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More happy montage: Phillies vs. Diamondbacks series preview

Can the Phillies keep the good times rolling?

MLB: AUG 08 Mets at Phillies
It’s good to be a Phillies fan right now
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Before the Brewers series, I said that we’d find out if the Phillies’ success against the Angels was due to an improvement on their part or if they were just fortunate to catch the Angels in freefall. Three games and three wins later, I’d like to say the Phillies sufficiently answered that question, although the Brewers do appear to be in a bit of a freefall of their own.

I don’t want to diminish what the Phillies did over the past three games. To earn their latest two wins, they had to overcome a ninth inning deficit against a heretofore untouchable closer and then beat the reigning Cy Young Award winner. The Brewers clearly aren’t at the top of their game right now, but that’s still impressive.

So maybe things have turned around? Maybe Joe Girardi actually was the problem, and under Rob Thomson the Phillies are going to continue to “Smash the Bell” and win games? I’d love to believe that, but a jaded Phillies fan, it’s tough to fully buy in. It feels like we’re at the part of the movie where things are going well for the protagonist - complete with a happy montage set to upbeat music - right before a new obstacle is thrown in their path.

Is an Arizona Diamondbacks-shaped obstacle about to ruin the Phillies’ montage? Or do we get at least one more weekend of joy before the good times end?

Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 28-31 (Fourth place in National League West, 10 games back)

The last time they met

We all remember the Phillies’ ill-fated trip to Arizona when they were swept by the last-place Diamondbacks. But the Phillies gained some slight revenge the following week when they took two out of three from the D’Backs at Citizens Bank Park.

What’s the deal with the Diamondbacks?

After finishing in last place with 110 losses in 2021, the Diamondbacks have risen to the heights of a near-.500 record and fourth place this season.

It’s not clear how the D’Backs’ record is as good as it is. They don’t have a particularly productive offense - they rank 14th in the NL in runs scored - and their lineup isn’t laden with stars. Christian Walker has 15 home runs, but that’s about all he does since his batting average is .200.

The starting rotation has been a relative strength thanks to Zac Gallen, Madison Bumgarner (he’s still playing???), and Merrill Kelly. But their bullpen might be worse than the Phillies’, (I’ll give you a second to process that) as they have the fewest wins above replacement with -0.2.

Who’s cold?

Phillies fans are likely familiar with Daulton Varsho since he’s the son of a former Phillie (Gary Varsho) and was named after another (I’ll let you figure out who). However, Varsho is not having a good time of it lately. Over the last two weeks, he has an OPS of .283. Those numbers put him more in line with the pre-1992 version of Darren Daulton.

Former Phillie alert

Remember how I said the Diamondbacks have a lousy bullpen? It shouldn’t surprise you that a former Phillie has a key role in it. You may remember Ian Kennedy as the Phillies closer from the end of 2021. Remember how fun it was when he’d get two strikes on a batter and then the at bat would last about eight more pitches? Or how he seemed to give up a home run at least every other time he appeared in a game?

Perhaps due to that inability to finish batters off, Kennedy is not Arizona’s primary closer. That job belongs to Mark Melancon, except he’s not doing a particularly good job either as evidenced by his 6.52 ERA. If the Phillies need to mount another ninth-inning comeback, the prospect shouldn’t be as daunting as when they faced Josh Hader.

Do I hate this?

New Era has released designs for this year’s special Independence Day hats.

It’s certainly not the worst design New Era has ever come up with, but I think I’m still giving it a thumbs down. The contrast between the red back of the hat and the white front is a little too jarring.

Trivia

Last series’ answer: Maikel Franco (2016) and Brad Miller (2021) are the two Phillies to have had multiple home run games in Miller Park in the last decade. SteveH2331 got it.

This series’ question: On May 17, 2002, a Phillies player had a five-hit game against the Diamondbacks. Who was he?

Non-Phillies thought

Are there any readers who suffer from food allergies? If so, let me recommend Without a Trace. My expectations are usually lowered when I hear words like gluten-free and plant-based, but these are actually good!

Closing thought

It’s possible that the Phillies lose this series. They’re eventually going to lose a game or two (probably) and asking them to win every game against teams that look weaker than them on paper is unrealistic.

However, I think the Phillies will win at least two out of three against Arizona. Why? Because the next opponent on the schedule is the Marlins, and based on recent history, if the good times are going to end, that’s who it will end against.