Phillies (63-80) vs. Pirates (69-72)
7:05 p.m. on CSN
After losing three straight to the Nationals, the Phillies come back home to face the Pirates in a four-game set. Jeremy Hellickson will start for the Phils while the Buccos turn to young ace Gerrit Cole with their playoff hopes nearly done.
Here are five things for Monday evening.
1. Sinking ship in Pittsburgh
Just a few weeks ago, the Pirates were in prime contention for a wild card spot in the National League. However, after back-to-back seasons losing in the Wild Card Game, the Pirates don't look poised for a return trip.
The slide began on Aug. 20 at home, when the Pirates started a three-game set with the Miami Marlins. The Marlins swept them before the Astros came in to take two of three. After a four-game sweep of the Brewers, the Pirates promptly lost eight straight games, taking them completely out of contention. It doesn't help that they're coming off a three-game losing streak to the last-place Cincinnati Reds.
In total, they've lost 11 of 18 games over the last three weeks.
Part of the reason has been a below-average performance from the starting rotation. Monday's starter, Cole, has been out since Aug. 24 with a herniated disk in his lower back. The rotation as a whole has a 4.70 ERA in the last 30 days. They've been good at preventing home runs (only 19 allowed in their last 28 games), but they've also only averaged 5.39 innings per start and have given up 164 hits in their last 151 1/3 innings.
Their offense has also had a bit of a power outage. They have just 26 home runs over the last 30 days. The Phillies have the same number of homers but in 163 fewer plate appearances.
2. Hellickson's offseason value?
Jeremy Hellickson has thrown 166 innings this season, his most since 2013, when he tossed 174 innings. He has 28 starts, three shy of his career-high from 2012 and 2013. His 138 strikeouts are already a career-high and his WHIP (1.19) is the lowest its been since his first full season in 2011.
All that is to say that Hellickson has rebounded. While it may say something about the Diamondbacks utilize their starting pitchers, it likely means that Hellickson is fully removed from his shoulder injury.
This offseason, the 29-year-old could be in line for a significant payday. That seemed unlikely a year ago, but this season showed Hellickson's value. Beyond a rising home run rate, he's become a reliable starter that can eat innings. There's very little depth on the free-agent pitching market and Hellickson could get a multi-year deal.
The biggest question is whether he will receive a qualifying offer from the Phillies, which will probably be worth upwards of $16 million. Ian Kennedy, a pitcher with a somewhat comparable track record, received one last year and rejected it before getting a five-year deal.
Wade Miley and Anibal Sanchez, two current pitchers, are marked as similar to Hellickson at this point in his career. Miley's most recent deal was for three-years and more than $6 million a year while Sanchez is four years into a five-year, $80 million deal.
3. Scouting Cole
As mentioned above, Cole will be starting for the first time in nearly three weeks. It was Cole's second DL stint for the back injury and the third DL stint of his four-year career (shoulder fatigue in 2014).
Cole started against the Phillies on July 22, which was his second start removed from the first DL stint. Cole was solid in that start, allowing just one run over six innings. He gave up six hits, a walk and two HBPs, but he struck out seven in the outing. Unlucky for Cole, Zach Eflin outdueled him with a complete game shutout.
Cole turned 26 years old four days ago. He has just 114 innings this year and a 3.55 ERA after making an All Star appearance in 2015 with a 2.60 ERA over 208 innings. He has a 7-9 record, but he has never had fewer than 10 wins in a season.
The 26-year-old righty attacks with a mid-to-high 90s fastball that averages over 95 miles per hour. His main offspeed pitch is a high-80s slider. Cole also works in a low-80s changeup.
The slider produces the highest strikeout percentage while the changeup has been quite hittable this season.
4. Quinn is quick
The Phillies are getting an extended look at outfield prospect Roman Quinn over the next few weeks after he made his MLB debut on Sunday (see full story).
The 23-year-old speedster has at least 29 steals a season since making his professional debut in 2012. This season he has 36 stolen bases and just nine caught stealings, good for an 80 percent success rate. During the Double A playoffs against Trenton, he went 3 for 3 on stolen base attempts.
What potentially distinguishes Quinn from Ben Revere as a leadoff hitter is his potential for extra bases. Quinn had 26 extra-base hits in 71 games with Reading this year and he eclipsed an .800 OPS for the first time in his career, slugging a career-high .441.
One issue could be strikeouts. Quinn is moving to the majors without any time in Triple A and already struck out nearly once per game this season. Major league pitchers could overwhelm the youngster, although these weeks will be crucial to give him an early look at superior pitching.
5. This and that
• Cole is 3-2 with a 2.15 ERA in five career starts against the Phillies. He averages a hair under six innings per start and has 30 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings.
• Hellickson has two starts agains the Pirates, going 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA. Both starts were last season and Hellickson threw 10 innings, gave up 10 hits and had 10 strikeouts.
• John Jaso, current Pirate and Hellickson's former teammate, is 1 for 9 against the righty in his career. Pedro Florimon has a home run in two at-bats. Andrew McCutchen is 1 for 3 with three walks.
• Maikel Franco, who is likely to start on Monday, is 3 for 4 with a double and a hit-by-pitch in five plate appearances vs. Cole. Oduble Herrera is 2 for 9 with six strikeouts.