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Hey, Manny: Phillies vs. Orioles Series Preview

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Manny Machado visits Citizens Bank Park. The rest of the Orioles will be there too, but they aren’t important.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, hi there, Manny Machado. I’m working on the assumption that you are reading this preview because you’ve heard rumors that you might be traded to the Phillies, or that they’ll pursue you in free agency. It makes sense that you’d want to learn all about your potential future team, and how better to do so than reading The Good Phight which is obviously the premier site covering the Phils.

Anyway, welcome to Philadelphia! I hope you enjoy your stay over the next two days. I’m sure you’ll learn that it’s a wonderful city that you’d like to make your home for the next ten years or so. You’ll find that the fans here are passionate, knowledgeable, and unlike the people of Baltimore, have not chosen to turn the national anthem into a team cheer.

I’m going to spend much of this column discussing how bad your current team is, and I realize that might rub you the wrong way. But let’s be real here: I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. You’re on the field every night futilely trying to carry these guys to victory. That hasn’t worked out too well, has it?

You know who isn’t a bad team? The Phillies. If the season ended today, they’d be in the playoffs. If you joined them, they might make the playoffs every year. Wouldn’t that be fun?

The Last Time They Met

In mid-May, the Phillies traveled to Baltimore for a two-game series that became a one-game series due to rain. In that one game, the Phillies used a strong start from Nick Pivetta and a big day from Cesar Hernandez to win 4-1.

And Since Then?

Since that game, the Orioles have not played good baseball, putting up an 11-30 record. They have the worst record in baseball and are 31 games out of first place in the American League East. (Only 29 games out of the second wild card spot though!)

Phillies Pitching vs. Orioles Offense

The Orioles have one of the best players in baseball, yet they have one of the worst offenses in the league. It would stand to reason then that the Orioles hitters not named Manny Machado are very bad.

While that is mostly true, there are some Orioles who aren’t completely awful. After he missed the first month of the season, Mark Trumbo has actually been pretty good and has hit eight home runs over the past month. A case could also be made for neither Adam Jones nor Danny Valencia being deemed as pathetic.

As for the rest of them? It isn’t pretty. Chris Davis and Jonathan Schoop seem to be having a contest as to who can be the worse hitter. I’d give the edge in that race to Davis. Not only is his OPS a startlingly bad .497, but he’s also owed $92 million in salary over the next four seasons. He makes a strong case for having the worst contract in baseball.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Baltimore Orioles
Chris Davis is being paid a lot of money to not produce
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies’ starting pitchers were probably all hoping to get a chance to pitch in this series, but sadly only two could be chosen. The lucky pair are Zach Eflin and Aaron Nola. Eflin is coming off an excellent month of June. All he did was go 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA. As for Nola, he’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball all season. It almost feels like the Phillies should save these guys for a better lineup.

Even the bullpen has shown signs of life. Called into heavy service over the weekend, they performed well, allowing the Phillies to win close games on both Saturday and Sunday. You have to figure that the return of Pat Neshek from the disabled list will help them navigate the late innings moving forward.

Orioles Pitching vs. Phillies Offense

It will probably not surprise you to learn that the Orioles’ pitching is also bad. And they don’t have the benefit of a Machado-caliber player to at least give them hope. Instead, they have to send guys like Alex Cobb and David Hess out there.

Cobb was a free agent this past offseason, and more than a few people thought the Phillies should pursue his services. Maybe he would have fared better with the Phillies, but he’s been absolutely awful for the Orioles. He’s carrying a 6.75 ERA and has allowed five or more earned runs in three of his last four starts.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Baltimore Orioles
Alex Cobb has not been a success story
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

David Hess is a rookie, which means there’s at least a chance he’ll improve. I’d actually say it’s very likely, because he’s not going to last long in the major leagues if he keeps pitching as poorly as he has been. He’s started eight games in his career, and has allowed five or more earned runs in five of them. The Wednesday matchup between him and Nola may be the most lopsided the Phillies will have all year.

Compared to the rotation, the Baltimore bullpen is a relative strength. The closer is Brad Brach who apparently made the All-Star Game two years ago. I’m actually kind of confused by that. He was a middle reliever and they usually only make it if they have overwhelming statistics or their team needs a token selection. The 2016 O’s had five All-Stars, and Brach - high strikeout rate aside - didn’t have overwhelming stats. So what gives?

They’ve also got Miguel Castro in their bullpen, and while I know nothing about him, that’s a great baseball name. How can a guy named Miguel Castro not be a good pitcher? I’m hoping the game doesn’t come down to them needing to score a run against him, because that seems like a frightening prospect.

Even though the Orioles are starting two bad pitchers this series, that isn’t a guarantee of success. The Phillies still have a tendency to make garbage pitchers look good at times. Still, the lineup - or at least the top half - has looked pretty good lately. They’re in the top third of Major League teams in both on base percentage and home runs over the last two weeks.

Cheer This Man

I’m not sure if Manny is still reading, as he’s a busy man with lots of important things to do. But either way, Phillies fans should greet him warmly, and let him know that we’d love to have him manning the left side of the infield in the near future.

As for the rest of the Orioles, boo them with impunity. We should hammer home the point that they are not a good baseball team, and they should do the right thing and trade Machado to the Phillies for a below-market offer, freeing him from wasting a year of his prime on a bad team.

Phillies on the Fourth

With Wednesday’s game falling on Independence Day, I wanted to take a brief look at the Phillies recent history when playing on the holiday. Over the past ten years, the Phillies have a 6-4 record on July 4th. Oddly, all but one of those games has been against either the Braves, Pirates, or Mets.

Last year saw the Phillies drop a listless 3-0 loss to the Pirates. The starting pitcher? Mark Leiter. The leadoff hitter? Ty Kelly. The number of Phillies runners left on base? 11.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies
Good ol’ Ty Kelly!
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

If anyone needed a reminder of how much better this season has been than last year, that last paragraph should do it.

Trivia

On July 4, 2011, the Phillies shut out the Marlins 1-0. Name the three pitchers who appeared in that game for the Phillies.

Prediction

I realize the Orioles won’t lose every game this season, but there’s a good chance they’ll lose the next two. Will that cause Manny to instantly demand a trade for whatever the Phillies deem appropriate? We can certainly hope so.