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Now for some real competition: Phillies vs. Dodgers series preview

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After cleaning up against divisional rivals, the Phillies will be tested against some real contenders

Philadelphia Phillies v Los Angeles Dodgers
It would be nice if Rhys Hoskins could come back hot and healthy
Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Phillies are fun again!

Anyone who visited Citizens Bank Park this past weekend will tell you there was a much different feeling in the air than in recent years. Part of that was due to a large number of visiting fans providing a lively atmosphere. Part of that was due to the ceremonies to honor some of the franchise’s best players. But it was mostly because the Phillies are winning games and back in first place.

The Phillies are finding ways to win games, and the fans are beginning to buy in. Philadelphia may be a football town first, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a baseball town as well. When the Phillies are doing well, the city will get behind them. The problem is that the franchise often allows the fans’ passion to get buried for long stretches.

If the Phillies want that passion to remain, they need to prove that their recent success wasn’t just a product of inferior competition. Fortunately, this upcoming series will be a perfect opportunity to do so. The defending champs come to town, and if the Phillies can continue their winning ways, then spots on the bandwagon will fill up quickly.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 67-45 (Second place in National League West)

The last time they met

The Phillies visited Los Angeles in mid-June and lost the first two games before Zack Wheeler out-dueled Clayton Kershaw in the finale. If that last name sounds familiar, it’s probably because he’s the guy the Phillies knocked around in the 2009 NLCS.

The break didn’t do them good

If the Dodgers want to run down the Giants in the West, they’re going to have to pick up their play. Since the All-Star break, they’re just 11-10, and have fallen four games out of first place.

This guy again?

There probably weren’t too many Phillies hitters upset when Max Scherzer was traded out of the National League East last month. And sure enough, it was much nicer facing the Nationals not worrying about having to face Scherzer at some point. Unfortunately, they’re not quite done with him yet, as he’ll get the start for the Dodgers on Tuesday night.

Scherzer has had mild success at Citizens Bank Park throughout his career with an 8-1 record and 2.33 ERA in 11 starts. This season, he’s just 3-0 with a 1.45 ERA in his three starts. Sure, that seems impressive, but you have to figure he’s due for a clunker at some point, right? Right???

Least valuable player

Two years ago, Cody Bellinger won the NL MVP award at age 22, and looked like he was going to be one of the league’s biggest stars for the next decade. It’s safe to say that his star has dimmed a bit this season, since he’s checking in at -0.4 WAR, and that probably won’t have him in the MVP conversation.

However, he homered in each of his past two games, so there’s a very good chance the above paragraph ages horribly.

Award season

In Bryce Harper and Zack Wheeler, the Phillies have strong contenders for the National League’s MVP and Cy Young Awards. And it so happens that some of their main competition for those awards will be in town this week. Max Muncy is probably the favorite for the MVP at the moment, but teammates Trea Turner and Mookie Betts could certainly factor into the discussion as well. On the pitching side, Walker Buehler seems like a lock to receive some Cy Young votes.

Impressive stats are a must, but in the end, these awards usually don’t go to the player who put up the most wins above replacement, but the player with the best narrative.

For example, its tough to say that Jimmy Rollins was the NL’s best player in 2007. But when you make bold pre-season predictions, and play well down the stretch to lead your team to an improbable division title, that earns you a bunch of votes.

When a pitcher starts a game immediately after Roy Halladay’s number was retired, and throws a two-hitter, that’s the type of thing that sticks in the voters’ memory. And if Bryce Harper can power the Phillies to a series win over the Dodgers, he might soon be viewed as the favorite.

Trivia

Last series’ answer: Tom Glavine had his share of success against the Phillies in his career, but he loved serving up home runs to the 2006 edition. First with the correct answer was MoButterMakerBlues.

This series’ question: Between the regular season and the NLCS, how many games did the 2008 Los Angeles Dodgers win in Citizens Bank Park?

What to expect

  • The Dodgers and Hector Neris have had an adversarial relationship in the past, but Neris will effectively escape a jam at some point (and probably celebrate a little more than he should.)
  • Andrew McCutchen returns to the lineup, but unfortunately, he comes back a little rusty.
  • Jean Segura will back his stealth “Maybe he’s the real team MVP” narrative with at least one big hit.

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

Aaron Nola gets the start on Tuesday, and it would be really nice if he could switch back to being good, and I could get back to writing stories and headlines like this.