January 29, 2023

Bryce is back—Series Preview: Pirates at Phillies, August 26 – 28

AP Photo

Last week, the Phillies put on an underwhelming performance against the Reds and Mets. The offense struggled to come up with timely hits, and the bullpen was well overworked. But when they met the Reds this past series, they completed the four-game sweep at home and will have a fresh bullpen with Pittsburgh coming to town for the weekend. Aaron Nola threw a complete-game shutout on Thursday, leading the Phillies to the win and the sweep.

The 47-77 Pirates are not a threatening team, but they will be much more of a challenge than the Reds. Pittsburgh has a stringer group of up-and-coming starts at the major league level, and they have a much deeper bullpen than the Reds.

Last time they met

The Phillies were riding high after a series win over the Braves, and when they traveled to their intrastate rivals in Pittsburgh, they kept their momentum going. They ran into a few close calls against the Pirates at PNC Park, but they stole two wins in extra innings to notch the four-game sweep on the road.

Outside of Jeurys Familia, Phillies pitching allowed only seven runs through the four games, which was helpful to an offense that went quiet in the middle of the series. In game four, Alec Bohm and Nick Castellanos each got on base four times as the Phillies tallied a then-season-high of 18 hits as a team.

Return of the MVP

Earlier this week, fans were reminiscing about a healthy Bryce Harper as they witnessed him post a cool 2.325 OPS in his rehab assignment with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

A few days later, these same fans were ecstatic as Rob Thomson announced that Bryce Harper would return to the bigs after the Phillies and Reds wrapped up their four-game series.

Luckily, Harper is back just in time for the intrastate series between the Phillies and Pirates.

Before being plunked in his hand by Padres’ ace Blake Snell, Harper boasted a .318 batting average to go along with his 15 home runs and 48 stolen bases. Leading up to his injury, the 2021 MVP was in the midst of a hot streak, where he was hitting .353 over his past 15 games.

And on top of all that, he was playing through a UCL tear in his throwing elbow, something far from easy to do.

Tonight, Harper will bat fourth and step in the batter’s box at Citizens Bank Park for the first time since June 15.

His rehab assignment was short, and he admitted that some soreness had not gone away. And because of this, it is hard to predict how his first few games will go.

But one thing is a certainty—Phillies fans will remind him of the importance his presence holds as soon as he emerges from the dugout. And the vibes will be immaculate.

Another chance for Falter

Once again, Bailey Falter is back in the big leagues and will get another chance to establish himself as a strong rotational piece. Falter has struggled at the major league level during his career, but with Zack Wheeler going to the IL with tendinitis, the Phillies will have to use the young lefty as a starter until Wheeler is healthy.

Falter’s 4.4 ERA in eight starts does not impress, but he is coming off the best start of his short career; he allowed just two hits and one run against the Mets this past weekend.

Falter has a dependable slider and a fastball that jumps on hitters early, but he has nothing that compares to Wheeler’s Cy Young-caliber stuff.

Pitching matchups

Game 1: Bailey Falter (LHP, 1-3, 4.4 ERA) vs. Bryse Wilson (RHP, 2-7, 5.74 ERA)

Game 2: Kyle Gibson (RHP, 8-5, 4.3 ERA) vs. Tyler Beede (RHP, 1-3, 4.13 ERA)

Game 3: Noah Syndergaard (RHP, 8-8, 3.77 ERA) vs. Roansy Contreras (RHP, 3-4, 3.86 ERA)

The numbers

  • Run Differential:
  • Phillies: 75
  • Pirates: -192
  • Runs Scored Per Game:
  • Phillies: 4.64
  • Pirates: 3.58
  • Runs Allowed Per Game:
  • Phillies: 4.04
  • Pirates: 5.13

Game times and broadcasts

  • Friday, August 26, at 7:05pm ET on NBC 10, WTTM 1680, 94.1 WIP
  • Saturday, August 27, at 6:05pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680, 1210 WPHT
  • Sunday, August 28, at 1:35pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680, 94.1 WIP

Game coverage will be available on Philly Sports Reports’ Twitter page.

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