Tag Archives: 2019 Opposition Preview

Phillies visit San Francisco for a season-defining long weekend

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The Philadelphia Phillies (59-55) will continue their roller-coaster ride of a 2019 regular season out west with a long weekend visit to face the host San Francisco Giants (56-59) at Oracle Park.

The Giants, who stormed back into the National League Wildcard playoff picture with a scorching hot July, have stumbled backwards in August. Since flipping the page over on the calendar, San Francisco has gone just 1-6.
Wins in just four of their last 13 contests, including dropped two of three to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, have dropped the Giants 3.5 out in that Wildcard race with four teams now standing between them and a spot in the postseason.
For the Phillies, losses in three of their last four games leave them tied for one of the two NL Wildcard berths. However, there are now five teams within 1.5 games of one another in what looks like it is shaping up to be a wild sprint (stumble?) down the stretch.
The biggest problem for both of these teams of late has been an inability to score runs. The Giants enter the series having put just 17 runs up on the scoreboard across their seven August games. That is an average of just 2.43 runs per game. Meanwhile, the Phillies have crossed the plate just 23 times over their own last half-dozen, or an average of 3.83 runs per contest.
The Giants have averaged just 4.24 runs per game over the entire 2019 season, the second-lowest per-game output in the National League. They also have registered the league’s second-lowest OPS, and have the second-lowest home run total in the NL, ahead of only the rebuilding Miami Marlins in each of those categories.
Things aren’t much better statistically on the mound for San Francisco. The pitching staff ranks just 10th of the 15 NL ball clubs in batting average against (.254) and OPS against (.754) as well as strikeouts. The Giants came in at 18th of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball in our latest MLB Power Rankings released one week ago, with the Phillies ranking in the No. 14 position.
With so many teams between them and a postseason berth, this is now a pivotal series for the host Giants. If the Phillies manage to somehow take three of four here, that would probably sound the death knell for the 2019 season by the bay.
For their part, the Phillies need to come out of this with at least a split. That would allow the club to return home next week having gone no worse than 3-4 in a two-city western swing.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Kevin Pillar (30/CF): .252/.281/.420, 13 HR, 42 XBH, 56 RBIs, 55 runs, 9 steals
Brandon Belt (31/1B): .233/.347/.390, 12 HR, 33 XBH, 39 RBIx, 57 runs
Evan Longoria (33/3B): .239/.314/.439, 13 HR, 30 XBH, 39 RBIx, 38 runs
Pablo Sandoval (32/3B): .267/.312/.507, 14 HR, 37 XBH, 41 RBIs, 42 runs
Mike Yastrzemski (28/LF): .264/.316/.477, 10 HR, 24 XBH, 34 RBIs, 37 runs
Scooter Gennett (29/2B): .218/.233/.310, 1 HR, 6 XBH, 7 RBIs, 5 runs (90 plate appearances with CIN/SFG)
Gennett arrived in a trade deadline deal from the Cincinnati Reds, leading to the release of longtime Giants second baseman Joe Panik.

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Buster Posey: A Georgia native now in his 11th big-league season, Posey was the first round pick of the Giants at 5th overall in the 2008 MLB Draft out of Florida State University.
After receiving a cup of coffee in September 2009, Posey became the Giants starting catcher in the 2010 season. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and finished 11th in NL MVP voting, then led the Giants past the Phillies in five games in the NLCS enroute to the first World Series championship for the franchise in 56 years.
Two years later, Posey made his first of six NL All-Star teams, won his first of four NL Silver Sluggers, and won that NL MVP Award. He also once again helped the Giants to a World Series crown.
Posey and the Giants would add a third World Series championship to their franchise trophy case in the 2014 season. In 2016, Posey won his long career NL Gold Glove Award at catcher.
The wear and tear of catching more than 900 games at the big-league level have taken their toll on Posey, who is now 32-year-old. Still, he has been behind the plate in 74 of the team’s 115 games this season.
He received a nine-year contract at $167+ million which runs through the 2021 season with a 2022 team option. It will be interesting to see whether the Giants can remain a playoff contender over the next year or two, and if not, whether he could end up moving on to another team. For all the world, Posey feels like a one-team player to me, and he will make an interesting Hall of Fame case one day late in the 2020’s.

