Ross Stripling

Phillies-Dodgers one of the most interesting July series you'll see

Phillies-Dodgers one of the most interesting July series you'll see

It doesn't feel like hyperbole to call these next three nights against the Dodgers the most interesting and important series for the Phillies so far in 2018.

Between the two teams' success, the pitching matchups, the Manny Machado addition and the last chance (barring playoffs) for Phillies fans to see Chase Utley as a player at Citizens Bank Park, there's no shortage of storylines. 

Playoff preview?

The Phillies and Dodgers are both in first place, with the Phils a game ahead of the Braves and the Dodgers 1 ½ games ahead of the Diamondbacks.

On opening day, nobody expected the Phillies would be in this position. In mid-May, few expected the Dodgers to turn things around so quickly. The Dodgers were 10 games under .500 on May 16 and have gone 38-18 since, largely because of their immense power. The Dodgers already had eight players with double-digit home runs before trading for Machado.

This series will be a big measuring stick for the Phillies, just as the Yankees series was at the end of June. The Dodgers are the most talented team the Phillies have faced since those three games against the Yanks.

The Phils will not have to deal with Clayton Kershaw, but on Monday, they'll see second-year breakout right-hander Ross Stripling, who is 8-2 with a 2.08 ERA and a gaudy 108-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Zach Eflin pitches for the Phillies in that game.

In Game 2, it's Aaron Nola (12-3, 2.30) against boom-or-bust righty Kenta Maeda (7-5, 3.12).

The Phils will go with Jake Arrieta in the series finale; the Dodgers' starter is TBD but will likely be lefty Rich Hill. Hill, like Maeda, can be untouchable or can be pulled in the third inning on any given night.

Here's Manny

The two runners-up in the Machado sweepstakes were the Brewers and Phillies. And don't you know it, Machado's first two series as a Dodger are against the Brewers and Phillies.

Machado was cheered heavily when the Orioles came to town the week of July 4. A lot of times, players will say they block out the noise, but Machado admitted the day of the Home Run Derby that he heard and appreciated the applause.

"Philly. I did hear that nice ovation when I was there," he told reporters. "That was pretty awesome.”

On Friday night in Milwaukee, Machado was booed … which is a pretty silly reaction considering he didn't pick his trade destination. Philly fans are smart enough to know that and to know that giving him a huge reception can only help the team's attempt to land him in free agency.

Machado has been batting second and playing shortstop for the Dodgers. That's where he'll be on most nights unless the Dodgers decide to rest Justin Turner and move Machado to third and play Chris Taylor at short. (The Max Muncy experiment at third base went horribly this weekend in Milwaukee and it's unlikely the Dodgers go back to that alignment.)

Machado lengthens an already deep and powerful Dodgers lineup. Phillies starting pitchers have their work cut out this week. The Dodgers have a bunch of players — Machado, Turner, Muncy, Joc Pederson, Cody Bellinger — who do not expand the strike zone. They see a lot of pitches, all while striking out less than the league average. Expect some high-stress innings.

Last chance to see Chase

There will be huge reactions every time Utley comes to the plate this week, but Phillies fans may see him only as a pinch-hitter. Utley has started just two of the Dodgers' last 19 games, and that was before the team added maybe the best infielder in baseball.

Between Machado, Muncy, Turner, Taylor, Bellinger and Logan Forsythe, the Dodgers have no real reason to start Utley unless they face a starting pitcher he's owned. Utley's also been a big weapon off the bench, going 12 for 27 (.444) as a pinch-hitter with three doubles and a triple.

More on the Phillies

Phillies' bats shut down by Stripling as date vs. Kershaw is up next

Phillies' bats shut down by Stripling as date vs. Kershaw is up next

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — Phillies hitters were dominated by Ross Stripling.

Good luck against Clayton Kershaw.

Stripling began the season in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen then moved into the rotation earlier this month when injuries mounted on the staff. He pitched seven innings of one-run ball and struck out nine Phillies to lead the Dodgers to an 8-2 win on Wednesday night (see first take).

“Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the opposition,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “Ross Striping was tremendous today. He kept us off-balance all night. He mixed his pitches well. The cutter-slider thing was working really effectively. He mixed it with the curveball. He was good. He was on his game. We had trouble making the adjustment.”

