December 9, 2023

Back in action—Series Preview: Cubs at Phillies, July 22 – 24


Jonathan Dyer/USA TODAY

In the most ideal of situations, Cubs’ all-star outfielder Ian Happ will be the only Cub to light any sparks offensively in this three-game series between the Phillies and the Cubs. And in this near-perfect scenario, Happ will catch Dave Dombrowski’s eye, and the Phillies’ front office will work their magic.

While this would all be great, the Phillies should start to focus on the big picture as we begin the second half. They sit 8.5 games out of first place in the NL East and are just above the Cardinals for the third and final Wild Card spot.

The standings serve an important purpose, but the Phillies still have 70 games to play. The past four years have made it clear how quickly the standings can change. And in the grand scheme of things, the current standings are much different than the ones we’ll see two months from now. The Phillies must focus on taking care of business against the Cubbies this weekend. And if they don’t take advantage of subpar teams like the Cubs, the excitement of following the standings will diminish before September even rolls around.

So what do the Phillies have in store for the weekend series? Not much.

The Cubs are coming into the series with a 35-57 record and have won just one of their last nine games.

Their 3-2 victory over the Mets this past Sunday snapped their nine-game losing streak right before the break. The Cubs have a decent offense led by Wilson Contreras, Christopher Morel, Nico Hoerner, Ian Happ, and Seiya Suzuki.

But their pitching is the main issue.

They have no reliable starters, and David Robertson, Scott Effross, and Mychal Givens are their only trustworthy options out of the bullpen. And with the trade deadline approaching, Robertson’s time in Chicago is coming to an end.

Here are some questions heading into the weekend:

Which Gibby will we get?

Kyle Gibson has had a season full of ups and downs. Some of the best pitching performances by a Phillie in 2022 have been Gibson’s, yet he has had some of the worst ones, too.

Gibson, who finished the first half of the season strong, thinks he has found a new style of pitching that works well for him.

“[I’m] trying to use my strengths… trying to execute pitches where they play best,” Gibson told the media.

J.T. Realmuto said that Gibson was “trying to use his repertoire [and] what works best for him. [He was] not necessarily always trying to attack the hitter’s weakness but… just attacking with his strengths. And [we were] letting his ball, which moves all over the place, work for him.”

In other instances, Gibson was trying to use all of his pitches and focus on what his opponent struggled with. While this can work for some guys, Gibson’s slider is good enough to be used many situations. As you might expect, Kyle Gibson has allowed just one run in his last 13 innings since focusing on this new and improved idea of attacking hitters.

If Gibson can stay consistent with this approach, more consistent results should come as a bi-product.

Can the Phils keep the daycare in business?

The Phillies’ daycare—three players that are formally known as Bryson Stott, Alec Bohm, and Matt Vierling— were as hot as can be before the all-star break.

Bryson Stott has a .873 OPS in his last seven games and has continued to play well defensively at second base. Alec Bohm has a .299 average in his past 30 games, and he is 3-8 with three RBI since returning from a dislocated finger. Matt Vierling has been slumping as of late, but he has been hitting much more consistently since being recalled from triple-A.

So what should we expect from the three youngsters over the weekend?

With two lefties on the mound, this could be a tougher series for Bryson Stott. He is hitting just .167 against left-handed pitchers, and he will face two of them this weekend. Bohm and Vierling, on the other hand, should find some success against the two struggling lefties.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Kyle Gibson (RHP, 5-3, 4.35 ERA) vs. Justin Steele (LHP, 3-6, 4.15 ERA)

Game 2: Zack Wheeler (RHP, 8-5, 2.89 ERA) vs. Marcus Stroman (RHP, 2-5, 4.69 ERA)

Game 3: TBD vs. Drew Smyly (LHP, 2-5, 4.22 ERA)

The numbers

  • Run Differential:
  • Phillies: 62
  • Cubs: -86
  • Runs Scored Per Game:
  • Phillies: 4.68
  • Cubs: 4.2
  • Runs Allowed Per Game:
  • Phillies: 4.01
  • Cubs: 5.13

Game times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, July 22, at 7:05pm ET on Apple TV Plus, WTTM 1680, 94.1 WIP
  • Saturday, July 23, at 6:05pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680, 94.1 WIP
  • Sunday, July 24, at 12:05pm ET on Peacock, WTTM 1680, 94.1 WIP

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