Series Preview: Phillies at Blue Jays

The Phillies travel north of the border for a quick two-game series vs the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The multi-use facility has a retractable dome, but with beautiful weather expected this week, both games will likely be played with the roof open.

The series is sure to be spiced with not only interesting baseball, but also plenty of rumor and speculation as the MLB trade deadline is now just three days away, and the two teams have been frequently linked regarding Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon.

The Jays lineup will be bolstered by the acquisition of longtime Colorado Rockies’ all-star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in a late night trade. Tulo was acquired along with reliever LaTroy Hawkins in exchange for shortstop Jose Reyes and a trio of pitching prospects.

Tulowitzki, hitting .300 with 12 homers and 53 RBI, brings a big bat into the middle of what was already a potent Jays’ offensive attack that also includes AL MVP candidate 3rd baseman Josh Donaldson (.289/.351/.539 with 24HR/68RBI/70R), rightfielder Jose Bautista (21HR/66RBI/62R), 1st baseman Edwin Encarnacion (19HR/56RBI), and catcher Russell Martin (14HR/47RBI).

The Fightin’ Phils surprisingly returned from the All-Star break to go 8-1 over their last 9 games, winning each of their last 3 series, including a sweep this past weekend of the Chicago Cubs. The Phillies have outscored those three opponents by a 48-27 margin, and earned 4 wins each from the rotation and bullpen in the hot stretch.

The offense has been paced this season by rookie 3rd baseman Maikel Franco, hitting .285 with 11 homers and 38 RBI since his May call-up. Veteran 1st baseman Ryan Howard has regained his power stroke, leading the club with 18 homers and 53 RBI. Ben Revere is hitting a team-leading .302, and also leads with 48 runs scored and 24 stolen bases.

Will the Phillies team that enters Canada be the same one leaving it on Wednesday night? Will the two teams finally complete a long-discussed Papelbon deal? Will the Jays even allow the possibility that Paps could close them out before trading for him? That will continue to be speculated, unless or until the closer is dealt, to the Jays or elsewhere.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Tuesday: Adam Morgan (1-2, 4.28 ERA) vs Felix Doubront (1-0, 4.34 ERA) – this has the possibility of an offensive shootout, assuming that the Phils bats, having scored 26 runs over their last 4 games, can stay productive and keep pace with the Jays’ sluggers. The rookie Morgan has never faced Toronto. The 26-year old, 6-year veteran Doubront has never faced the Phils. Doubront did not pitch well in either his final start before the break, or his only one since, and is making just his 5th start of the season since an early July call-up from the minors. Morgan is making just the 6th start of his big league career since a late June call-up. He was ineffective almost a week ago at home, and has a pair of stinkers among his last 3 trips to the mound. If either starter can come up with a big effort, it would likely make all the difference in the opener.

Wednesday: Jerome Williams (3-7, 6.28 ERA) vs R.A. Dickey (4-10, 4.53 ERA) – Williams returned after spending more than a month on the DL to pitch a Quality Start in the opener at Wrigley Field this past weekend, lasting 6 innings while allowing 3 earned runs on 6 hits and 1 walk. A similar effort would go a long way to getting the Phils another win. Prior to the injury, having allowed at least 7 hits in 10 different starts, with only one start lasting longer than 6 innings. Dickey, the knuckleballer and former NL Cy Young Award winner, has struggled some this year. Now 40-years old, the knuckler is the typical feast-of-famine pitch it has always been. If it’s on, he’s nearly unhittable. He has 8 outings this year in which he has allowed 4 hits or fewer. In his last 3 starts, he has allowed just 13 hits in 21.1 innings. But he also has 7 starts in which he has allowed at least 8 hits. The Phils have to hope the ol’ knuckler is flat on Wednesday night.

SERIES KEYS

Keep on Hitting: as stated previously, the Phillies bats have been banging the ball in most games since the break. Even Domonic Brown has come up with a pair of 3-hit games recently. Doubront is very hittable, but who knows which knuckle ball will show up for Dickey? They have to be aggressive on the base paths and at the plate on Tuesday, and then hope for the best on Wednesday. If that knuckler is flat, they have to pound it. The Jays bats are not likely to be silenced by either Morgan or Williams, though a strong outing from at least one of them would be huge.

Stay Focused: the trade deadline and all of its accompanying rumors and speculations are going to be flying around the batting cage, the locker room, and the dugout. It clearly worked on Cole Hamels‘ psyche before he finally shook it off, bore down, and fired his gem on Saturday. The team needs to stay focused and go after the game, and just let whatever is going to (or not going to) happen off the field take care of itself.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

Tuesday, July 28@Toronto7:07 PMCSN1210 WPHT, 94 WIP, WTTM 1680 (Sp.)
Wednesday, July 29@Toronto7:07 PMCSN1210 WPHT, 94 WIP, WTTM 1680 (Sp.)

WEATHER FORECAST for Toronto, Ontario, Canada


INJURIES / DISABLED LISTS

BLUE JAYSLast UpdatedStatusDue BackInjuryNotes
Izturis, Maicer (2B)07/0360-day DLLikely 2016Recovering from June 2015 right shoulder surgeryUnderwent surgery to repair torn shoulder on June 16.
Saunders, Michael (RF)07/2415-day DLPossibly SeptemberBone bruise in left kneeWorking out at club’s Minor League complex as of July 24 update.
Stroman, Marcus (P)07/2060-day DLLikely out for 2015 seasonRecovering from March 2015 left knee surgeryDoing daily workouts in pool, strength and conditioning exercises as of July 20 update.

PHILLIESLast UpdatedStatusDue BackInjuryNotes
Billingsley, Chad (P)07/2115-day DLTBDRight flexor strainPlaced on 15-day DL on July 21 retroactive to July 19.
Harang, Aaron (P)07/2215-day DLPossibly late JulyPlantar fasciitis in left footThrew 80 pitches in simulated game July 20; placed on 15-day DL on July 2.
Hollands, Mario (P)04/20Out for Season2016Recovering from April 2015 Tommy John surgeryUnderwent Tommy John surgery April 8.
Lee, Cliff (P)04/0560-day DLPossibly 2015Left common flexor tendon tearShut down from throwing, placed on 60-day DL on March 16.
Pettibone, Jonathan (P)07/2460-day DLTBDRight shoulderWas scheduled to undergo surgery July 22.
Utley, Chase (2B)07/2015-day DLPossibly late JulyRight ankle inflammationDoing baseball activities, could begin Minor League rehab stint in late July as of July 20 update.
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