The Dodgers have won 10 of their last 13 games, including two of three against the Phillies. The Phils need a win Thursday to earn a series split, but it won’t be easy as Kershaw will come off the disabled list — he’s been down for a month with biceps tendinitis — to make the start. Stripling has 11 big-league wins. Kershaw has three National League Cy Young awards and five ERA titles. So the assignment will be a lot tougher for the Phillies on Thursday night. The Phillies will counter with Aaron Nola, one of their top starters.

“Obviously we have two very good pitchers on the mound,” Kapler said. “As a baseball fan, I'm very excited about that matchup. As a Phillie, I'm very excited about facing the best.”

The Phillies are 30-23. They entered the game in third place in the NL East, just a game behind first-place Atlanta and a half game behind second-place Washington. Atlanta lost its game against the Mets while Washington defeated Baltimore. So the Nationals are now in first place in the division, a half game up on Atlanta and the Phillies are in third, 1½ games back.

Starter Zach Eflin was hit hard. He gave up a run in the first inning and three in the third on a solo homer, a walk and another homer. He lasted just four innings and gave up seven hits and a walk. He struck out five.

“I threw some good pitches, I threw some bad pitches,” Eflin said. “They took advantage of my bad pitches and they hit some good pitches, so it’s just one of those days where I’m not going to look back and say I did bad or I did horrible. I had really good stuff today. It’s just one of those days where I got hit around.”

Eflin came up from Triple A on May 1 and gave up just one run over 12 2/3 innings in his first two starts. Since then, he has made three starts and been tagged for 19 hits and 12 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings. Eflin has been given the chance to lock down the fifth spot in the rotation, but he’s hardly done that. Meanwhile, Cole Irvin and Enyel De Los Santos are pitching well at Triple A if the Phils look to make a change.

“We're constantly evaluating our players,” Kapler said. “We're constantly making determinations on what happens next. That's something — we're not there yet. Next couple of days, we'll be thinking about that.”

With Rhys Hoskins likely headed to the disabled list (see story), Nick Williams will get more regular playing time. He homered for the fifth time in his last 15 games for the Phillies’ first run of the game.

“I think he deserves an opportunity to get a good look here,” Kapler said.

Zach Eflin knocked out early again as Phillies blasted by Dodgers

Zach Eflin knocked out early again as Phillies blasted by Dodgers

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — A day that began with the Phillies learning that they’d likely be without Rhys Hoskins for a while ended with them suffering a one-sided loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.

The Phillies were never in this one. The Dodgers hit Zach Eflin hard en route to an 8-2 win.

The Dodgers are hot. They have won 10 of their last 13, including two of three against the Phillies. The series concludes Thursday night with a good pitching matchup — Aaron Nola vs. Clayton Kershaw. The Phillies need a win to earn a series split before heading up the coast to San Francisco.

The Phillies’ bats did little against Dodgers starter Ross Stripling. The right-hander held the Phils to four hits and a run — a solo homer by Nick Williams — over seven innings.

Meanwhile, Eflin struggled from the outset. Despite striking out three batters in the first inning, he gave up a leadoff single to Joc Pederson and a two-out double to Matt Kemp as the Dodgers broke to a 1-0 lead.

Eflin had more problems in the third. He gave up a one-out homer to Max Muncy, walked the next batter and gave up a two-run homer to Kemp. The Dodgers scored again on Eflin in the fourth and he was done early.

It was an up-and-down month for Eflin. He came up from Triple A on May 1 and gave up just one run over 12 2/3 innings in his first two starts. Since then, he has made three starts and been tagged for 19 hits and 12 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings.

The Phillies are 30-23. They entered the game in third place in the NL East, just a game behind first-place Atlanta and a half game behind second-place Washington. Atlanta lost its game against the Mets while Washington defeated Baltimore. So the Nationals are now in first place in the division, a half game up on Atlanta and the Phillies are in third, 1½ games back.

Earlier Wednesday, it was learned that Hoskins had suffered a broken jaw when he fouled a ball off his face Monday night. He will be examined in Philadelphia on Thursday and a trip to the disabled list is a virtual certainty (see story).

Pedro Florimon went on the DL with a broken foot. Mitch Walding came up from Triple A to take Florimon’s spot. He struck out four times in his big-league debut. In all, Phillies hitters struck out 13 times.