's the only Marlin with multiple extra-base hits off him.

• Stanton is a beast in every sense, especially against the Phillies. However, this series has started out differently for the 51-homer slugger. He's 0 for 7 with two walks and three strikeouts in the first two games. 

However, don't fool yourself: He's still dangerous. He's 12 for 49 with seven home runs (and seven walks) against the Phillies this year. The seven blasts are his most against any one team in 2017.

Rhys Hoskins' 13-game hitting streak came to an end Friday with an 0 for 3 evening. Time to declare him a bust, right? Just kidding! He's still gone 5 for 18 (.278) with two walks in his last five games, a solid line since his last game with a homer.

Friday was his first three-strikeout game, though. He's maintained impressive plate discipline since coming up, so how he responds against a pitcher like Straily that can rack up strikeouts will be intriguing to watch. Not that anything Hoskins does would be considered unintriguing!

• The Phillies are now 6-8 against the Fish this year. They have winning records against just two teams: the Braves (12-4) and the Giants (4-3). 

• Triple A Lehigh Valley picked up a win on Friday over Scranton Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees' affiliate. Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford each had hits while Dylan Cozens provided the big blow with a go-ahead three-run homer that swung the game.

The IronPigs are two games back in the wild-card standings in the International League with just three games left, so a playoff appearance is unlikely. Assuming they miss out on the playoffs, that means potential call-ups would be coming Tuesday to join the Phillies at Citi Field after Labor Day.

Edubray Ramos had his fourth straight scoreless outing Friday. In the seven innings since his bad outing against the Giants on Aug. 19, he's allowed just three hits and three walks while striking out nine. 

Meanwhile, Hoby Milner hasn't given up a run in more than a month. In his last 15 games, he's held opponents to 11 hits and four walks in 11 2/3 innings while striking out six. He has a .354 OBP against in that span but opponents have just a .286 slugging percentage against the southpaw.

• Finally, the Phillies are aiming to win three straight for the first time since Aug. 6-9. They haven't won the first two games of any month this season. 

Aaron Nola another Zack Greinke? A quick call-up for Scott Kingery?

Aaron Nola another Zack Greinke? A quick call-up for Scott Kingery?


BRADENTON, Fla. — Gabe Kapler played most of what figures to be his opening day lineup on Friday and the Phillies responded with one of their best games of the Grapefruit League schedule in beating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 8-2.

The only regular not in the starting lineup was shortstop J.P. Crawford. Bench candidate Jesmuel Valentin played there (see story).

Opening day starter Aaron Nola pitched four shutout innings, gave up four hits, a walk and struck out five. He threw 64 pitches and 45 were strikes.

Maikel Franco belted two homers, both bombs to left. One was a two-run shot on a 3-0 fastball, the other a grand slam.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a good showing by the Phils without another impressive performance from the man who has been the best player in camp, Scott Kingery. He came off the bench, played center field, right field and third base, and stroked a hard single to right.

It is doubtful that Kingery will be on the opening day roster, but it’s looking more and more like he could be up with the big club as soon as April 13. If Kingery stays in the minors until then, the Phillies will control his rights through 2024. If he makes the opening day roster, he could be eligible for free agency after 2023. Keeping Kingery down for a few weeks won’t sit well with some fans, but it makes good baseball sense, especially for a team that does not project as a slam-dunk contender.

Kapler raved about a play Kingery made at third.

“Wow, wow,” the manager said. “His ability to go to his left and make that strong throw. He showed off that incredible arm and that versatility.”

Kapler also liked Franco’s power. The third baseman, entering a make-or-break season with the Phillies, is hitting just .192 on the spring, but he leads the club with five homers. Franco has closed his stance by bringing his front foot closer to the plate. He is getting more comfortable with the stance, which the Phillies hope will prompt him to use the middle of the field and stop pulling off balls.

“He attacked that 3-0 pitch,” Kapler said. “That was pretty impressive.”

Nola said he was “ready to go” for the opener.

Kapler concurred and compared Nola to a former Cy Young winner.

“Perfect tune-up for opening day, got him right where we wanted him with pitches — and he got to that pitch count by throwing strikes, a lot of them, and really attacking with pitches," Kapler said of Nola.

“He’s starting to look to me a lot like — I saw Zack Greinke in the American League when he was with Kansas City — kind of a familiar look to the way that he uses the gas pedal and the brake effectively and fills up the strike zone with all his pitches. His calm, easy, collected demeanor is really reminiscent of some of the best pitchers in baseball.”

The Phillies play the Tigers in Lakeland on Saturday.

Questions Phillies face as spring training nears its end

Questions Phillies face as spring training nears its end

BRADENTON, Fla. — Less than a week before opening day, there are still a number of unanswered questions surrounding the Phillies.

About the only thing known for sure is that Aaron Nola will start Thursday in Atlanta. The right-hander made his final spring tune-up Friday afternoon against the Pirates.

Some of the questions that need to be answered before the Phillies pack up and leave Florida on Tuesday include:

• When will Jake Arrieta join the rotation? Will it be April 2, 3 or 4 in New York? Will it be during the team’s first homestand, possibly April 7? Arrieta threw 31 pitches in his first spring start Thursday. A bullpen session over the weekend and his next start, likely 50 or so pitches on Tuesday, will offer team officials a better idea on when he’ll be ready.

• Who else will be in the rotation? Nothing has been announced, but Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta appear to be locks with Nola and eventually Arrieta. Zach Eflin could be the fifth starter, if the Phils use one the first time through the rotation. He could also piggyback with Arrieta in New York if the Phils wanted to get Arrieta going that early. Ben Lively and Drew Hutchison remain candidates to make the club as the fifth starter, should the Phils use one during the first 10 days of the season.

• Who's in the bullpen? Hector Neris, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Luis Garcia and Adam Morgan are locks. That likely leaves three openings. One spot will likely go to a lefty, Hoby Milner or Zac Curtis. Right-handers Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano seem to be vying for one spot and the final one could go to Lively or Hutchison. They are both stretched out and could provide the bullpen length that injured Mark Leiter Jr. would have.

• How about bullpen roles? Manager Gabe Kapler is not one to speak in absolutes. He is loath to define roles in his bullpen or batting order. He’s keeping options open and could assign roles on a nightly basis based on matchups and research that the team’s growing analytics department digs up. Neris went 20 for 20 in save chances while giving up just three runs in 19⅔ innings after June 27 last season. Logic would dictate that he'd be the closer. But will he be every night? Will Kapler use him in a matchup situation in the seventh inning some night? Time will tell. Same for batting order construction.

• Who will be on the bench? Infielder/outfielder Pedro Florimon has played well and looks like a lock. That leaves one or two openings, depending on how many pitchers the Phils open with. Veterans Ryan Flaherty and Adam Rosales were both granted their release. That leaves Jesmuel Valentin and Roman Quinn, both 40-man roster guys, as the two lead candidates. There might be room for both, depending on how many pitchers the Phils open with. It also would not be shocking to see the team send Quinn to Triple A to get more playing time. The Phils appear to be leaning toward carrying Andrew Knapp as their second catcher over Cameron Rupp, who has a minor-league option remaining.