GIANTS SHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

Thursday – Madison Bumgarner (29/LH): 6-7, 3.92 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 1.175 WHIP, 140 hits over 144.2 IP across 24 starts with a 142/30 K:BB
Friday – Tyler Beede (26/RH): 3-6, 5.38 ERA, 5.50 FIP, 1.602 WHIP, 84 hits over 73.2 IP across 15 games (13 starts) with a 69/34 K:BB
Saturday – Jeff Samardzija (34/RH): 8-9, 3.70 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 1.164 WHIP, 111 hits over 126.1 IP across 23 starts with a 110/36 K:BB
Sunday – Conner Menez (24/LH): 0-1, 5.73 ERA, 7.49 FIP, 1.273 WHIP, 9 hits over 11 IP across 2 starts with a 10/5 K:BB

THE SKIPPER

Bruce Bochy – (reprinted from CBP series 7.30.19)
Now 64 years of age, Bochy was actually born in Landes de Bussac, France while his father was serving in the U.S. Army. His family ultimately moved to Florida, and he became the first round draft choice at 23rd overall in the 1975 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros.
Bochy reached the big-leagues with Houston in 1978, beginning what would become a nine-season career as a player in Major League Baseball. A catcher, he was famously plowed into by Pete Rose, who was scoring what would prove to be the winning run in the top of the 10th inning as the Phillies rallied to tie up the 1980 NLCS at two games apiece. He was the backup catcher with the San Diego Padres team that won a National League pennant in 1984.
After his retirements as a player, Bochy was hired to manage in the San Diego minor league system. In 1993 he was moved up to the big club, taking over as the third base coach. Then for the 1995 season, Bochy was finally hired as manager of the Padres. Over 12 years as skipper in southern California, Bochy amassed a 951-975 record, guiding the Friars to four division crowns and a 1998 NL pennant.
Let go following the 2006 season, Bochy immediately caught on as manager with the division-rival Giants, and has been the skipper in San Francisco ever since. Over 13 years by the bay, Bochy has a 1,029-1,021 record and has led the Giants to three World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. His 2016 team went to the postseason as a Wildcard team.
Overall, Bochy is now in his 25th consecutive season as a manager in Major League Baseball. He has a combined record of 1,980-1,996 between his work with the Padres and Giants organizations. He is just 28 wins behind Leo Durocher for 10th place on the all-time MLB managerial wins list, 60 behind Walter Alston for 9th place on that list. That top ten spot is his goal, as Bochy has battled health issues and has already announced that this will be his final season as manager.

THE BALLPARK

Oracle Park: Originally opened for the 2000 season as “Pac Bell Park” and having undergone two prior name changes, most recently to “AT&T Park”, this gorgeous facility took on the “Oracle Park” name this season.
Lying off the San Francisco Bay, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is visible from the right field bleachers, beyond which lies China Basin, now nicknamed “McCovey Cove” after Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. The Cove is a hangout via kayack and small water craft for souvenir hunters hoping to snare a home run ball flying entirely out of the yard.
To hit a ball into that cove, batters have to lift one over the 24-foot high right field wall, that number in feet chosen to honor Willie Mays, the Hall of Famer who wore that number with the Giants.
Behind the left field bleachers is a giant Coca-Cola bottle, which lights up after any Giants home run. Playground slides can be found inside the bottle, which is located in a park-like area. Next to the bottle is the “Giant 1927 Old-Time Four-Fingered Baseball Glove” art work.
It is 309 feet down the right field line to that wall, out to 365 feet in right field and 421 to right-center, the deepest part of the ballpark. Around to dead center field it is 399 feet, then 404 in left-center, 364 in left field, and finally 339 feet down the left field line.
Though the Giants have won three World Series titles earlier in this decade – 2010, 2012 and 2014 – all of those championships were clinched on the road. The ballpark has been the site of three no-hitters, including a 2012 ‘Perfect Game’ thrown by Matt Cain.
The semi-finals and championship round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic were held here, and the park was an official sellout for Giants games over 794 consecutive games between October 2010 and July 2017.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

