The Phillies take baseball’s worst record (22-39) into beautiful PNC Park to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. The hosts hold a 32-27 record, good for 3rd place in the NL Central, just a half game behind the 2nd place Cubs, who hold the 2nd NL Wildcard at the moment, and 6.5 back of the division-leading Cardinals.
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From the time that MLB split into divisional play beginning with the 1969 season, right through the 1993 season, the Keystone state rivals were also divisional rivals, and during the mid-late 1970’s the two clubs frequently tied up in tremendous, spirited races for the division crown.
These days, the Phillies are floundering, still trapped between their once-glorious past and a rebuild that remains imminent. Trade rumors swirl constantly around players such as Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, and Ben Revere, and others such as Ryan Howard, Aaron Harang, and even Chase Utley could be on the block. Something could drop on Papelbon this weekend.
The Pirates, meanwhile, have been an ascending team over the last couple of years. They have reached the postseason in two consecutive seasons as a Wildcard, but have exited the playoffs in a hurry each time. The Bucs will try to make up ground in the National League playoff race with this home set against the woeful Phils.
Pittsburgh is led on offense by centerfielder Andrew McCutchen, the 2013 NL MVP who has 3 consecutive Silver Sluggers, 4 consecutive NL All-Star teams, and who has finished in the top 3 of NL MVP voting for 3 straight years. He is hitting .292 with a .376 on-base percentage with 8 HR and 37 RBI after a slow start.
The leftfielder, Starling Marte, leads the club with 12 HR and 41 RBI. The rightfielder Gregory Polanco leads the club with 16 steals and 34 runs. They make a formidable trio. 1st baseman Pedro Alvarez adds pop with his 10 homers, and Korean shortstop Jung Ho Kang has brought offensive consistency to the infield.
Friday: RHP Kevin Correia (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs LHP Jeff Locke (3-3, 5.37 ERA) – Correia is new to the Phillies, and will be making his first MLB start of the season on Friday night. He had been property of the Giants, but sought his release in order to obtain this shot at the big leagues. He went 7-17 a year ago in a season split between the Twins and Dodgers, and is 76-95 across a 12-year career. With all of the uncertaintly in the Phils rotation, he could become a regular for now. Locke has been strong at home for the Bucs, and will look to continue career dominance over the Phillies, against whom he is 4-0.
Saturday: RHP Sean O’Sullivan (1-4, 4.96 ERA) vs RHP Gerrit Cole (9-2, 1.73 ERA) – O’Sullivan has kept the Phillies in most of his starts this season, but he doesn’t go more than 5-6, so the bullpen will need to be ready. Meanwhile, he has to face one of the best young arms in the game today in Cole. The 24-year old Pittsburgh ace thows hard and well, and will be looking to add to his early Cy Young Award contending resume.
Sunday: LHP Cole Hamels (5-5, 3.19 ERA) vs RHP A.J. Burnett (6-2, 2.11 ERA) – As mentioned earlier here, the trade rumors continue to swirl fast and furious around Hamels, the Phillies ace, who has pitched extremely well in most of his outings this year. Burnett made Philly a one-season pit stop in his 17-year career a year ago. While he ate up innings and struck out batters with the Fightin’s, he was nowhere near as consistently effective as he has been in 2015 with the Bucs.
Score runs – Sounds pretty fundamental, I know. But the Phillies are one of baseball’s worst offensive teams. Facing a lefty who is tough at home in Locke, then a true ace in Cole, and then a rejuvenated Burnett, they need to find a way to produce. It won’t be easy. The Phils actually had a streak of 7 consecutive games scoring 4 or more runs until the last two. But their pitching has been springing leaks, and the hitters need to help take some pressure off the arms.
Bullpen effectiveness – The Phillies pen has been largely ineffective through the middle innings, frequently giving back leads or allowing the opposition to go ahead. It’s been a primary reason that the team has allowed 5 or more runs ten times over the last few weeks. On the back end, Ken Giles and Papelbon have been strong. Getting effective innings from pitchers such as Luis Garcia and Justin De Fratus will be a key, especially on Friday and Sunday.
|Friday, June 12||@Pittsburgh||7:05 PM||CSN||1210 WPHT, WTTM 1680 (Sp.), 94 WIP|
|Saturday, June 13||@Pittsburgh||4:05 PM||CSN||1210 WPHT, 94 WIP, WTTM 1680 (Sp.)|
|Sunday, June 14||@Pittsburgh||1:35 PM||CSN||1210 WPHT, WTTM 1680 (Sp.), 94 WIP|
A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2pm. Partly sunny and hot, with a high near 90. Southwest wind 10 to 14 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Showers and thunderstorms likely before midnight, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm between midnight and 3am, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after 3am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 69. Southwest wind 5 to 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.
A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 80. Southwest wind 8 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 67. Southwest wind 3 to 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
A slight chance of showers, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after 1pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 84. West wind 3 to 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
INJURIES / DISABLED LIST
|Cumpton, Brandon (P)||04/22||Out for Season||2016||Recovering from March 2015 Tommy John surgery||Underwent Tommy John surgery March 10.|
|Lambo, Andrew (LF)||05/09||15-day DL||TBD||Plantar fasciitis in left foot||Placed on 15-day DL on May 6 retroactive to May 4.|
|Sellers, Justin (2B)||06/07||60-day DL||Likely June||Left heel pain||Sent on Triple-A rehab assignment June 7; transferred to 60-day DL on May 19.|
|Billingsley, Chad (P)||06/03||15-day DL||Possibly July||Grade 2 right lat strain||Placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to May 16; threw from 75 feet June 2.|
|Hollands, Mario (P)||04/20||Out for Season||2016||Recovering from April 2015 Tommy John surgery||Underwent Tommy John surgery April 8.|
|Lee, Cliff (P)||04/05||60-day DL||Possibly 2015||Left common flexor tendon tear||Shut down from throwing, placed on 60-day DL on March 16.|
|Pettibone, Jonathan (P)||05/09||60-day DL||TBD||Recovering from June 2014 right elbow surgery||Transferred to 60-day DL on April 28.|