After dropping the final two series of their homestand to the Dodgers and Reds, the Phillies hit the road this week for their final West Coast trip of the season.
They’re off Monday, before playing three in Arizona and three in San Diego.
The Diamondbacks are the worst team in baseball at 38-81 and have a roster devoid of talent. Their best player is Ketel Marte and they have a few guys who can beat you here or there such as David Peralta, Christian Walker and Pavin Smith, but you can certainly pitch to this lineup.
The D-backs surprisingly took three of four over the weekend from the Padres, including former Phillie Tyler Gilbert’s no-hitter Saturday, though they’ve lost 10 of their last 15 games.
Arizona’s best starting pitcher is former Marlin Zac Gallen, who was traded to Arizona two summers ago for Jazz Chisholm Jr. The Phillies will not face Gallen in the series. They will also miss Merrill Kelly, a decent back-end rotation piece. Kelly is on the COVID IL.
The Phils do project to face Madison Bumgarner, who has a 2.09 ERA since the All-Star break. Arizona has not yet laid out its full rotation plans for the series.
The Phillies haven’t faced the D-backs yet this season. The teams meet again for four next weekend at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies must take full advantage of these seven games, coming away with no fewer than five wins. The rest of the league has beaten up on a Diamondbacks team on pace for 111 losses and now it’s the Phils’ turn.
“You have to,” Bryce Harper said after Sunday’s loss. “The Braves are gonna keep going, keep playing well, the Mets also. We’ve just got to keep winning games, doing our thing, it doesn’t matter what all the other teams do, we’ve got to win games. Of course, you need a little help here and there but we’ve got to take care of business in series.”
The Phillies will start Kyle Gibson, Ranger Suarez and Zack Wheeler in Arizona, in that order.
What follows is a much more challenging series in San Diego against a Padres team that welcomed back MVP frontrunner Fernando Tatis Jr. on Sunday. Tatis homered in his first game back from injury for the third time this season, going 4 for 5 with two homers, a double and four RBI. He’s hitting .300 and leads the National League with 33 homers despite missing 32 games.
Tatis returned from a nagging, season-long shoulder injury to play right field for the first time in his career. He is expected to remain in the outfield and San Diego’s deep roster allows for it. They have Jake Cronenworth at shortstop and Adam Frazier, acquired in July, at second base.
At 67-53, the Padres are in third place in the NL West. That record would lead the NL East by four games. For most of the season, it has looked like a foregone conclusion that the NL West would have both wild-card teams but San Diego is 9-11 in its last 20 games (mostly without Tatis) and the Reds have played well since the All-Star break. Cincinnati, after taking two of three from the Phils this past weekend, trails the second wild-card spot by 2.5 games.
The Padres have a depleted rotation and only three starting pitchers at the moment. They placed Yu Darvish on the IL with a back injury Sunday, are still without Chris Paddack (oblique), and also lost a couple of key bullpen arms in Drew Pomeranz and Dinelson Lamet. San Diego went with a bullpen game Sunday and figures to do the same at least once in the Phillies series. The Padres' only healthy starting pitchers are Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove and Ryan Weathers. Of the three, only Musgrove can be relied on to go deep into a game. Snell has pitched fewer than six innings in 18 of his 22 disappointing starts.
San Diego was so desperate for rotation help that they are nearing a deal with Jake Arrieta, The Athletic and other national outlets report. Arrieta was released last week by the Cubs. He has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this season with a 6.88 ERA and .315 opponents' batting average in 20 starts.
The Phils will need to hit to win that series in San Diego. Between Tatis, Cronenworth, Frazier, Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, Trent Grisham and Wil Myers, the Padres have a ton of offensive firepower.
The Phils will likely go with Matt Moore, Aaron Nola and Gibson in San Diego. Nola is running out of time to turn his season around.
Once the Phillies get past the Padres, they’ll play 23 of their next 32 games against teams well below .500, including each of the worst six teams in the National League (Diamondbacks, Nationals, Marlins, Rockies, Cubs, Pirates) along with the Orioles.
“I don’t really want to hear that, I don’t want our players to hear that,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You write up a lot of scripts on paper and they don’t always come to fruition. Every day’s a challenge. I don’t care who you’re playing or how they’re playing, every day is a challenge.”