Phillies

Phillies-Pirates 5 things: Phils get good look at Pirates' top 2 trade candidates

Phillies-Pirates 5 things: Phils get good look at Pirates' top 2 trade candidates

Phillies (28-54) vs. Pirates (38-46)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

After blanking the Pirates in the series opener Monday, the Phillies themselves were shut out on July 4, the second time this season Pittsburgh's pitching has kept them off the board.

The Phils have five games remaining before the All-Star break, meaning one more chance for each starting pitcher to build a little momentum. 

1. Lively from New York
There was some good and some not so good from Ben Lively last Saturday at Citi Field.

He had four walks, including one of pitcher Jacob deGrom, and threw a wild pitch. For such a control-oriented pitcher, it was surprising to see. 

But Lively was able to minimize the damage, allowing just two runs over 6⅓ innings. The pair of double plays he induced in the first two innings certainly helped.

Six starts into his big-league career, the 25-year-old Lively is 1-3 with a 3.72 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He's struck out 13 and walked 12 in 38⅔ innings. 

Lively's rate of 3.03 strikeouts per nine innings is by far the lowest in all of baseball among starters with at least 30 innings. Texas' Andrew Cashner is next-closest at 4.36.

One of the reasons this matters is that a pitcher often needs a swing-and-miss when he's in a jam with less than two outs. If you can't get that swinging strike, you're relying on soft contact and apt defensive placement.

Lively has avoided catastrophic outings by getting good results with runners in scoring position — his opponents are just 7 for 37 (.189). With two outs and runners in scoring position, they're 2 for 13.

This will be Lively's third start at Citizens Bank Park. In the first two, he went 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA.

Righties have hit .286 off Lively and lefties .279, but lefties have a .372 OBP with eight walks and just five K's. Ordinarily, you'd see a team stack the lefties against a pitcher with those numbers, but the Pirates don't have a ton. There figure to be three left-handed hitters max in the lineup in outfielders Gregory Polanco, Adam Frazier and switch-hitting first baseman Josh Bell. John Jaso also hits from the left side but plays only the corner outfield and first base, so if he starts it would come at the expense of one of those three.

2. Phils get Gerrit Cole
The Phillies face Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, whom they missed in Pittsburgh in May.

Cole, perhaps the top starting pitcher on the trade market, is having his worst big-league season. Through 17 starts, he's 6-7 with a 4.51 ERA. He had a 3.23 ERA the prior four seasons.

He also sports his lowest career strikeout rate (7.6 per nine), and he's already allowed more home runs than ever before. Cole has been taken deep 18 times this season; his previous career high was 11, and he allowed 18 homers combined in 2015 and 2016 in 223 more innings than he's pitched in '17.

His velocity is still the same at an average of 96 mph, it's just come down to command. His opponents have hit .296 against the heater, which he's thrown with a bit less frequency.

Cole has one of those power sinkers — a bowling-ball type fastball that comes in heavy and drops at the last second — and a power slider with tight, late break that often gets right-handed hitters to chase. Those pitches have helped him to a career groundball rate of 47.7 percent, fifth-highest among NL starting pitchers with as many innings as him over that span.

Cole has faced the Phillies six times and gone 3-3 with a 3.45 ERA. In his last start against them (last Sept. 12 at Citizens Bank Park), Cole allowed five runs and eight baserunners and lasted just two innings.

A few Phillies have decent numbers against him. Maikel Franco is 3 for 6 with a double. Freddy Galvis is 3 for 9 with a homer and a double. Odubel Herrera is 3 for 10 but with six strikeouts.

3. McCutchen hitting his way out of town
Andrew McCutchen is doing exactly what the Pirates needed him to do to reestablish his trade value. Pittsburgh wasn't enticed by the offers it got at the winter meetings or this offseason after a down 2016 from its franchise player. But the way McCutchen is hitting and hitting for power right now, interest is bound to pick back up over the next four weeks.

McCutchen hit two missiles for home runs on July 4, giving him 16 on the season. His batting average is up to .288 through 81 games, which is hard to believe considering he was hitting exactly .200 through 45.

In 151 plate appearances since May 24, McCutchen has hit .408/.503/.736 with nine doubles, 10 homers, 29 RBIs and 30 runs. Over that span, his batting average ranks first in the majors and his OBP and slugging percentage are second.

And in his last four games at Citizens Bank Park, McCutchen is 9 for 17 with five homers (four solos) and a double.

4. Galvis in the two-hole
Freddy Galvis has been at his most productive this season when batting second. He's hit .310/.363/.476 out of the two-hole, where he's hit 12 games in a row.

Galvis had a double, two walks and a stolen base Tuesday, the Phils' best individual performance on a weak offensive afternoon. 

Galvis has hit .304 with an .828 OPS over his last 30 games, and .357 with a .961 OPS over his last 13.

5. This and that
• Andrew Knapp walked three more times Tuesday as his OBP rose to .361. He hasn't been all that clutch, hitting .194 with RISP and going 1 for 8 with five strikeouts with a man on third and less than two outs, but turning the lineup over at the bottom of the order is important and it's good to see Knapp showing some command of the strike zone.

• At .344, Aaron Altherr's on-base percentage is the lowest it's been since his sixth game of the season.

• Aside from McCutchen, the Pirates on Tuesday went 2 for 26 with no extra-base hits and nine strikeouts.