Thursday: Partly cloudy with temps dropping from the lower-60’s at the 9:45 pm EDT first pitch into the upper-50’s during the series opener with winds moderate off the bay and just the slightest chance of precipitation.
Friday: Partly cloudy with temps in the lower-60’s at the 10:15 pm EDT first pitch and remaining consistent all evening with winds moderate off the bay and a 20% chance of precipitation during the game.
Saturday: Sun breaking out for the 4:05 pm EDT first pitch with winds moderate off the bay and a 20% chance of precipitation during the game.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, gorgeous afternoon for what will be a 7:05 pm EDT first pitch. Winds moderate off the bay and a 20% chance of precipitation during this ESPN Game of the Week.
San Francisco area forecast from The Weather Channel
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Phillies opposition preview: San Francisco Giants

Phillies welcome a weak Chisox club to town for weekend set

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The Chicago White Sox (46-60) come in to South Philly for a three-game weekend Interleague series with the host Philadelphia Phillies (57-51) at Citizens Bank Park.

Though both teams are at around the same spot in their respective divisions, their respective fates in this 2019 season couldn’t be more different. The Chisox season is already over. They are buried at 14.5 games out in both the AL Central Division race and American League Wildcard playoff race.
The Phillies enter this series in a three-way tie with the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs for the two available NL Wildcard playoff berths. The Phillies are tied for second place, sitting six games behind the Atlanta Braves in the loss column in the National League East Division.
These two franchise’ have met just 16 times in their history, with the Phillies capturing 10 of those, including eight of 11 meetings at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies have also won the last three straight in the head-to-head series, taking the last two at home by 8-3 and 7-6 scores back in September of 2016.
The Phillies and White Sox share an affinity for a recent-era legend, Jim Thome. Though he was inducted last summer to the Baseball Hall of Fame wearing a Cleveland Indians cap, Thome starred with the Phillies from 2003-05 and returned briefly in 2012. He was inducted to the Phillies Wall of Fame in 2016.
Dealt to the Chisox in November 2005 in a multi-player deal highlighted by Aaron Rowand coming to Philly, Thome then starred in Chicago into the 2009 season when he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the August 31 waiver deadline. He actually played in more games (529-391) and hit more home runs (134-101) with the White Sox than the Phillies. Thome now works as a special assistant to the White Sox organization.
A plaque is located at the White Sox home ball park, Guaranteed Rate Field, in the center field fan deck honoring Thome. It reads: “On June 4, 2008, Chicago White Sox slugger Jim Thome became the first player ever to hit a baseball onto the Fan Deck of U.S. Cellular Field as the Sox beat the Kansas City Royals. He duplicated the tape-measure feat on September 30, 2008 as the White Sox beat the Minnesota Twins, 1-0, in a one-game playoff to win the American League Central Division championship.
The last time that the Chisox came to Philly it resulted in a Phillies sweep. Frankly, this is the kind of opponent that these current Phillies need to sweep as well. That is easier said than done. The Phillies haven’t swept any series of three or more games since taking out the New York Mets in a four-gamer back in late June, the last time they won four straight games at all.
In the August 1 MLB Power Ranking released here at Phillies Nation, the White Sox ranked just 28th of the 30 MLB clubs. The Phillies finished 14th in those most recent rankings. Scoring at a rate of 4.08 runs per game, the Chicago offense is 28th in MLB. Their pitching staff OPS-against of .339 is 24th, similar to the Phillies staff .334 (22nd) mark.
Thome will not be the only former Phillies face showing up this weekend. The Phillies are honoring their 2009 National League Championship team in a reunion celebration on both Friday night and Sunday afternoon with appearances by players such as Ryan HowardJimmy RollinsChase UtleyBrett MyersBrad Lidge and more. On Saturday night, Bobby Abreu will be inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Jose Abreu (32/1B): .263/.299/.472, 22 HR, 44 XBH, 74 RBIs, 48 runs
Tim Anderson (26/SS): .310/.332/.477, 11 HR, 25 XBH, 38 RBIs, 39 runs, 15 steals (just 292 PA’s due to injury)
Eloy Jimenez (22/LF): .233/.294/.459, 17 HR, 24 XBH, 39 RBIs, 36 runs (just 282 PA’s due to injury)
Leury Garcia (28/CF): .292/.326/.391, 6 HR, 27 XBH, 29 RBIs, 66 runs, 12 steals
Jon Jay (34/RF): .324/.352/.392, 7 doubles, 7 RBIs, 10 runs (just 110 PA’s since June 24 promotion)

