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Caution please: Phillies vs. Padres series preview

History and the standings say the Phillies should beat the Padres, but it probably won’t be easy.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Philadelphia Phillies
Juan Soto is always a tough out for the Phillies
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies didn’t put their best foot forward against the Brewers, but thankfully played well enough to pull out a win in the finale. Now they’ll travel to Southern California to face their opponent from the 2022 NLCS. The Padres are all but eliminated from the playoffs, but there’s still enough talent on hand to make this series more dangerous than the standings would indicate.

San Diego Padres

Record: 65-73, Fourth place in National League West (20 games back)

The last time they met

The Phillies didn’t come out of the All-Star break strong, dropping the first game 8-3. But then the Phillies came back to win both halves of a doubleheader and prevailed in the series finale in 12 innings. That was seen by most as a sign that the Padres would likely not be part of the postseason field in 2023.

What’s the deal with the Padres?

Based on the talent on the roster, some pundits have been waiting all season for the Padres to hit their stride and start playing winning baseball. They’re still waiting.

The Padres are an interesting case in that their Pythagorean record is 76-62. A large Pythagorean disparity usually indicates they win the blowouts and lose all the close games. Sure enough, the Padres are 26-18 in games decided by five or more runs and 6-22 in one-run contests. They’re also 0-11 in extra-inning games, so if MLB used hockey scoring for the standings, the Padres would be much higher in the standings.

As for the talent on their roster, it’s mostly underperformed. After missing a season due to injury and PED suspension, Fernando Tatis, Jr. has looked like he could use some more juice. Xander Bogaerts was a member of the prized free agent shortstop class of 2022, and like (pre-August) Trea Turner, his numbers are down on his new team.

Juan Soto has good numbers, but he’s not coming close to leading the league in on-base percentage like he did a few years ago. He has homered in three straight games, so maybe he’s making a late push to improve his season. There was talk that Soto was a “clubhouse cancer,” but it seems like that was an unsubstantiated rumor started by Phillies announcer Ben Davis, so I wouldn’t put much stock in it.

As for Manny Machado, he’s still a solid player, but I don’t think any Phillies fans regret the team pursuing Bryce Harper over him at the moment:

And the pitching?

The Padres are second in the league in team ERA, which is another reason why their struggles have confused so many. However, in terms of starting pitchers for this series, the Phillies won’t be facing their best.

Rich Hill

For some reason, the Padres thought it was wise to trade for the 43-year-old Hill at the deadline. Unsurprisingly, he hasn’t been the rotation’s savior and has an 8.50 ERA in five post-trade appearances.

Pedro Avila

The rookie had been working in long relief, but the team recently decided to try him in the starting rotation. He’s made two starts and has allowed eleven runs in 7.1 innings. (To be fair, five of those runs were unearned.)

Michael Wacha

I kind of forgot this guy existed. Not only is he still alive and in the majors, but he’s actually having a good year. Good for him for being a rare Padre to actually exceed expectations!

As for the Phillies pitching

It hasn’t been that great lately. The Phillies fall behind early in almost every game, and while comebacks are exciting, it’s much less exciting when the relievers then ruin those comebacks by handing the lead right back.

It was nice that the bullpen threw five scoreless innings on Sunday, but it’s hard to be that confident in any of Craig Kimbrel, Gregory Soto, Seranthony Dominguez, or Jose Alvarado at the moment. And it feels like asking Jeff Hoffman or Matt Strahm to handle higher leverage spots might be a good way to lessen their effectiveness.

Ideally, the team would get out to a few sizable leads so that the key bullpen arms aren’t needed every game. I’d love to see a couple more games where Dylan Covey or Andrew Bellatti are able to finish things off the last few innings with five-run cushions.

The Padres as an MCU villain


Emil Blonsky was one of the most skilled soldiers around...but he was no match for the Hulk. In order to defeat his enemy, he kept putting more foreign substances into his body until he became a monster. Similarly, after falling to a mightier opponent in the playoffs last year, the Padres kept trying to add more and more talent, only to end up as an abomination of a team.

By the way, I’m not sure what happened to the character in She Hulk: Attorney at Law. It’s like Tim Roth had no recollection of the character he played before and just made up a new one.

Non-Phillies thought

I predict the 2023 Eagles will go 11-6. They still have a lot of talent - especially on offense - but you need a lot of breaks to win 14 games and make it to the Super Bowl like they did last season.

The 2022 team experienced a lot of luck in terms of schedule and health. With some regression expected in those areas, as well as losses in talent and coordinators (although I’m not upset about losing the defensive coordinator), I think it’s reasonable to expect them to be three games worse. They should still make the playoffs, but with the Cowboys looking like their main rivals in the entire NFC, winning the division won’t be easy.

That said, if Jalen Hurts makes another leap like he did last year - and based on reports out of camp, it’s possible - then the personnel losses and regression might be moot points, and the Eagles could find themselves back in the Super Bowl.

Closing thought

The Padres aren’t making the playoffs, but considering they just won three straight against the Giants, they may be determined to make life difficult for teams that still have postseason hopes. They might especially enjoy hurting the chances of the team that beat them in the playoffs last year, so the Phillies cannot afford to take them lightly.

Rise and Phight: 9/29/2023

Just call me Angel: Pirates 3, Phillies 2

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