The Phillies are currently tied for the National League’s third and final wild card spot. As fate would have it, they will play a four-game series against the team with whom they are currently tied.
I’m sure there are some writers out there who have meticulously previewed this series, providing in depth analysis on the key players and stats for such an important mid-season matchup. But where they zigged, I have zagged, and I’ve dedicated a large chunk of this preview talking about Yadier Molina.
Does that bother anyone? Like do you open up these series previews excited to learn about the Phillies’ next opponent, and then become disappointed because I start talking about some random guy who is slumping and the latest Marvel trailer?
Don’t get me wrong: Even if you are disappointed, I’m not going to change or anything. I’ve come too far down this road to change now. I’m just curious if anyone would really rather get some actual analysis on the Phillies’ opponents.
Record: 45-40 (Second place in National League Central, 2.5 games back)
The last time they met
The Cardinals visited Citizens Bank Park last weekend and won two out of three. They almost overcame four consecutive first inning home runs in the middle game, but Nolan Arenado was just a bit too much for them to sweep.
The Cardinals lost three out of four to the Braves. I realize the Phillies are competing with both of these teams for playoff spots, so that isn’t necessarily the worst possible outcome, but still, that’s weak, Cards.
Second baseman Tommy Edman has an OPS of just .396 over the past two weeks.
Tommy Edman over the last 28 days.— Jeff Zimmerman (@jeffwzimmerman) July 8, 2022
Barely a .600 OPS, an ISO under .100, and moving down the Cards lineup (against righties). pic.twitter.com/IUSk19Q0Ma
Has that stopped Cardinals fans from insisting he should be an All-Star? Of course not!
Tommy Edman deserves to be an All-Star but we won’t get into that pic.twitter.com/VcBWrBSpVH— Harrison Smith (@Hurrsonsmif) July 6, 2022
And what about Yadi???
An annual rite of summer is Cardinals fans insisting that Yadier Molina should be the starting catcher in the All-Star Game regardless of what kind of season he’s having.
Keep in mind that Molina is currently injured and hasn’t played a game since June 15th. I understand taking Pujols as a legacy pick, but it feels like half of Molina’s past ASG selections were legacy picks, or at least the result of the obsessiveness of the St. Louis fans regarding his “greatness.”
Molina has had a long, solid career, but is he the Hall of Fame lock that some pundits treat him as? It feels like Cardinals fans have blown him up for so long, that everyone else just kind of went along with it to shut them up.
Maybe don’t let Arenado beat us?
The Phillies won the series against the Cardinals last time, but darned if Nolan Arenado didn’t do his best to turn things in the Cards’ favor. In the opener, Arenado had four hits (and a debatable cycle) even though the Phillies prevailed. He then his two home runs in the middle game to lead the Cards to victory. Thankfully, Zack Wheeler restored sanity and limited him to a single hit in the finale.
It seems clear what the Phillies’ strategy against Arenado needs to be: Have Zack Wheeler pitch to him.
Go, go Alvarado
The book on Jose Alvarado seemed pretty much written: He was a guy with amazing stuff who would never be able to harness it well enough to be a dependable pitcher. When he was demoted to the minors in late May and then celebrated his return to the big leagues by giving up two runs in an inning, most people assumed we were due for more of the same non-dependability.
Little did we know that the Alvaradossaince was about to begin. Since that first poor post-recall outing, Alvarado hasn’t given up a single earned run in eleven appearances. He does have a blown save in that span, but that was only due to Didi Gregorius committing an error on what should have been the final out of the game.
I’ll admit it, when I had “Alvarado becomes dependable” on my Phillies Bingo card, I wasn’t feeling too optimistic— Smartin Jones (@TheSmartyJones) July 8, 2022
Perhaps most amazingly, Alvarado hasn’t even been walking batters. He’s walked four total batters in those eleven games, and last year, it felt like he was a threat to walk four batters every time he entered a game.
Has Alvarado permanently turned a corner, or are we due for one of those appearances when every pitch feels like it might be headed towards the backstop? I can’t say for sure, but there are some promising signs.
Two things that have changed for Alvarado since his return:— Jeff Israel (@JeffIsrael90) July 2, 2022
1) his pitch% on his cutter and sinker are basically identical now
2) His velocity has gone up (about 1 mph on his sinker, about 2.5 on his cutter)
Last series’ answer: Preston Wilson was the first National to have a multi-home run game against the Phillies. SLDH was best at remembering his early Nats.
This series’ question: Since Busch Stadium opened in 2006, one player in Phillies history has three different four-hit games at the park. Who is he?
The old Friday-to-Monday
Most four-game series either go from Thursday to Sunday or Monday to Thursday. This series will buck that trend by stretching from Friday to Monday. This means they won’t get an off-day before traveling to Toronto for their next series, but I don’t envision that being a major issue because a large chunk at the roster won’t be allowed entry into Canada anyway.
Kyle Schwarber has been insanely hot lately, but his career numbers at Busch are not good. (.575 OPS with three home runs in 31 games) My hope is that means he’ll only hit one home run per game this weekend, instead of the two we’ve grown accustomed to.