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Yoan Moncada (24/3B): Happily for the Phillies from a competitive standpoint, the White Sox young star third baseman will miss this series. He was placed on the IL just yesterday with what has been diagnosed as a Grade 1 right hamstring strain. He is expected to be out at least two weeks.
He has been a huge piece for us,” manager Rick Renteria said per Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Having him go down is kind of a kick in the gut.
Though it may be good timing for the Phillies, that is a shame for baseball fans. We will be missing out on seeing one of the game’s top young talents, one who doesn’t come to Philadelphia very often since his team plays in the American League Central Division.
Moncada is a 24-year-old who signed with the Boston Red Sox as a high-profile teenage Cuban bonus baby back in 2015. Then in December 2016, he changed socks – literally. The Red Sox sent him to the White Sox as part of a big four-prospect package in exchange for superstar pitcher Chris Sale.
He had received an eight-game cup of coffee with Boston for his MLB debut in 2016, but it was Chicago who gave him his first permanent big-league promotion and starting role beginning in July 2017.
As a 23-year-old in his first full big-league campaign a year ago, Moncada rapped out 55 extra-base hits. He also struck out 217 times, a figure that led all of Major League Baseball.
This year he took a step forward, slashing .301/.358/.535 with 44 extra-base hits, 59 RBIs, and 58 runs scored over his first 97 games prior to the injury.
The Phillies are one of just five MLB teams that he has never faced. Phillies fans will now have to wait at least a while longer before they get their first look at this talented youngster. By the time they do, he could well be much more fully developed star.

The Phillies will happily miss Giolito (center), during this weekend series. (Ian D’Andrea)

CHISOX SHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

FRIDAY – Ivan Nova (32/RH): 6-9, 5.23 ERA, 5.22 FIP, 1.440 WHIP, 149 hits over 125.2 IP across 22 starts with an 81/32 K:BB
SATURDAY – Ross Detwiler (33/LH: 1-1, 6.35 ERA, 6.84 FIP, 1.676 WHIP, 34 hits over 22.2 IP across 7 appearnces (3 starts) with a 12/4 K:BB
SUNDAY – Reynaldo Lopez (25/RH): 5-9, 5.43 ERA, 5.10 FIP, 1.464 WHIP, 136 hits over 124.1 IP across 22 starts with a 117/46 K:BB
Moncada is not the only talented Chisox youngster whom the Phillies are happy to be missing in this series. Their lone 2019 American League All-Star, starting pitcher Lucas Giolito, took his regular turn on Wednesday night, and so is not scheduled to go during these three games.

THE SKIPPER

Rick Renteria: The 57-year-old Renteria is now in his third season at the helm of the Chisox, having piloted the team to a pair of fourth place finishes. Chicago has won just 67 and 62 games in his first two seasons. This year they are playing much better, but still find themselves 13 games below the .500 mark and already out of the postseason picture.
Renteria was the first round pick at 20th overall back in the 1980 MLB Draft out of South Gate High School in his native California. He played in parts of five big-league seasons with three different teams, seeing his most action as a utility infielder with the expansion 1993 Florida Marlins.
He was both a coach and manager in the Marlins minor league organization after retiring as a player through 2001, and then joined the San Diego Padres in a variety of roles through 2013.
Renteria was hired for his first big-league managerial job with the Chicago Cubs in November 2013. However, he was let go a year later when the Cubs opted to bring in Joe Maddon. Renteria caught on as the Chisox bench coach in 2016, leading to his taking over the managerial reigns for the 2017 campaign.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

FRIDAY: The temps will drop from the low-80’s at the 7:05 pm first pitch time into the upper-70’s through the game. Winds will be light throughout the game, and there is only a slight chance of showers. Should be a nice night at the ballpark for the opener.
SATURDAY: There is a 30% chance of isolated thunderstorms in the forecast for the 7:05 pm first pitch time. Light winds and real-feel temps in the low-80’s throughout the night.
SUNDAY: Mostly sunny with real-feels around the 90 degree mark, light winds, slight chance of showers at the 1:05 pm first pitch time. In all, weather should not play much of a role in this series, aside from the slight possibility of a passing shower at some point.
South Philly forecast from The Weather Channel

Giants stomp into South Philly as surprise Wildcard contenders

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Bruce Bochy is in his final season as Giants skipper

The Philadelphia Phillies (55-50) and San Francisco Giants (54-52) are each squarely in the hunt for a National League Wildcard playoff berth with just nine weeks remaining in the 2019 MLB regular season.