Watch Phillies Alec Bohm's loved ones' amazing reaction to his first career at-bat

Watch Phillies Alec Bohm's loved ones' amazing reaction to his first career at-bat

Phillies star prospect Alec Bohm made his major league debut at third base on Thursday night, a pretty big moment for the future of the organization. 

Things went wrong basically all night for the Phils - of course! - but the 24-year-old managed to smack his first career at-bat down the third base line for a double, quite a way to begin a career.

While his parents and girlfriend couldn't be in attendance at Citizens Bank Park because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they were certainly watching. And, thanks to technology, we can watch their reactions to Bohm's first hit.

Here's what an MLB debut hit looks like in 2020:

Man, that's just the best. 

So much to love in a 41-second clip - Bohm's dad keeping his cool and noting the double; his mom's absolute exuberance; his girlfriend commenting on Bohm's smile - but my favorite part is the quote from his mom at the very end.

"Go baby go!"

Fantastic.

After an otherwise brutal night for the Phils, I'm going to just keep watching this video on repeat. At least one thing went right.

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Are the Phillies this bad? Phils 5-9 after being swept by Orioles at home

Are the Phillies this bad? Phils 5-9 after being swept by Orioles at home

For the third straight night, the Phillies blew a multi-run lead against the Orioles in the middle innings. And for what feels like the 30th straight night, the Phillies' putrid bullpen didn't come close to keeping the game close.

It resulted in another loss as the Phillies were swept at home by the O's, losing 11-4 Thursday with seven of those runs coming against the Phils' bullpen.

Jake Arrieta had been cruising and the Phils built a two-run lead on J.T. Realmuto's opposite-field home run in the bottom of the fourth. But the next half-inning, Arrieta lost his command and couldn't pick up the final out with the bases loaded.

The Orioles scored four times in the fifth inning, the biggest hit a bases-clearing double from outfielder Anthony Santander.

Baltimore tacked on seven more runs against the Phillies' bullpen, which has a 10.13 ERA. Phillies relievers have allowed 48 earned runs in 42⅔ innings, which seems almost impossible.

"You have to be able to pitch to win games in this league, and quite frankly we just haven't thrown the ball well," Realmuto said. "We haven't done well late in games, in particular, when we've needed it. To win a division and to get to the playoffs, you need a really good bullpen. That's an area where we haven't done that well so far. We've got the guys to do it, we've just got to get better."

The Phillies are 5-9. They have the second-worst winning percentage in the National League, ahead of only the Pirates.

"It's concerning," Realmuto said. "With this shortened season, we've got to get it going quicker. It's definitely being talked about in the clubhouse. We're trying to pick each other up and stay positive. If you have one good week, you're back in it. Especially in our division, nobody is really running away with it yet."

Bohm's debut

Making his MLB debut, third baseman Alec Bohm's first major-league plate appearance ended with a double down the third-base line. He struck out looking in his second at-bat and flew out to a step in front of the warning track in right field to strand two runners in his third AB. In his final at-bat, he drilled a ball to the warning track in right-center for a flyout.

Bohm was also involved in Baltimore's fifth-inning rally. Pedro Severino rocketed a ball right under his glove at third base. It was the second-hardest hit ball of the night to that point and was a tough play but still probably one a big-league third baseman has to make.

Prior to the game, Phillies GM Matt Klentak described the team's plans to integrate Bohm into the everyday lineup.

Bryce and J.T. do it again

The Phillies are 5-9 but they might be something like 2-12 without their best two players. Realmuto hit a pair of two-run homers Thursday night, giving him 7 HR with 17 RBI on the season. Both home runs came after an extra-base hit from Bryce Harper, who doubled and tripled.

Harper is hitting .356 and leads MLB with a 1.202 OPS. Realmuto is hitting .292 and slugging .729, third to only Mike Trout and Aaron Judge. Realmuto has three more home runs than any other big-league catcher despite the Phillies having played a handful fewer games than most of the league.

There is a very good chance this is the hottest Harper and Realmuto will be in 2020. It would be hard to be hotter. If that's the case, the Phillies wasted all of this production.

Arrieta's night

Arrieta appeared to be on his way to another strong start before that fifth inning. He followed six shutout frames against the Braves with four zeroes Thursday night, extending his scoreless innings streak to 12 before the Orioles broke out.

"There's no reason I shouldn't have been able to throw at least seven innings in that game," Arrieta said. "A couple of runs should have been enough. Giving up four in the fifth kind of took the wind out of our sails. That one's completely my fault. I had multiple opportunities to make a pitch and get out of that inning. Just wasn't able to do it."

Through three starts, Arrieta has a 4.02 ERA with 14 strikeouts and two walks in 15⅔ innings.

More bad bullpening

Debuting Connor Brogdon was welcomed to the Phillies' bullpen by allowing two homers and three runs in 1⅓ innings. The Phillies have nine relievers with an ERA over 8.00 and ended up using position player Neil Walker for the final two outs.

Up next

The Phillies welcome the Mets to town for a three-game series this weekend. Jacob deGrom is scheduled to pitch for the Mets in Game 1. The Phillies will go with Spencer Howard for his second major-league start.

Aaron Nola starts for the Phillies Saturday, while Zack Wheeler faces his old team Sunday.

After the weekend, the Phillies play 10 straight games and 20 of their next 29 on the road.

"We obviously haven't performed up to our standards, that's for sure," Arrieta said. "There's really no time to worry about it. We just have to play better. We already have to catch up quite a bit."

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