The Phillies’ homestand was going well. The offense was clicking, no hitters were being thrown, they had surged into the top Wild Card spot, and after demolishing the Twins on Friday night, it felt like they might cruise into the playoffs.
And then they - specifically the offense - came up lame the next two days.
What gives? Were the Phillies simply worn down from a lengthy stretch without an off day? Was it just a case of a good team being beaten by another good team? Or was it a sign that the offense might not have truly figured things out, and we’re in for more of the pre-August struggles the rest of the way?
The good news is that the Phillies received that much needed off day on Monday. The bad news is that they’re about to travel to a city where they have bad history to face another good team with two very difficult starting pitching matchups. So even if the offense is feeling revitalized, we might not see the effects over the next two days.
Toronto Blue Jays
Record: 66-54, Third place in American League East (Eight games back)
The last time they met
The Blue Jays visited Philadelphia in early May for two games, and the Phillies won both of them.
What’s the deal with the Blue Jays?
Playing in the ultra-competitive AL East, the Blue Jays are holding steady in third place. They’re probably going to make the playoffs, but they can’t feel all that comfortable about it.
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. is having a rough go of it lately. His OPS for the month of August is just .656. He’s not having an awful season, but when you’re talking about a second-generation star who led the AL in OPS two years ago, you expect more than this.
But maybe we shouldn’t?
Vlad Guerrero Jr. OPS by season:— Aaron Cornielle (@AaronCornielle) August 15, 2023
we are going to start a dialogue — there is one outlier here, and it’s not the just-above-league-average seasons. maybe this is who he is. https://t.co/FOzDfalxOz
Flash in the pan
Given the Blue Jays’ propensity for second generation players, I had to check if rookie Davis Schneider was related to former Phillie Brian Schneider. He is not related, but he did get off to an amazing start to his career.
Davis Schneider has 7 hits - with 2 HR - in his first 11 at-bats. pic.twitter.com/PbU1Qo45CE— MLB (@MLB) August 6, 2023
Unsurprisingly, he couldn’t sustain that blistering pace and has gone just 1-12 at the plate in his last four games.
As for the Phillies’ bats
The offense couldn’t get much going in the final two games against the Twins. When their stars are hitting well, they tend to score a lot of runs. When Kyle Schwarber twice comes up with the bases loaded and can’t get a single runner home, they tend to score fewer. Schwarber’s failures were the most egregious, but it’s not like his teammates picked him up.
Over their last 4 games, the #Phillies are 6 for 33 when hitting with runners in scoring position.— schmenkman (@tgpschmenk) August 15, 2023
All 6 hits came in the 13-2 win over the Twins on Friday.
The other 3 of those last 4 games:
0 for 22
Unfortunately, it isn’t going to get much easier for them as they’ll be facing Yusei Kikuchi on Tuesday, and he’s arguably been the best pitcher in baseball since the All-Star Game.
Yusei Kikuchi currently owns an MLB-best 1.24 ERA since the All-Star break (minimum 20 IP). pic.twitter.com/Xm9TtRpVur— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 9, 2023
After that, they get Kevin Gausman. Since the start of the 2021 season, Gausman has made three starts against the Phillies. In each of them, he has pitched six shutout innings.
Take that, Joe Carter!
The Phillies have struggled when playing road games against the Blue Jays in recent years. I’d blame the need to cross the border (this was an issue last year when a few of their players weren’t into that whole vaccine thing), but even when the Blue Jays were playing home games in Florida for two seasons, the Phillies didn’t do well.
The easy explanation is that Joe Carter caused some sort of organizational trauma, but that would ignore the fact that the Phillies have won a few series there over the years. Perhaps not coincidentally, those series wins mostly happened in seasons where the Phillies were very good.
As recently as September 2022, the Phillies struggled against the Blue Jays even when the games were at home. But then, Matt Vierling delivered an improbable comeback win, and the Phillies have now won three straight over the Jays.
My hope is that the Phillies have found the key to winning in Canada: Eliminate the Blue Jays’ home field advantage by hiring a Canadian manager!
⚾️GOOD MORNING! Rob Thomson will become the first Canadian to manage a major league game in his country tonight in Rogers Centre. Thomson, who grew up in Corunna, ON, played for Canada in 1984 Olympics.; catcher. #phillies pic.twitter.com/3Z5K8T24al— Larry Shenk (@ShenkLarry) July 12, 2022
The Blue Jays as an MCU villain
Once Ego determined he wanted to conquer the galaxy, he attempted to accomplish it with the help of his offspring. Based on their high number of second-generation players, the Jays also believe acquiring famous offspring is the key to success.
Ego— MCU Deleted Scenes (@lord0fthunder) March 7, 2020
- Celestial and biological father of Star-Lord
- desired to terraform the entire universe into extensions of himself through the “Expansion”
- powers of molecular manipulation allowed Ego to form a protective planet around his core pic.twitter.com/6wnrtLxieo
Last series’ answer: The two former Twins to homer against the Phillies were Jim Thome and Nick Punto. Chappdaddy was correct.
This series’ question: In the past five years, the Phillies’ lone win in Toronto came on August 26, 2018. Who was the winning pitcher in that game?
We have a few months until NBA season, and considering I’m already sick of James Harden, I can’t imagine how I’m going to feel about him by the time the season starts. I need a deep playoff run by the Phillies and a good start by the Eagles, so that Harden’s antics get relegated to the back of the sports section.
The Phillies generally don’t play well in Toronto, and going against Kikuchi and Gausman, it feels like we might be in for two days of struggle. My hope is that the day off combined with the Canadian expertise of their manager will allow them to defy those expectations and take at least one of the two games.