However, the two teams came to that race in very different ways. The Phillies bolted out to a hot start over the season’s first two months, leading the NL East Division into late May before stumbling.
The Giants, on the other hand, stumbled out of the gate. As late as June 29, San Francisco found themselves a dozen games below the .500 mark. With the second-worst record in the National League, they sat 8.5 back of a Wildcard berth, 19.5 out and in last place in the NL West.
But the Giants suddenly and unexpectedly turned their season around, and turned the playoff race on its head. They have won 19 of their last 24, moved to second place in their division, and are just 2.5 back in the Wildcard hunt, 1.5 back of the Phillies.
The franchise has won three World Series titles in this decade: 2010, 2012 and 2014. They also reached the playoffs in 2016, the last postseason appearance for the team. With an aging ball club that has finished a collective 60 games below .500 over the last two seaons, this winning burst has shocked most in the game. Can it continue? Can this team possibly sustain their recent hot streak?
On Wednesday, the MLB trade deadline arrives. It was expected that the Giants were going to be a seller. That was the general consensus as recently as three weeks ago. Now, could Farhan Zaidi instead become a buyer, hoping to inject just enough talent to push the Giants back to the postseason for another run?
The Giants offense has averaged just 4.37 runs per game this season, 25th of the 30 teams in baseball. Their 109 home runs are next-to-last in the NL, as is their .698 OPS. Their combined .237 batting average is the lowest mark in the league, and their 28 steals are tied for last. In other words, this is a team that even Phillies pitching without Aaron Nola getting a start should be able to contain.
On the mound, Giants pitching is middle-of-the-road with a .251 batting average against, and ranks 13th in strikeouts and 14th in OPS against. In other words, they should not be a major challenge for the Phillies inconsistent offense.
These two teams have played one another tough over the last three seasons, with the Phillies holding an 11-9 edge in those head-to-head meetings. They will meet again by the bay at Oracle Park in San Francisco in a four-game series during the second week of August.
This is a veteran Giants team that has suddenly remembered what it was like to win 7-8-9 years ago. Many of the position players were around with those title teams. That makes them tough while they are hot. But frankly, this is a team that the Phillies ought to be able to handle. This needs to be a series win, preferably a sweep for the home team.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Alex Dickerson (29/LF): .391/.454/.782, 6 HR, 19 XBH, 23 RBIs, 21 runs (traded to SFG from SD in mid-June)
Kevin Pillar (30/CF): .245/.275/.408, 12 HR, 38 XBH, 54 RBIs, 50 runs
Pablo Sandoval (32/3B): .266/.310/.510, 13 HR, 33 XBH, 38 RBIs, 39 runs
Brandon Belt (31/1B): .233/.350/.390, 11 HR, 30 XBH, 36 RBIs, 50 runs
Mike Yastrzemski (28/RF): .275/.322/.505, 9 HR, 22 XBH, 31 RBIs, 33 runs (grandson of Boston Red Sox legendary Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski is a rookie promoted 5/25)
Buster Posey (32/C): .264/.329/.396, 5 HR, 25 XBH, 29 RBIs, 32 runs
Joe Panik (28/2B): .232/.306/.313, 3 HR, 20 XBH, 27 RBIs, 33 runs
Brandon Crawford (32/SS): .234/.307/.376, 9 HR, 29 XBH, 44 RBIs, 40 runs

