After splitting a four-game set with the Dodgers, the Phillies will head up the coast to San Francisco where the struggling Giants await.
The Last Time They Met
In mid-May, the Giants visited Citizens Bank Park for a four-game series, and the home team wasn’t feeling very hospitable. Thanks to strong outings by their starting pitchers and a suddenly-powerful offense, the Phillies had their way with the Giants, outscoring them 32-8 in the four-game sweep.
Heading into the Phillies series, the Giants had a winning record, but there was a feeling that they were overachieving. The Giants have done little to dispel that notion by going 7-11 since leaving Philadelphia.
They certainly haven’t been done any favors by their schedule, as they’ve spent most of that time playing contenders like the Astros, Cubs, and Rockies. Still, there is growing evidence that the Giants are simply not a very good team.
Giants Offense vs. Phillies Pitchers
At first glance, you might think the Giants have a good lineup. Look at their roster and you’ll see plenty of big name stars: Brandon Belt! Buster Posey! Evan Longoria! Brandon Crawford! Andrew McCutchen! If it was three years ago, that would indeed be an impressive collection of offensive talent. Seeing how the calendar currently reads 2018, many of those guys appear to be firmly in the decline phase of their careers.
I’ll admit that Brandon Belt is having an excellent season, and they’ve gotten surprisingly good play from whoever Gorkys Hernandez is. But for most of the others, the production doesn’t necessarily match the reputation anymore.
Two of the Phillies’ starters will get their second crack at the Giants this season. Nick Pivetta only lasted five innings in his previous start against them, but he managed to cram a lot of goodness into those five innings, striking out seven without allowing a run. As for Vince Velasquez, all he did was rack up 12 strikeouts in six innings.
As bad as the sweep was for the Giants, it could have been even worse, since they avoided facing Jake Arrieta. They won’t be so lucky this time, as Arrieta will get the start on Sunday. It just so happens that AT&T Park seems to be one of Arrieta’s favorite places to pitch. In five career starts there, he’s 4-1 with a 2.23 ERA.
It’s hard to remember this now, but when these teams played in May, Seranthony Dominguez was not yet the greatest relief pitcher who ever lived. He was merely a highly-touted rookie reliever making his debut.
How did that debut go, you ask?
99mph by Seranthony pic.twitter.com/SkxETHPcz2— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) May 8, 2018
Maybe one day, the Giants will look back with a sense of pride that they were the first victims on the Seranthony Dominguez Tour of Domination. But for now, they probably aren’t looking forward to another meeting with a guy who can do this:
here you see Seranthony striking out the same batter twice on the same pitch. pic.twitter.com/Y7BWsyda1g— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) June 1, 2018
The Giants may receive a boost from the return of old friend Hunter Pence who is expected to be activated from the disabled list. It likely won’t be a big boost since Pence isn’t very good anymore, but he should feel right at home with the rest of the Giants’ hitters.
Giants Pitchers vs. Phillies Offense
The earlier series against the Phillies didn’t go too well for the Giants’ hitters. But it REALLY didn’t go well for the Giants’ pitchers. The Phillies scored 32 runs over the four-game set, twice putting up an eleven-spot.
The Phillies hitters haven’t exactly been on a tear lately, so there’s reason for the Giants to hope that things will be different this time. But considering the starting pitchers they’ve got scheduled for the series, they shouldn’t allow themselves too much hope. If the Phillies can’t get their bats going this weekend, there’s a good chance they won’t ever get going.
Chris Stratton gets the start on Friday. Normally I’d guess that he’s still having nightmares from the beating the Phillies gave him, but when a pitcher has been knocked around as often as Stratton has this season, it’s hard to get too hung up on any one bad performance.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Phillies offensive dominance was that Andrew Suarez didn’t even pitch in the series. He’s spent the past month getting pummeled by the rest of the National League, and on Saturday night, the Phillies will get their chance to put up some crooked numbers against him.
The Giants have yet to announce a starter for Sunday’s game. My suspicion is that none of their pitchers want to face the Phillies again, so they’re all trying to avoid the call. I can’t really blame them. Would you really want to face the Phillies lineup again when Jake Arrieta is the opposing pitcher and the Phillies will likely be going for a sweep?
The Giants bullpen is full of guys who seem to be solidly okay. Their closer is Hunter Strickland who might be the okayest out of all of them. He didn’t blow a save in the month of May, but that might have been due to the lack of opportunities more than anything.
Boo this Man
Remember the 2010 Giants? They somehow upset a much more talented Phillies team in the NLCS, and lucked into a World Series win. There aren’t too many members of that team left on the roster, but if you look closely, you can still see Pablo Sandoval taking up (a lot of) space on the Giants’ bench.
Sandoval is possibly the best example of a player being overrated because of a cool nickname. While he had some strong offensive seasons early in his career, I think most people just wanted to see a guy called “Kung Fu Panda” succeed.
The Red Sox front office were among those who overrated him. In 2015, despite him coming off a few down seasons, and an ever-expanding waistline, they signed him to a five-year/$95 million contract that went as poorly as anyone with sense would have predicted. He was constantly injured and didn’t play well when he did manage to stay on the field.
The Red Sox finally became fed up and are now paying him $18 million to play somewhere else. Sandoval meandered his way back to the Giants where he now serves a utility role. On the bright side, they used him to pitch in one game and that went pretty well:
Speaking of Overrated
I don’t know why the city of San Francisco is so glamorized. Yes, they have mild winters, so the weather never gets too awful, but they never get truly nice weather either. It’s also expensive as heck to live there, so unless you’re a vice president for Google (admittedly, there are several thousands of those), have fun sharing a studio apartment with three other people as you seek out a venture capitalist to fund your tech startup.
On the other hand, I do enjoy me a good box of Rice-a-Roni every so often.
It might be too much to ask for the Phillies to sweep the season series, especially considering that their hitters have had some struggles of their own in recent weeks. But taking two of the games would certainly make me happy, and that’s what they’ll do.