The Phillies (42-43) and the Boston Red Sox (54-34) are both in their final series until the All-Star Break.

The two clubs face off this weekend at America’s oldest ballpark, Fenway Park.

While the Phillies’ schedule definitely gets easier in the second half, they’ll be ending the first in a difficult fashion: by visiting Fenway Park to face the team with the best record in the American League. Not only will they be taking on a first place team, they’ll also be faced with a couple reminders of a very bad trade their general manager made last year (we’ll talk about that soon).

Here’s a few storylines to look out for this series:

What’s happened since the last meeting

The Red Sox visited Philadelphia in late May and took the first two games of the series before the Phillies pulled out the finale behind Zack Wheeler. The bad news for the Phillies is that Wheeler won’t be starting in this series. Thought he may be starting in the All-Star Game.

Since then, the Sox have done well, going 25-15, a run that included an eight-game winning streak. However, they come into this series having lost two in a row. Expectations for the Sox were not “best in the AL” heading into the season, and they’re 17-9 in one run games, so there’s the possibility that they’ve outplayed their talent level, and may be due for some regression.

This may be wishful thinking, but coming after a series when they caught the Chicago Cubs at the right time, it would be stellar if the Phillies could also catch the Red Sox at a good time as well.

Former Phils

There are still some Nick Pivetta believers among the Phillies’ fan base. Many of the people who praised him as an ace in 2019 have held on to their faith in him, and still think he’s destined for stardom. When he got off to a strong start with the Red Sox, there was a strong “should of kept” sentiment. So I’ll start off with two declarations:

  1. Pivetta’s 4.09 ERA and 1.6 wins above replacement this season would be a large improvement over the guys who the Phillies have used as their fourth and fifth starters this season.
  2. Pivetta badly needed a change of scenery, and almost certainly wouldn’t have experienced that level of success on the Phillies.

Remember that bad Klentak trade was mentioned earlier? Well, that happened last August, when the Phillies sent Pivetta and minor league reliever Connor Seabold to the Red Sox for relievers Brandon Workman (more on him just a moment) and Heath Hembree. The trade wasn’t bad at the time because of Pivetta; his time had run out in Philadelphia and he had become unusable. The trade was bad because they also gave up an actual prospect in exchange for two relievers who turned out to be not as advertised.

After that trade, Brandon Workman was given the Phillies’ closer role. I don’t think there is much disagreement that he was not very good at this job, at all.

He signed with the Cubs in the offseason, and pitched poorly enough that the team released him by the end of April. The Sox brought him back off the waiver wire, and naturally, he’s been effective for them. Because of course!

It’s possible that the effectiveness is fleeting. While his ERA is 1.38, his FIP is a much higher 5.48, indicating that some good luck has been on his side. He continues to give up a decent amount of hits and walks, and that tends to catch up with a pitcher eventually. It would be great if some of that catching up could happen this weekend.

Pitching matchups

Game 1: Vince Velasquez (R | 3-3, 4.50 ERA) vs. Garrett Richards (R | 4-5, 4.88 ERA)
Game 2: Matt Moore (L | 0-1, 5.60 ERA) vs. Martín Pérez (L | 7-4, 3.89 ERA)
Game 3: Aaron Nola (R | 6-5, 4.53 ERA) vs. Nick Pivetta (R | 7-3, 4.09 ERA)

The numbers

Run Differential:
Phillies: -13
Red Sox: 61

Runs Scored Per Game:
Phillies: 4.48
Red Sox: 5.08

Runs Allowed Per Game:
Phillies: 4.64
Red Sox: 4.39

Game times and broadcasts

  • Friday, July 9th at 7:10pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, 94.1 WIP
  • Saturday, July 10th at 4:10pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, 94.1 WIP
  • Sunday, July 11th at 1:10pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, 94.1 WIP