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Madison Bumgarner: Just as the Giants don’t have to worry about facing Aaron Nola, the Phillies will not face MadBum in these three games. Both aces went on Sunday for their respective teams. Bumgarner is 6-7 with a 3.74 ERA, 1.153 WHIP and 3.67 FIP thus far in 2019. He has made 23 starts, allowing 132 hits across 139.2 innings with a 140/29 K:BB ratio.
What makes Bumgarner relevant as this series progresses is the MLB trade deadline, which arrives on Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 PM EDT. For months now, Bumgarner has been one of the names subject to the most speculation. He will turn 30 years old on Thursday, the day after the deadline passes, and is due to become a free agent after this season.
Do the Giants really believe they can contend this season? Personally, I don’t. But if they do, perhaps Bumgarner stays. If Zaidi is as smart as I think he is, then a trade of the Giants longtime ace would be a major story right in the middle of this series.
In case you need a reminder of his résumé, Bumgarner was a National League All-Star and finished among the top ten in NL Cy Young Award voting each year from 2013-16. In 2014, the lefty was MVP of both the NLCS and World Series, helping earn his third World Series ring with the Giants. He was also named the AP Male Athlete of the Year for 2014.
Topping it all off, and important for a National League pitcher at this point, he can hit. Bumgarner took home a Silver Slugger in both 2014 and 2015. While teams acquiring him would certainly not be getting MadBum in his prime, they would indeed be getting a pitcher who can still pitch near the top of a rotation, one with tremendous, winning experience.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

TUESDAY – Tyler Beede (26/RH): 3-4, 4.85 ERA, 5.24 FIP, 1.477 WHIP, 66 hits over 65 IP across 13 games (11 starts) with a 62/30 K:BB
WEDNESDAY – Jeff Samardzija (34/RH): 7-8, 3.95 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 1.178 WHIP, 105 hits over 116.1 IP across 21 starts with a 102/32 K:BB
THURSDAY – Shaun Anderson (24/RH): 3-3, 5.06 ERA, 4.68 FIP, 1.487 WHIP, 85 hits over 74.2 IP across 14 starts with a 53/26 K:BB (as of the series opening his is listed as a TBD by the Giants, but it has been Anderson’s turn in the rotation)

THE SKIPPER

Bruce Bochy: Now 64 years of age, Bochy was actually born in Landes de Bussac, France while his father was serving in the U.S. Army. His family ultimately moved to Florida, and he became the first round draft choice at 23rd overall in the 1975 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros.
Bochy reached the big-leagues with Houston in 1978, beginning what would become a nine-season career as a player in Major League Baseball. A catcher, he was famously plowed into by Pete Rose, who was scoring what would prove to be the winning run in the top of the 10th inning as the Phillies rallied to tie up the 1980 NLCS at two games apiece. He was the backup catcher with the San Diego Padres team that won a National League pennant in 1984.
After his retirements as a player, Bochy was hired to manage in the San Diego minor league system. In 1993 he was moved up to the big club, taking over as the third base coach. Then for the 1995 season, Bochy was finally hired as manager of the Padres. Over 12 years as skipper in southern California, Bochy amassed a 951-975 record, guiding the Friars to four division crowns and a 1998 NL pennant.
Let go following the 2006 season, Bochy immediately caught on as manager with the division-rival Giants, and has been the skipper in San Francisco ever since. Over 13 years by the bay, Bochy has a 1,029-1,021 record and has led the Giants to three World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. His 2016 team went to the postseason as a Wildcard team.
Overall, Bochy is now in his 25th consecutive season as a manager in Major League Baseball. He has a combined record of 1,980-1,996 between his work with the Padres and Giants organizations. He is just 28 wins behind Leo Durocher for 10th place on the all-time MLB managerial wins list, 60 behind Walter Alston for 9th place on that list. That top ten spot is his goal, as Bochy has battled health issues and has already announced that this will be his final season as manager.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

TUESDAY: It will be a hot time in the old town tonight. Real-feel for the 7:05 pm first pitch is expected in the mid-90’s with moderate winds and no chance of precipitation.
WEDNESDAY: It is going to storm during the day on Wednesday. Question is, how might it affect the game, if at all? Right now the call is for real-feel temps in the mid-80’s at the scheduled 7:05 pm first pitch. There is a 45% chance of showers and tstorms, decreasing throughout the night with light winds.
THURSDAY: For this first game of August, the 1:05 pm first pitch should see a real-feel in the mid-80’s with light winds. There is a slight chance of a lingering shower or tstorm, but nothing that should be a major factor.
South Philly forecast from The Weather Channel

Slumping Braves arrive in South Philly to face hot Phillies

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Mike Soroka takes mound for opener of key weekend series

The first-place Atlanta Braves (60-43) arrive at Citizens Bank Park for a three-game weekend series with the Philadelphia Phillies (54-48) following a Thursday off-day in the schedule for both clubs.

