For all the meltdowns the Phillies have already gone through over the course of the young 2014 season, they have also shown an ability to win games in almost every fashion imaginable. Look no further than the four-game set the Phillies are coming off of against the Dodgers. They won in blowout fashion in the opener, and wrapped around their lone defeat of the series with two nailbiters against one of the National League’s premiere teams. Philadelphia has won in walk-off fashion, shootouts, and even a 1-0 contest. At this rate, the Phillies will reach the quarter-pole of the season having encountered every imaginable style of game and nothing will come as a surprise or shock over the course of the 2014 season.
In all seriousness, it’d be hard to say I imagined the team would be where they are through the first 22 games of the season. I know there is nothing to write home about having a .500 record with multiple wins missed out on from offensive struggles and bullpen issues. Conversely, in the early stages of a season with a team that has both proven they are capable on winning and also in need of an early-season run of good will, the Phillies are in a favorable position all things considering. Friday night, they enter a series with one of the worst teams in baseball with a chance to come home from this west coast swing with a winning record.
The 7-18 Diamondbacks, after an active offseason, are among the biggest disappointments in the league. Since dropping two games to the Dodgers in Australia to kick off the MLB season, Arizona cannot seem to get out of their own way and the losses are mounting. There are rumors of dissension within the clubhouse and issues with manager Kirk Gibson and GM Kevin Towers on a team that some expected to compete with the Dodgers for the NL West crown. Though the Diamondbacks still have a great deal of talent, including preseason MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt, the Phillies should expect at least two of three against a team going through a major early-season crisis.
After a series that saw perhaps the strongest, most consistent stretch of starting pitching for the Phillies this season, they should feel pretty happy with their matchups in the upcoming three-game set. After seeing the likes of Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu in the last week, whatever lineup Ryne Sandberg decides to put on the field should be battle-tested for the trio expected out of Arizona. Roberto Hernandez heads out for the opener against righty Josh Collmenter. Hernandez was roughed up in a big way in his last start against the Rockies. As the team’s 4th/5th starter, the Phillies do not need Hernandez to be dominant on the mound. Much like Kyle Kendrick, Hernandez should aim to eat innings, keep the damage to a minimum, and avoid putting the team in situations that could give a wounded club like the Diamondbacks confidence. Collmenter is 0-2 on the season thus far with a 4.50 ERA. After being a starter the first two years of his career in Arizona, Collmenter appeared in 49 games as a reliever last season. Injuries have forced the righty back into the rotation and he is still looking for his first win of the season.
Cliff Lee and Bronson Arroyo will face off on Saturday’s matchup. After eight effective seasons in Cincinnati, Arroyo was brought in on a two-year/$23.5 million deal to bring some added experience to the rotation. A bulging disc suffered during the offseason has the 37-year old behind schedule as far as effectiveness. The crafty right-hander’s ERA is hovering in the double-digits (11.50), and he has just one win to his credit. He is just 4-7 with a 5.35 ERA against the Phillies and will have little wiggle room if Cliff Lee continues to pitch as well as he has the last two starts. Lee is 2-2 with a 1.20 ERA in his last four starts at the top of the Philadelphia rotation.
The final game of the series will have A.J. Burnett, looking to maintain his post-hernia diagnosis hot streak, against Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy is 0-4 on the year with a 6.23 ERA. He is a talented pitcher with a snake-bit career which has been on full display this season. McCarthy has faced the Phillies just once in his career, collecting a no-decision in 7.0 innings of shutout work.
It was announced prior to the game that Mark Trumbo, who leads the team in HR (7) and RBI (19), will miss the next six weeks with an injury in his left foot. This will put almost all of the power responsibility on Goldschmidt. Make no mistake, the hulking first baseman is more than capable of carrying an offense if he is dialed in. He is batting .330 on the season with three round-trippers and 14 RBI of his own. Much of the remaining slots in the Arizona lineup have been a mystery throughout the early portions of the season. Manager Kirk Gibson still is trying to find the most effective setup that can bring the D’backs out of their April swoon.
From the Phillies standpoint, they will have to continue to play solid baseball without hurting themselves. Arizona is a team looking for anything to hitch their wagon to as they try to climb out of the National League cellar. For the most part, the Phillies allowed the Dodgers to make their own mistakes that cost them in the series leading up to this weekend’s set. Should this remain the case and the Phillies continue to receive contributions from their marquee players, there’s no reason the team and its fans should not expect at least two wins and a return to Philadelphia as a team with a winning record.