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Let’s try this again: Phillies vs. Yankees series preview

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After a week-long hiatus, the Phillies will attempt to actually play some baseball games

League Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Four
Gary Sanchez after an unsuccessful plate appearance
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Last week, when it seemed as if the Phillies were going to play their scheduled games against the Yankees, I wrote a preview of the series. As you may know, the Phillies didn’t actually play those games. I was going to re-use some of the content I wrote for that preview, but unfortunately, much of it is now obsolete. What I’m trying to say is that I’m the real victim here.

As for the cancellations, I understand having an abundance of caution regarding a potential COVID-19 outbreak. But it isn’t a good sign for the fate of the season that the team had a week’s worth of games cancelled without a single player testing positive for the virus.

Now that the presumably healthy Phillies are ready to take the field again, let’s re-hash what happened the last time the Phillies played an actual game: It was an ugly affair in which (surprise!) Vince Velasquez did not pitch well. Because of that dud, the Phillies lost the series and thanks to the Marlins’ laissez-faire attitude towards the virus, a week’s worth of games.

Perhaps the week off will help the Phillies perform better than they did against the Marlins. Based on how badly they looked in two of those games, it probably couldn’t hurt.

New York Yankees

Record: 7-1

Manager: Aaron Boone

The last time they met

The Yankees visited Citizens Bank Park for three games in June 2018 and won two of the three games. The finale was won by the Phillies behind a combined shutout by Zach Eflin and Seranthony Dominguez. The good news is that one of those two men is expected to pitch this week. (The bad news being that the other man might never pitch again.)

Joe goes home

The Phillies’ first two opponents of the season are the two teams Joe Girardi used to manage. It’s doubtful he has too many feelings either way regarding the Marlins, but I have to think that the games against the Yankees might mean a little bit more to Girardi. He managed the Yankees for ten years, and was at the helm when the Yankees won the 2009 World Series. (Now let us never speak of it again.)

Some say he was fired unfairly, as the 2017 Yankees would likely have made the World Series if not for the Astros’ cheating ways. Others say he had grown stale, and the team was right to move on from him. Either way, he’s now in charge of the Phillies, and despite what I might have said last week, I consider that to be an upgrade.

Under normal circumstances, I imagine Girardi would have received a warm ovation from the Yankee Stadium fans upon his return. Maybe the stadium sound people can just pump in some additional cheers in his honor.

Speaking of the fans

One benefit of not having fans in seats for these games is that we don’t have to deal with the hordes of Yankee fans who would otherwise infested the stands of Citizens Bank Park.

I’ve discussed the insufferableness of Yankees fans at length in the past, so no need to re-hash. Let’s just say, I’m happy that instead of being forced to watch them during the broadcast, they can be easily enough muted on social media.

Are the Yankees any good this season?

For as much money as they’re spending on payroll, they darn well better be. I don’t think they backed a bunch of money trucks up to Gerrit Cole’s house with the expectation that they’d be watching the playoffs on television.

Early in the season, the Yankees’ high payroll has resulted in winning baseball. Thanks in part to Aaron Judge’s apparent desire to homer in every game, they are 7-1. Of course, anyone can beat up on scrubs like the Red Sox and Orioles. We’ll see if they can continue that strong play now that they’ll be facing a well-rested opponent.

But wait, isn’t that J.A. Happ?

It sure is. The former Phillie has had an interesting career since leaving the Phillies ten(!) years ago, but as he approaches his 38th birthday, there’s evidence that it’s coming to a close. He had a poor 2019 season, and there are quite a few Yankees fans angry that the team signed him instead of Patrick Corbin. (The fact that Corbin might have wanted to pitch elsewhere never crosses these people’s minds.)

The Yankees thought they were solving their rotation issues by signing Cole, but due to injuries to Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka (who made a shaky return to the rotation last week), there are some major question marks taking the mound every five days.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, Happ has pitched well against his former team. In five starts, he’s 5-0 with a 1.45 ERA against them.

What about the Phillies rotation?

Having not played a game in a week, the Phillies’ starters should all be available. Jake Arrieta is expected to start on Monday, but they’ve been mum about anything past that. Presumably, Aaron Nola will get the ball one of the days, and because this season seems destined to be as awful as possible, I’d guess that Velasquez gets a start as well.

Spotlight on: Gary Sanchez

The Yankees’ starting catcher is not off to a strong start to the season. While its good for the Phillies’ chances this week that the Yankees have a minus player in their lineup, we certainly don’t want them getting any ideas about hitting the free agent market to upgrade the position this offseason.

Getting into a bidding war with the Yankees for Realmuto’s services seems less than ideal.

Prediction

It’s tough enough predicting if the Phillies will actually play, yet alone who is going to win the games. The Yankees look imposing, but the Phillies will be motivated by a desire to win for their manager, and will end up splitting the series.