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Two bad: Phillies vs. Blue Jays series preview

Two-game interleague series haven’t gone well for the Phillies this year

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays had lots to celebrate the last time they faced the Phillies
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

This will be the fourth time the Phillies take on an American League opponent in a two-game series. They had a “home and home” against the Texas Rangers and lost all four games. And when they travelled to Toronto for a two-game set in mid-July, they similarly lost them both. The cumulative score of those six games was 32-12.

The Blue Jays will now make the return trip to Philadelphia, and if the Phillies don’t want their playoff positioning to grow more tenuous, they will need to find a way to stop this unfortunate trend.

Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 83-64 (Second place in American League East, 5.5 games back)

The last time they met

As mentioned, the Phillies visited Toronto in July, and it didn’t go well. In the first game, the Phillies used a bullpen game, and that went the way Phillies bullpen games usually go. (Honestly, the bullpen wasn’t awful, giving up four runs. The bigger problem was the Phillies’ lineup producing seven hits, no walks, and 14 strikeouts). In the second game, Zack Wheeler had one of his worst starts of the season, giving up six runs in 4.2 innings.

What’s the deal with the Blue Jays?

The Blue Jays currently hold the AL’s top wild card spot, and at 5.5 games behind, they still have an outside shot at the East division. They have the AL’s second highest scoring offense thanks to a balanced lineup that doesn’t have too many weak spots. They have five players with over 20 home runs, and two others in double digits.

Game-by-game matchups

Game 1: Tuesday, 6:45 PM - Kyle Gibson vs. Ross Stripling

Gibson pitched well in his last start, but that has almost no predictive value towards how he’ll do this time out. He’s been better at home this season, and he’s 5-1 in ten career starts against the Blue Jays, so that’s somewhat encouraging. He’ll be opposed by Stripling, who is one of those solid mid-rotation pitchers who is almost guaranteed to give you six to seven quality innings every time out.

Game 2: Wednesday, 6:45 PM - Zack Wheeler vs. Kevin Gausman

Wheeler makes his much-anticipated return to the Phillies’ rotation, although he isn’t expected to last too long in the game before being relieved by Noah Syndergaard. Let’s hope Wheeler can return to form quicker than the Phillies’ offensive star who has not hit the ground running since returning from his injury.

Speaking of the Phillies’ offense, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what is wrong with it. Losing Rhys Hoskins for a few games didn’t help, but they shouldn’t be THAT dependent on Hoskins. They could try to re-arrange the lineup a bit, but it feels like the biggest improvement would be for their highly paid lefty sluggers to start living up to their reputations.

A series of tragedies

For whatever reason, the Phillies seem to sleepwalk through entire series. After losing the first two games against the Braves, wouldn’t you have liked to see some extra fight out of them on Sunday? Sadly, I correctly predicted the lifeless effort we got instead.

On that note: If you’re the type who likes to place wagers on sporting events, and the Phillies lose on Tuesday, I’d suggest putting some money on the Blue Jays for Wednesday night’s contest.

Trivia

Last series’ answer: The four Phillies starters who have gone seven+ innings in a start at Truist Park are Aaron Nola (4 times), Zack Wheeler (3 times), Zach Eflin (twice), and Ben Lively. SLDH was correct.

This series’ question: Who led the Phillies in hits during the 1993 World Series?

Non-Phillies thought

That was a great showing by the Eagles on Monday night, and this is shaping up to be a fun season. They will probably be favored in their next eight games, and the list of quarterbacks coming their way in the next few weeks is not especially intimidating. Speaking of quarterbacks, if they were facing anyone besides Carson Wentz on Sunday, I’d say they might be in danger of a letdown, but I think they’ll be properly motivated.

Closing thought

When I previewed the Braves series, I said that losing the finale against the Marlins wouldn’t be a big deal if the Phillies came out and won the opener against the Braves. They didn’t, and now they’re on a four-game losing streak.

Dramatic swings in momentum have been the norm for the Phillies over the past few weeks, so they could easily return to their winning ways this series. The Blue Jays are good, but the Phillies have beaten other good teams this year, so it isn’t out of the question that they start another winning streak.

Gamethread 9/25: Braves at Phillies

Baseball is a game of inches, or so I’m told: Braves 6, Phillies 3

Gamethread 9/24: Braves at Phillies