Series Preview: Phillies at Red Sox

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The final Interleague series of the season for the Phillies (53-81) is taking place this weekend, as the Fightins travel north to historic Fenway Park in Boston for a 3-game set with the disappointing Red Sox (61-72) in a matchup of eastern last place teams.

Unlike the Phils, who most picked for the NL East basement, the Bosox were picked to contend for the AL East crown by many fans and prognosticators. Instead, they sunk to the bottom under the weight of a pitching rotation and veteran free agent signings that were vastly overrated by the Boston management.

David Ortiz continues at age 39 to be the Red Sox leader, both in the clubhouse and on the field. The big lefty DH has banged out 29 homers on the season, leaving him just 5 shy of the 500-career HR mark. He not only leads the Boston offense in that category, but with 81 RBI as well.

Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval were brought in as expensive free agents in the off-season to fortify the offense, but both have been major disappointments, and could prove financial and lineup albatrosses for Boston going forward. Hanley is 2nd on the club with 19 homers, but his 53 RBI are underwhelming, and he is batting just .249 with a .291 on-base percentage. The Panda is hitting just .247 with a .294 OBP, and just 10 homers.

More from That Balls Outta Here

However, there are some bright spots in the Red Sox lineup. Center fielder Mookie Betts is 2nd on the team with 64 RBI and leads the club with 67 Runs scored as a 22-year old. His defense is so strong that he is pushing the best defensive outfielder in MLB, Jackie Bradley Jr, to right field.

Bradley, always a talented defender, has finally arrived offensively at age 25. Since August 4th he is hitting to a .403/.465/.818 slash line. That was not a typo, his slugging percentage over the last month is .818, really. In the last month, he has 5 homers and 23 RBI, and appears ready to live up to the hype of his 1st round selection in the 2011 MLB Draft out of South Carolina, where he was a collegiate superstar.

Boston also is blessed with one of the growing number of outstanding young shortstops in the game in Xander Bogaerts, who is batting .319 and is third on the club with 63 RBI, and second in Runs with 60.

On the mound, the Sox are a mess. Their best starting pitcher, Clay Buchholz, is on the DL and done for the season. Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, and Joe Kelly all have ERA’s north of the 4.50 mark. At the moment, 22-year old Eduardo Rodriguez is pitching the best. The bullpen has been inconsistent, and is hurt by 40-year old closer Koji Uehara being on the DL as well.

For the Phillies, the entire season has been all about finally turning the page completely from the 2008 World Series winning group, and accumulating young assets with which to push forward a rebuilding program. Still, it’s 35-year old Ryan Howard who paces the club, by far, with 21 homers and 72 RBI.

The pleasant surprise in the lineup has been Rule 5 draftee Odubel Herrera, who has put together a nice .295 batting average with 14 steals and a team-leading 55 Runs scored.

Catcher Cameron Rupp has emerged over the last couple months as well, taking over the starting job from another ’08 holdover, Carlos Ruiz. Since August 1st, Rupp has a .306/.380/.677 slash line with 7 homers and 17 RBI.


PITCHING MATCHUPS

FRIDAY: Adam Morgan (5-4, 4.03 ERA)  vs. Joe Kelly (8-6, 4.94 ERA) – the rookie lefty Morgan has pitched fairly well for the Phils, and has given them at least 6 innings in 5 of his last 6 starts. He has also gone at least 6 innings in 4 of his 5 road outings on the season. Kelly is a talented 25-year old who came over to the Bosox last July along with Allen Craig in a deal that sent veteran starting pitcher John Lackey to the Saint Louis Cardinals. He has really picked up his game since the start of August, winning all six of his starts since then with a 2.68 ERA in that span.

SATURDAY: Alec Asher (0-1, 6.35 ERA) vs. Wade Miley (10-10, 4.57 ERA) – in a late afternoon start, yet another rookie goes for the Phils, and for Asher it will be just the 2nd big league start of his career. Part of the package returned from Texas in the Cole Hamels deal, Asher was clobbered for 8 hits and 4 earned runs in 5.2 innings by the Padres last week at Citizens Bank Park. He needs to find more to succeed in this atmosphere. Miley came to Boston in a December trade from Arizona, and has at least been eating innings. Since the start of May, Miley has just one outing of less than 5 innings, and has given the Bosox at least 6 innings in 5 of his last 6 starts.

