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Bryce vs. Manny: Phillies vs. Padres series preview

The offseason’s two marquee free agents will square off for the first time

Washington Nationals v Baltimore Orioles
Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in their younger days
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Phillies had a wee bit of trouble with the Los Angeles Dodgers this past weekend. Before we get too down on them, its important to remember that just about every team in the league has had some trouble with the Dodgers this season. The Phillies’ next opponent isn’t nearly as imposing, although they do come equipped with a free agent star of their own.

San Diego Padres

Record: 30-29, Third place in National League West

The last time they met

The Phillies visited Petco Park in August 2018, and largely thanks to the hitting prowess of ex-Phillie Freddy Galvis, the Padres took two out of three. Fortunately for the Phillies, Freddy has taken his glove and selectively amazing bat to Toronto and won’t be able to help the Padres this week.

Are the 2019 Padres good?

Well, they have a winning record.

But who are these guys?

Looking at the Padres’ roster, the lineup doesn’t look all that intimidating. While there are a few recognizable names, I also see players like Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes, and Johnny Perkins getting a lot of at bats. (I only made one of those names up.) Unsurprisingly, the Padres have been one of the lowest scoring teams in baseball.

So they’re being carried by pitching?

The Padres do have the fourth best ERA in the National League, although the rotation isn’t exactly loaded with household names either. The key to their pitching success - aside from playing their home games in a spacious stadium - appears to be issuing a low number of walks.

The three scheduled starters for the series are Eric Lauer, Chris Paddack, and Joey Lucchesi, and I’m not going to pretend I’ve ever heard of any of them. Lauer’s relatively high ERA (4.45) seems to be mostly the result of an awful start in Colorado. He hasn’t walked anyone in his last three starts, so the Phillies shouldn’t count on getting a lot of runners aboard via walk on Monday night.

Paddack is a highly touted rookie who’s done a solid job of living up to the hype so far. However, his most recent start was his worst, where the Yankees tagged him for three home runs. Was it just a blip in a strong rookie season, or have teams begun to develop a solid scouting report?

Compared to Paddack, Lucchesi is a grizzled veteran, this being his second year of Major League service. He faced the Phillies once in 2018 and held them to just two hits in six innings. That made me not want to like him, but then I saw this T-shirt:

Or maybe they’re just lucky?

The Padres have actually been outscored on the season, and have been fortunate to go 14-6 in one-run games. Sometimes these things can last an entire season...and sometime regression bites these types of teams sooner rather than later. For instance, they just lost two of three to the Marlins over the weekend, and the Marlins are not a good team.

Was Sunday’s game delayed by bees?

Yes.

Bryce vs. Manny

In case you weren’t paying attention this past offseason, the two biggest names on the free agent market were Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. The Phillies were attached to both men, and some people were convinced that they’d both end up in Philadelphia. (SPOILER ALERT) They didn’t. After months of speculation, Machado eventually signed with the Padres, and Harper wound up with the Phillies.

I’m sure most Phillies fans have closely followed the progress of Harper’s early days with the team, but with Machado playing most of his games on the West coast, it has been more difficult to keep up with him. Thus far, he hasn’t overwhelmed anyone with the bat, delivering a slash line of .259/.345/.424 with nine home runs.

This series will likely cause people to revisit the team’s decision on which player to pursue. Machado isn’t having his best offensive season, but he’d be a massive upgrade (at least offensively) at third base. On the other hand, considering how 2019 has gone for the quartet of Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr, and Roman Quinn, the Phillies’ outfield would likely be a weakness without Harper.

While it doesn’t necessarily show up in the standings, I think the consensus is that the fans are happier with Harper. Many people were wary of signing Machado for his infamous “Johnny Hustle” comments last year. While a laid back attitude fits in just fine in San Diego, at least one pundit thinks that Machado’s lack of effort wouldn’t have played well in Philadelphia.

By the way, fans of the teams that didn’t sign either player have been especially eager to try and point out their shortcomings.

Kirby’s adventure

Padres closer Kirby Yates is currently leading the National League in saves. If the Padres start to play down to their run differential and fall out of contention, he might be a name for the Phillies to inquire about at the trade deadline. They also employ Craig Stammen who has been one of the more reliable setup men in recent seasons.

Trivia

Nobody was able to guess that Andrew Knapp’s first career home run came in Dodger Stadium.

Which active Phillie hitter has the highest career on-base percentage at Petco Park? (Minimum 20 at bats)

Prediction

I’m slightly worried about the Phillies’ offense this series. After not producing much in Los Angeles, they’ll now have to visit a pitchers’ park against a team that doesn’t walk many batters. However, I think the Phillies’ starting trio of Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Jake Arrieta will thrive in these circumstances. While something unexpected could happen (The return of the bees and/or Freddy Galvis?), I see the Phillies taking two out of three.