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Tampa Bay Rays v Arizona Diamondbacks

Effing terrific: Phillies vs. Rays series preview

Aaron Nola vs. Zach Eflin on Independence Day: Let the good times roll

Zach Eflin has been a solid addition to the Rays’ rotation
| Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

After a disappointing series against one of the worst teams in baseball, the Phillies will now travel to Florida have to take on perhaps the best team in baseball. They’ll not only be trying to reverse their poor track record on Independence Day, but they’ll also face a former teammate who is thriving with his new team.

Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 57-30, First place in American League East

The manager

Kevin Cash is the two-time defending AL Manager of the Year, and with the Rays dominating in 2023, there’s a possibility he’ll make it three in a row. However, playoff success hasn’t been quite as easy to come by for Cash’s Rays. The only year they’ve made it past the divisional round was the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when they lost the World Series to the Dodgers, a team notorious for playoff failures of its own.

The last time they met

The teams played a pair of two-game series in 2021, and the Rays won all four games. In the last of them, Francisco Mejia’s three-run home run in the ninth against Zack Wheeler provided the Rays with their margin of victory.

What’s the deal with the Rays?

The Rays have dominated. They rank second in the AL in runs scored, mostly because they get on base a lot (.336 on-base percentage ranks second in the league) and hit a lot of home runs (131 leads the league). It’s admittedly a solid combination. The pitching staff is also strong, ranking fourth in the AL in team ERA.

Falling off a bit?

The Rays enter the series on a bit of a down note, having just lost two in a row to the Mariners. It was unrealistic to think they’d continue to win at their blistering early season pace, but they have played at just a .500 clip over their past 20 games.

Keep them close

The Rays have not fared well in close games, going just 14-15 in one-run games. If the Phillies’ pitchers can keep the team in the game against this powerful lineup, the Phillies will have a chance to pull things out at the end.

What the Ef?

Zack Eflin signed with the Rays in the offseason and has found immediate success. Before anyone gets too “should of kept” on us, we should remember that talent was never the problem for Eflin. Let’s see if he’s still healthy come September.

Eflin will face his former teammates for the first time on Tuesday when he goes against Aaron Nola. It feels like there’s no way this matchup goes well for the Phillies, doesn’t it?

The Rays as an MCU villain


Erik Killmonger is often hailed as one of the best MCU villains, because despite some questionable tactics, many considered him to be “right” in what he was trying to accomplish. Similarly, the Rays, are often hailed as doing things the “right” way because they win with a limited payroll and depend on amateur talent acquisition and development.

The supporters of the Rays ignore that the team might be an unstoppable dynasty if they actually spent money, while supporters of Killmonger ignore that he kills a lot of people.


Last series’ answer: Starling Marte paced the 2022 Mets with 26 hits against the Phillies. Simmonds17 was correct.

This series’ question: Who is the only player to hit a walkoff home run against the Rays while playing for the Phillies?

Independence Day = Baseball day?

Every year, I ask why Major League Baseball doesn’t do more to make Independence Day “their” holiday much like the NFL has done with Thanksgiving, and the NBA has done to a lesser extent with Christmas. Every year, I conclude its mostly because Independence Day is a summer holiday and most people want to spend time doing outdoor activities, rather than staying inside watching baseball.

Still, you’d think they could do something more to highlight the sport on the most American of holidays. At least the Phillies actually have a game today, unlike last year when they inexplicably had an off day on the schedule.

That might have been a blessing in disguise considering their recent history. On July 4, 2021, they lost to the Padres 11-1, and in 2019, they got smoked by the Braves 12-6. (Coincidentally, this game was started by Zack Eflin who was going through his “heavy” phase where he’d be tired out by the second inning.)

Closing thought

It’s not just Independence Day; The Phillies have seemed to play poorly on most holidays in recent years. They actually won on Fathers’ Day last month. It’s either a sign that the holiday failures were a weird quirk, or that they’ve filled their quota for the year and we’re in for an ugly game on Tuesday afternoon.

Rise and Phight: 9/29/2023

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