SUNDAY: Jerad Eickhoff (1-2, 2.84 ERA) vs. Eduardo Rodriguez (8-5, 4.25 ERA) – in the Sunday afternoon finale – stop me if you’ve heard this before – the Phils will send a rookie to the mound. Eickhoff is another obtained in that Hamels deal with Texas, and he has pitched really well, giving the club at least 6 innings in each of his 3 starts. For Boston, Rodriguez is the least experienced, but appears to be the most talented of their current starting rotation. He came over from the Orioles at the 2014 trade deadline for reliever Andrew Miller, and Boston hopes the 22-year old lefty will be a regular in their rotation for years to come.


PHILLIES KEYS TO SERIES VICTORY

Rookie SPs must deliver quality – the Phils are throwing three of the four rookies who are currently working regularly in their starting rotation. To gain a series victory in always tough Fenway Park, at least two of the kids need to work with maturity, limit the free passes, and deliver a Quality Start. Morgan and Eickhoff would seem the best bets for that, leaving Asher as a key within this key.

Out-hit the home side – the Phillies on the season have one of the worst offensive attacks in the game. With Boston starting a pair of lefties, getting power production from guys like Rupp, Jeff Francoeur, and Darin Ruf would go a long way to helping the team keep up with the Boston offensive attack.

BROADCAST SCHEDULE

Friday, September 4@Boston7:10 PMCSN1210 WPHT,   94 WIP,   WTTM 1680 (Sp.)
Saturday, September 5@Boston4:05 PMCSN1210 WPHT, 94 WIP, WTTM 1680 (Sp.)
Sunday, September 6@Boston1:35 PMCSN1210 WPHT, 94 WIP, WTTM 1680 (Sp.)

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE for Fenway Park in Boston, MA

Tonight

Clear, with a low around 56. Northeast wind 3 to 5 mph.

Saturday

Sunny, with a high near 75. North wind 6 to 8 mph becoming east in the afternoon.

Saturday Night

Clear, with a low around 58. South wind around 6 mph becoming southwest after midnight.

Sunday

Sunny, with a high near 85. West wind 5 to 9 mph becoming south in the afternoon.


INJURIES / DISABLED LIST

RED SOXUpdatedStatusDue BackInjuryNotes
Buchholz, Clay (P)09/0260-day DLLikely SeptemberRight flexor strainMade 24 throws from 75 feet Sept. 2.
Pedroia, Dustin (2B)09/0115-day DLPossibly SeptemberRight hamstring sorenessWas expected to strengthen hamstring for another 10 days as of Aug. 20 update.
Ramirez, Hanley (SS)09/04Any dayDay-to-dayRight shoulder fatigueNot in starting lineup Aug. 28-Sept. 4; underwent tests Aug. 31.
Sandoval, Pablo (3B)09/04Any dayDay-to-dayMid-back tightnessScratched from starting lineup Sept. 4.
Uehara, Koji (P)08/11Out for Season2016Right wrist fracturePlaced on 15-day DL on Aug. 11 retroactive to Aug. 8.
Varvaro, Anthony (P)08/08Out for Season2016Recovering from May 2015 right elbow surgeryTransferred to 60-day DL on May 27.
Vazquez, Christian (C)07/23Out for Season2016Recovering from April 2015 Tommy John surgeryPlayed catch for first time since surgery July 23.
Workman, Brandon (P)06/15Out for Season2016Recovering from June 2015 Tommy John surgeryUnderwent Tommy John surgery June 15.
Wright, Steven (P)09/0215-day DLPossibly early SeptemberConcussionParticipating in baseball activities as of Sept. 2 update.

PHILLIESUpdatedStatusDue BackInjuryNotes
Araujo, Elvis (P)09/0460-day DLPossibly SeptemberStrained left groinPlaced on 15-day DL on Aug. 28; transferred to 60-day DL on Sept. 4.
Billingsley, Chad (P)09/0160-day DLTBDRight flexor strainTransferred to 60-day DL on Sept. 1.
Brown, Domonic (LF)09/04Out IndefinitelyPossibly SeptemberConcussionExited game early Sept. 2; diagnosed with concussion Sept. 3.
Franco, Maikel (3B)09/0215-day DLPossibly late SeptemberLeft wrist fractureFelt pain in wrist while hitting in batting cage on Sept. 2; placed on 15-day DL on Aug. 18.
Harrison, Matt (P)09/0160-day DLTBDLower back inflammationTransferred to 60-day DL on Sept. 1.
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)08/08Out for Season2016Recovering from July 2015 shoulder surgeryUnderwent season-ending surgery July 22.
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