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

USA Today Images/CSN

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.

Gabe Kapler's Malibu home destroyed in California wildfires

USA Today Images

Gabe Kapler's Malibu home destroyed in California wildfires

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler was among the many who lost their homes to the wildfires spreading throughout California.

It was Kapler's residence in Malibu. He and his family are safe, and his thoughts are with the community affected by the tragedy, a Phillies spokesperson said.

At least 31 people have been killed, more than 200 remain missing, and hundreds of thousands were forced to evacuate their homes as multiple fires rage across California. 

Kapler was born in Hollywood. In addition to his home in Malibu, he has one in Philly, and was in Philadelphia as recently as last week.

Phillies could use Bryce Harper's personality just as much as his bat

USA Today Images

Phillies could use Bryce Harper's personality just as much as his bat

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in MLB. Monday is dedicated to Nationals slugger Bryce Harper.

This is the winter the Phillies have been waiting for.

This is the type of guy they have been waiting for.

Bryce Harper.

Much of the baseball world believes the Phillies are the favorites to sign Harper. He’s already turned down $300 million from the incumbent Washington Nationals, according to a report in the Washington Post. Some of the other big-market clubs — the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs — that have long been mentioned as potential suitors might not make strong plays for the slugging outfielder because of payroll concerns. The San Francisco Giants are going through some front-office turnover and have not decided whether they will be in it for Harper. The Chicago White Sox are a big-market club, but will a bright-lights guy like Harper be in a hurry to join a 100-loss team that is often an afterthought in its own city? Everything lines up for the Phillies and Harper is excellent fit.

To wit:

The Phillies, who improved by 14 wins in 2018, are a team on the rise.

They have the money to give Harper the deal he is looking for, a contract that will eclipse Giancarlo Stanton’s record $325 million package.

They have the need for a superstar talent.

And Harper, who turned 26 last month, is going to be a superstar for a long time. Whoever signs him is going to get many, many of his prime years as his career arcs toward Cooperstown.

There is so much to like about Harper as a potential Phillie.

Age-wise, he fits in nicely with the existing core of Rhys Hoskins, who turns 26 in March, and Aaron Nola, who will turn 26 in June.

He has star power, personality and panache, something this team could use as it searches for a face, an identity that will help sell tickets.

But nothing sells tickets and fires up TV ratings more than winning and Harper will help this team win.

He has the plate discipline (a majors high 130 walks in 2018) and power (34 homers) that the Phillies are trying to construct a lineup around.

He’s produced an OPS of over 1.000 two of the last four seasons.

He loves hitting in Citizens Bank Park. In 50 career games there, he has a .930 OPS and 14 homers and 32 RBIs.

There is something else to like about Harper. He has a healthy competitive sneer that will rub off on teammates. Watching Harper from afar, you get the sense that he will be angry if he hasn’t won a couple of World Series rings by the time his career is over. That’s a good intangible. That’s good fuel. It’s difficult to see money corrupting this guy’s drive.

There are other players in this free-agent market that, like Harper, would make the Phillies better. In the coming days, we will look at those players.

But if the Phillies can come away from this winter with Bryce Harper, they will have taken a huge step forward in their quest to get John Middleton’s (bleeping) trophy back.

It could take a deal of 10 years or more to get Harper. Contracts of that length seldom end well. But Harper is the kind of player, still young and full of talent, that can help the Phillies win a couple of World Series and if that happens no one will complain about a couple of uncomfortable years at the end.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies