The Philadelphia Phillies are in Chicago for a weekend series with the host Cubs, and the Phils’ 1st base situation is getting interesting.
This weekend’s series against the Chicago Cubs will be one of the most challenging the Phillies have had all year.
Chicago’s pitching staff has the league-best ERA (2.69) and opposing batting average (.200). Their starters have put together 31 quality starts in 44 games so far this year.
With Maikel Franco nursing a sprained ankle, though he is in the series-opening lineup, the offense could take a hit should it lose one of their most productive hitters.
Any hole or decreased production in the middle of the order will have to be filled in by someone, and that someone could well be 1st baseman Tommy Joseph.
Joseph has been the cleanup hitter for the Phillies (when starting) since his promotion from AAA on May 13th. During the Detroit series, Joseph went 4-for-13 with three RBIs out of the middle of the order.
Without Franco in the lineup, the Phillies need someone to be a catalyst for the offense. If the Chicago starting pitchers are allowed to settle in too quickly, the Phillies will be buried and their offense will be listless.
Entering this series, Joseph is hitting for a .296/.300/.556 slash line with two homers and four RBI over his first 30 plate appearances spread across nine games. That comes after he hit .347/.370/.611 with six homers and 17 RBI over 100 plate appearances with Lehigh Valley.
Joseph will get the start at 1st base in Friday’s game with the lefty Lester on the mound. However, Joseph should get the start as well on at least one of Saturday or Sunday, despite the fact that right-handers will be starting.
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Ryan Howard has just an .083 batting average since Joseph’s promotion, and is just .162 against righties. While Joseph has not been stellar against righties, a .214 average is far better than a .083 average. Joseph can use this series to assert himself as the better 1st baseman on the roster.
If manager Pete Mackanin fields his best team against the overall best team in MLB, their offense will have to best the Cubs’ stellar pitching staff.
Joseph could be a key part of the Phillies offense, and his best opportunity to make an impact for the team and take over the starting 1st base job exclusively could come in this series.