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Ghosts of Matt Klentak past: Phillies vs. Red Sox preview

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A series against the Red Sox brings two reminders of what was perhaps the former GM’s worst move

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Boston Red Sox
It hasn’t been all strikeouts and sunshine for Nick Pivetta this season
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

We’re almost at the All-Star Break which marks the ceremonial halfway mark of the baseball season. Yes, I know we’ve actually already passed the true halfway point of the season, but we also know the character’s name is actually Grogu. That doesn’t stop anyone from calling him “Baby Yoda,” and it doesn’t stop anyone from referring to anything before the All-Star Game as the “first half.”

While the Phillies’ schedule theoretically gets easier in the second half, they’ll be ending the first in a difficult fashion: By visiting Fenway Park to face the team with the best record in the American League. Not only will they be taking on a first place team, they’ll also be faced with a couple reminders of a very bad trade their general manager made last year.

Boston Red Sox

Record: 54-34 (First place in American League East)

The last time they met

The Red Sox visited Philadelphia in late May and took the first two games of the series before the Phillies pulled out the finale behind Zack Wheeler. The bad news for the Phillies is that Wheeler won’t be starting in this series. (He may be starting the All-Star Game however.)

Since then?

The Sox have done well for themselves, going 25-15 since the last meeting, a run that included an eight-game winning streak. However, they come into this series having lost two in a row. Expectations for the Sox were not “best in the AL” heading into the season, and they’re 17-9 in one run games, so there’s the possibility that they’ve outplayed their talent level, and may be due for some regression.

This may be wishful thinking on my part, but coming after a series when they caught the Cubs at the absolute right time, it would be stellar if they could also catch the Red Sox at a good time as well.

Least valuable player

The Red Sox success is due to many factors, but first baseman Bobby Dalbec has not been one of them. Dalbec burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2020, hitting eight home runs in 23 games. But much like a fellow second-year player on the Phillies, that initial offensive success hasn’t carried over into his sophomore year. He’s batting just .216 and has played substandard defense at first base.

And now we’ve come to the Nick Pivetta portion of the preview

There are still some Nick Pivetta truthers among the Phillies’ fan base. Many of the people who touted him as a budding ace in 2019 have held on to their faith in him, and still think he’s destined for stardom. When he got off to a strong start with the Red Sox, there was a strong “should of kept” sentiment. So I’ll start off with two declarations:

  1. Pivetta’s 4.09 ERA and 1.6 wins above replacement this season would be a large improvement over the guys who the Phillies have used as their fourth and fifth starters this season.
  2. Pivetta badly needed a change of scenery, and almost certainly wouldn’t have experienced that level of success on the Phillies.

Remember that bad Klentak trade I mentioned? It happened last August, when the Phillies sent Pivetta and minor league reliever Connor Seabold to the Red Sox for relievers Brandon Workman (I’ll get to him) and Heath Hembree (Frequent readers of the site know how I feel about him). The trade wasn’t bad because of Pivetta; his time had run out in Philadelphia and he had become unusable. The trade was bad because they also gave up an actual prospect in exchange for two relievers who turned out to be hot garbage.

We also shouldn’t overrate the season Pivetta is having. He’s had some dominating starts (he had some of them with the Phillies too), but he’s still extremely inconsistent. In two of his past six starts, he’s pitched 6+ shutout innings. And in another two of those starts, he’s been rocked for six runs.

Will we see the good version of Pivetta when he faces the Phillies on Sunday? Probably, because that’s how things generally work out for the Phillies. Is it just as likely that he gets knocked around in his next start. Also yes.

Now let’s move on to Brandon Workman

After that trade, Brandon Workman was given the Phillies’ closer role. I don’t think there is much disagreement that he was not very good at this job.

He signed with the Cubs in the offseason, and pitched poorly enough that the team released him by the end of April. The Sox brought him back off the waiver wire, and naturally, he’s been effective for them.

It’s possible that the effectiveness is fleeting. While his ERA is 1.38, his FIP is a much higher 5.48, indicating that some good luck has been on his side. He continues to give up a decent amount of hits and walks, and that tends to catch up with a pitcher eventually. It would be great if some of that catching up could happen this weekend.

Trivia

Last series’ answer: Current closer Ranger Suarez earned the win in the 2019 Bryce Harper walk-off grand slam game. ASK was first to answer correctly.

This series’ question: Who has the highest career batting average as a Phillie at Fenway Park (Minimum 10 plate appearances)?

What to expect

  • Aaron Nola’s last start against the Red Sox didn’t go well, but he’ll have a better showing this time out.
  • It’s been a minute since the Phillies’ bullpen has blown a lead, so they’re due to do that at least once this series.
  • Andrew McCutchen will continue his hot play, hitting at least one home run.

Closing thought that may or may not be relevant to the series

Did anyone not employed by Disney actually refer to Grogu as anything besides “Baby Yoda?” Yes, I know all the toys and other merchandise referred to him as “The Child,” but let’s be serious: When kids told Santa what they want, they weren’t saying “I want a The Child doll,” or “I want The Child LEGO set,” they were saying they wanted Baby Yoda.