During their last homestand, and for the first three games of their last road trip, the Phillies got to feast against some of the dregs of Major League Baseball.
They won two out of three from the Marlins. They swept the Cincinnati Reds (who fired their manager on Thursday after a 3-15 start), and swept the Tampa Bay Rays. Those three teams were a combined 13-40, good for a combined winning percentage of .245.
Now, the Phillies begin a nice, long, 10-game homestand at Citizens Bank Park, where in their first six games are hitting .252/.349/.480 as a team with a wRC+ of 124 and an OPS of .829. They have hit 11 of their 17 home runs at home.
Ordinarily, you’d think this is a stretch for the Phils to pad their win total, but the competition coming to Philadelphia the next week-and-a-half will not make things easy on them.
First up is the Pirates, who have raced out to a 12-6 record despite trading Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen this off-season. Pittsburgh is getting outstanding production from bargain bin addition Corey Dickerson, who is hitting .328/.354/.525 for the Pirates in 65 PAs this season (his 3.1% walk-rate is not too hot, though). Starling Marte, Francisco Cervelli and Gregory Polanco are all off to good starts, too, although the team lost one of their best players this week, Josh Harrison, for six weeks due to a broken bone in his left hand.
Pitching-wise, the Phils should be able to smack the Pittsburgh rotation around. Jameson Taillon is the only dominant arm in the rotation, with 18 strikeouts in 20 1⁄3 innings this season and just two runs allowed this year. But the collection of Ivan Nova, Steven Brault and Trevor Williams shouldn’t send shivers down the collective spines of Phils hitters.
After that is the Diamondbacks, who won a wild card spot last year and has the second-best record in the NL at this early stage of the season. They still have A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt, as well as David Peralta, Jarrod Dyson and Katel Marte. They are without injured stars Jake Lamb and Steven Souza Jr., so the Phillies catch a bit of a break there, too.
Pitching-wise, Arizona has a beast of a rotation. Zack Greinke’s 5.29 ERA is awful, but his xFIP of 2.69, his 11.12 K/9 and 0.53 BB/9 indicate he has been extremely unlucky thus far. Patrick Corbin, Zack Godley and Robbie Ray are all pretty fantastic, and whoever starts against the Phils next week will make life difficult for their young lineup. They also have an outstanding bullpen.
Finally, there are the Braves, who the Phillies are just about done with for a while. Atlanta has taken four of six from the Phils thus far, but things may be different once they come into Philadelphia. Perhaps by the time they come here, Ryan Flaherty, Nick Markakis, Kurt Suzuki and Preston Tucker will no longer be sniffing their early-season fairy dust, although it’s possible super-stud prospect Ronald Acuna will be on the big league roster.
For fans who were skeptical of the Phils’ six-game winning streak and eight wins in nine games last week, these next 10 games will be the first real litmus test of 2018.