October 2, 2023

Harder than advertised—Series Preview: Phillies at Cubs, September 27 – 29


Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

It’s not Eagles season yet! The Phillies still have a few important games to play before the postseason rolls around. The Phillies are hoping to make an appearance, which would snap the longest postseason drought in the National League.

The Phillies haven’t been dominant over the past two weeks, but they have matched the Brewers and still maintain the third Wild Card spot in the National League. The Brewers, however, will wrap their season up at home, while the Phillies play their final ten games on the road. For better or worse, all ten of these will be crucial in deciding when and where the Phillies will be come playoff baseball, whether it’s watching or playing.

But based on the Phillies’ past matchup with Chicago, a series win might be harder to earn than advertised.

Last time they met

The Phils were riding high after the all-star break back in July, but the Cubs broke the good vibes when they came to South Philadelphia. The Phillies were swept by the then-35-win Cubs, who have not improved since.

They lost most of the backend of their bullpen by trading away David Robertson, Scott Effross, and Mychal Givens, but they chose to hang on to veteran bats Wilson Contreras and Ian Happ. The Cubs’ semi-quiet deadline surprised many fans, as the Cubs were—and still are—well out of playoff contention at the trade deadline.

There aren’t too many positives to reflect on from the last meeting between the Cubs and Phillies, but Zack Wheeler did have one of his stronger starts of the season, allowing one run in seven innings. The Phillies went on to lose this game in extra innings, and they lost another tight one the following day.

Now’s a good time for Harper to heat up

The 2021 MVP hasn’t been performing to his standards since returning from the IL at the end of August. He’s looked unbalanced and uncomfortable, and Harper even admitted that he felt that his timing was slightly off-kilter. He often found himself with too much of his weight shifted onto his front foot, and he pulled a lot of balls foul when he should have driven them hard up the middle.

In this past series, though, Harper showed a few glimpses of his MVP-caliber performance from 2021.

He only recorded one hit, but it was a big one—a two-run home run crushed to the opposite field to give the Phillies a fighting chance in game three last weekend. Outside of his one hit, he also racked up four walks, which is a sign that he is becoming more comfortable at the plate and is seeing the ball better out of the pitcher’s hand.

With three righties on the bump in Chicago, Harper should start gaining more confidence at the plate. And similarly to Kyle Schwarber, Harper finding a groove would help the Phillies tremendously in their final ten games of the regular season.

Castellanos returns

The Phillies haven’t had many fully-healthy lineups in 2022, but with Bryce Harper unable to throw, the Phillies’ game-one lineup might be as close as we get.

Nick Castellanos is making his return from the injured list on Tuesday after being sidelined due to turf toe and an oblique strain.

Though his season numbers are underwhelming, Castellanos was hitting .310 in thirty games prior to being placed on the IL, and having him fully healthy could be a huge boost to the Phillies’ lineup. Castellanos and Thomson agreed to skip a rehab assignment, so Castellanos may be given a day or two off in the coming days.

To make room on the 28-man roster, the Phillies optioned catcher Donny Sands to triple-A.

Pitching matchups

Game 1: Zack Wheeler (RHP, 11-7, 2.98 ERA) vs. Marcus Stroman (RHP, 4-7, 3.8 ERA)

Game 2: Aaron Nola (RHP, 10-12, 3.28 ERA) vs. Hayden Wesneski (RHP, 2-1, 2.45 ERA)

Game 3: Ranger Suarez (LHP, 10-5, 3.38 ERA) vs. Javier Assad (RHP, 1-2, 4.28 ERA)

The numbers

  • Run Differential:
  • Phillies: 67
  • Cubs: -102
  • Runs Scored Per Game:
  • Phillies: 4.7
  • Cubs: 4.02
  • Runs Allowed Per Game:
  • Phillies: 4.26
  • Cubs: 4.69

Game times and broadcasts

  • Tuesday, September 27, at 7:40pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680, 94.1 WIP
  • Wednesday, September 28, at 7:40pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680, 94.1 WIP
  • Thursday, September 29, at 2:20pm ET on MLB Network, NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680, 94.1 WIP

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

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