December 2, 2023

A Lot to Watch—Series Preview: Phillies at Pirates, June 28 – 30


Photo via the Philadelphia Phillies on Twitter

Up. Down. Up Down. Those two simple words describe what has been a not-so-simple season for our Philadelphia Phillies. Just last week, the Phillies lost four of six against the Brewers and Guardians but rebounded with a series win over the American League-leading Baltimore Orioles.

Does it make sense? No. Does it matter? Not really.

Looking to continue trending upward, the Phillies will take on the struggling Pirates in a three-game series at PNC Park on Friday. The Pirates, who are 45-47 and ten games out of a Wild Card spot, have not always been out of contention. After winning 19 games in April, Pittsburgh had a record of 20-19, but they ended up winning just 19 total games between May and June. Unfortunately for Pirates fans, their struggles have only gotten worse—their 6-15 record in the month of July is one of the worst in baseball, and they have already started selling some of their valuable players. Carlos Santana, who the Pirates inked to a one-year deal before the season, was dealt to the Brewers earlier this week.

Here are two storylines ahead of the Phillies-Pirates series:

A Slumping Trea Turner Returns to the Lineup

At this point, is “slump” still an acceptable term to describe Turner’s 2023 woes? Probably not. The Phillies’ shortstop came into the season with the highest of expectations, and at no point has he lived up to them.

Turner’s average has fallen to .245 and his OPS to .681. In his last seven games, Turner is hitting just .148, and he has just seven extra-base hits thus far in July. He continues to struggle to make hard, consistent contact, with his strikeout numbers being the highest of his career.

On Monday, Trea Turner went 0-3 and made two errors in the field before being ejected for arguing a called strike three with home plate umpire Will Little. After going 0-4 the following day, Manager Rpb Thomson benched him for game three of the series, hoping that two days of rest in a row could help Turner find his stride.

“I just took [the choice] away from him,” Thomson told the media.

Despite Thomson saying that bumping Turner down in the order is not out of the realm of possibility, he remains in that spot for game one against the Pirates.

Dombrowski, Front Office Have Two Teams to Watch

If I had to take a wild guess, Dave Dombrowski and the Phillies’ front office will be watching the Pirates more intently than usual.

One can almost guarantee that Carlos Santana won’t be the only current Pirate who is on a new team come August 2, and it is very possible one could take a trip east to the Phillies’ clubhouse. Of course, the Phillies will be looking to make additions prior to the August 1 trade deadline, so Dave Dombrowski will have a front-row view of a couple of the more intriguing names who have been afloat in the trade market.

All-Star pitcher Mitch Keller has two years of team control remaining on his contract, and star reliever David Bednar is not set to hit the open market until 2027. Keller, who’s starting game one as of now, might not be a perfect fit for the Phillies. He fits nicely into the middle of a playoff team’s rotation, but having two more years of control, he’ll come at a steep price. Bednar, who has 49 strikeouts and a 1.35 ERA in 40 innings of work, is not set to become a free agent until 2027, but many teams will pay top dollar to bolster their bullpen.

The Pirates have some cheaper options, which are probably more up the alley of President Dave Dombrowski. Andrew McCutchen does not boast many defensive positives, but he would certainly be an offensive upgrade over Jake Cave, who has no record of consistent major-league success. Pirates’ reliever Colin Holderman is inked to a team-controlled deal that does not go to arbitration until 2025, but he also comes cheap, as he is making just $725,000 in his 27-year-old season. His season stats do not jump off the page, but he has a 2.08 ERA and just five walks since June 2. And finally, there’s Rich Hill; the veteran lefty would likely be stashed in the bullpen as a depth starter, but he has a copious amount of postseason experience and is known to be a well-liked presence in the clubhouse. His 4.82 ERA in 2023 is the highest mark of his 19-year big-league career.

Obviously, the Pirates are not the only team the Phillies can trade with. Juan Soto is rumored to be on the market alongside Blake Snell and Josh Hader, and Mets’ Mark Canha and Tommy Pham have also been in trade talks.

However, the Pirates definitely have some enticing options.

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, July 28, at 7:05pm ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680 (Spanish), and 94.1 WIP
  • Saturday, July 29, at 7:05pm ET on NBC 10, TeleXitos, WTTM 1680 (Spanish), and 94.1 WIP
  • Wednesday, July 26, at 6:05pm ET on MLB Network, NBC Sports Philadelphia, WTTM 1680 (Spanish), and 94.1 WIP

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Zack Wheeler (RHP, 7-5, 3.88 ERA) vs. Mitch Keller (RHP, 9-6, 4.01 ERA)

Game 2: Aaron Nola (RHP, 9-6, 4.25 ERA) vs. Quinn Priester (RHP, 1-1, 9.28 ERA)

Game 3: Christopher Sánchez (LHP, 0-3, 2.98 ERA) vs. Rich Hill (LHP, 7-10, 4.82 ERA)

By the Numbers

  • Run Differential
  • Phillies: 10
  • Pirates: -73
  • Runs Scored Per Game
  • Phillies: 4.49
  • Pirates: 4.13
  • Runs Allowed Per Game
  • Phillies: 4.39
  • Pirates: 4.84

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

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