It was a disappointing weekend in Cincinnati for the Phillies, but at times like this, you need to keep in perspective how well this team has played of late.
This is the first time in over a month — since June 24 to 26 — that the Phillies have lost three games in a row. Over the last 14 series, they're 10-3-1.
Yes, the Reds are a last-place team, but they're also 26-15 since June 10, which is the fourth-best record in the majors and 1½ games better than the Phillies over that span. Cincinnati began the season 8-27 and has gone 40-31 since — a prolonged stretch of good baseball. The Reds' last-place standing is deceptive. More concerning than who the Phillies lost to was how they looked.
Now, the Phils head to Boston, where they'll actually have the pitching matchup advantage both nights against a Red Sox team that is 41 games over .500 and on pace to win 113, which would shatter the franchise record of 105.
The Red Sox and Phillies have been two of the majors' four best teams in interleague play this season. The order goes Boston at 7-1, Pittsburgh at 12-3, Cincinnati at 10-3 and then the Phillies at 9-4.
Nola vs. Price
Tonight, it's Aaron Nola against left-hander David Price. On Tuesday, it's Jake Arrieta against struggling, recently activated southpaw Drew Pomeranz, who has allowed 17 runs in 18 innings at Fenway this season.
You're not going to see very many off-speed pitches with Price on the mound. He's thrown his fastball or cutter 77 percent of the time. He also rarely gets wild, so the result of so many fastballs in the zone is a lot of home runs. Price has allowed 18 in 114 innings this season.
This will be Nola's second challenging start in a row. He faced the Dodgers last Tuesday in his toughest assignment of the season and surrendered three runs in five innings, throwing 91 pitches.
Boston will make Nola work just as much, if not more. The top three hitters in Boston's order — Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez — all have power and an OBP higher than .380. Newcomer Steve Pearce has also been hot since arriving in Boston. Nola should be able to navigate around the Red Sox 7-8-9, though. Nothing to write home about at the bottom of their order — Blake Swihart, Brock Holt, Sandy Leon.
Boston's soft underbelly
The way to get to the Red Sox is to force them to go to their bullpen early. Craig Kimbrel and Matt Barnes have formed a formidable 1-2 punch at the end of games but there's no other shutdown reliever in Boston's 'pen.
And Kimbrel, for what it's worth, has been wilder than usual in 2018. His walk rate has more than doubled since 2017.
Barnes has pitched three of the last four nights. Kimbrel has pitched two of the last three and thrown 44 pitches. Both seem unlikely to be available to pitch in both games.
The key duo in the Phillies' bullpen, meanwhile, is well-rested. Seranthony Dominguez hasn't pitched since Wednesday. Pat Neshek has been off since Thursday.
The DH effect
Asdrubal Cabrera's first two games with the Phillies were quiet — 0 for 8, three strikeouts. But acquiring him ahead of an interleague series was important because it gives the Phils one more quality bat in the lineup.
We could see the Phillies DH Cesar Hernandez in this series to give him more time to rest his achy foot. They could also DH Rhys Hoskins and start Roman Quinn in the outfield to optimize defense. Fenway has the trickiest left field in the majors, after all.
Either way, Cabrera and Quinn give the Phillies two more dynamic options than they had a week ago.