The Braves are struggling a bit, having dropped six of their last eight games. Meanwhile, the Phillies have come out on top in seven of their last 10 games. They have won five of six games for just the third time all season.
Despite those recent results, Atlanta still maintains control in the NL East Division standings. They are 4.5 games ahead of the second place Washington Nationals, and 5.5 ahead (five in the loss column) of the third place Phillies.
The Phillies will enter this series just one game off the pace in the race for the final NL Wildcard playoff spot. In the Friday night opener, the Phillies will be looking for a fourth straight victory for what would be the fifth time this season. They have not yet won five in a row during all of 2019. They will also be trying to win six of seven for the first time all year.
These two division rivals have already met nine times this year with the Phillies capturing five of those games. When last they met at the start of the month, the Braves took two of three in Atlanta. The hosts scored 21 runs in a pair of blowouts by 9-2 and 12-6 scores in the final two games after an Aaron Nola shutout had given the Phillies a win in that series opener.
Averaging 5.22 runs per game, the Braves are the third-most productive offense in the National League. Their collective OPS of .790 is ranked sixth in all of Major League Baseball. But during this recent eight-game struggle, Atlanta’s offense has averaged only 3.375 runs per game.
The Braves are coming off a 2-0 shutout at the hands of the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday. It was just the third time that Atlanta has been white-washed all year. The last time, after putting up a goose egg against Nola and the Phillies, their hitters broke out with 21 runs over the following two games. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again this time.

ATLANTA BRAVES

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Freddie Freeman (29/1B): .303/.388/.563, 25 HR, 53 XBH, 79 RBIs, 75 runs, 4 steals
Ronald Acuna Jr.(21/CF): .292/.377/.504, 24 HR, 38 XBH, 58 RBIs, 79 runs, 22 steals
Ozzie Albies (22/2B): .284/.342/.469, 14 HR, 42 XBH, 51 RBIs, 62 runs, 8 steals
Josh Donaldson (33/3B): .259/.376/.520, 23 HR, 45 XBH, 60 RBIs, 58 runs, 3 steals
Nick Markakis (35/RF): .286/.358/.431, 9 HR, 33 XBH, 55 RBIs, 56 runs, 2 steals
Dansby Swanson (25/SS): .265/.468, 17 HR, 41 XBH, 57 RBIs, 64 runs, 7 steals

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Brian McCann (35/C): The now 35-year-old catcher was born in Athens, just about 60 miles from Atlanta. The lefty hitter was the Braves second round choice way back in the 2002 MLB Draft out of a Georgia high school and reached the big-leagues in 2005. By the next season he was beginning a stretch of six straight and seven of eight NL All-Star seasons, establishing himself as the top offensive catcher in the game.
In December 2013, McCann signed a five-year, $85 million contract as a free agent with the New York Yankees. With the Yanks, McCann won a 2015 AL Silver Slugger. Then in November 2016 he was dealt to the Houston Astros. Splitting time with Evan Gattis behind the plate in Houston, McCann helped lead the Astros to the first World Series championship in franchise history in 2017.
A free agent once again this past off-season, McCann opted to return home as a veteran influence for a young, talented Braves ball club. He has split time as the left-handed half of a platoon with the righty hitting Tyler Flowers. Facing mostly right-handed pitching, McCann has thrived with a .274/.336/.458 slash line, 9 home runs and 34 RBIs.
McCann has been a Phillies killer over the course of his career. His 23 home runs against them are the most of the 279 which he has blasted in his career against any opponent, and the 85 RBIs and 30 doubles are second-most. He has 13 career homers and 19 doubles at Citizens Bank Park.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

21-year-old right-hander Mike Soroka made the NL All-Star team this year as a rookie. He pitches the series opener on Friday night for Braves. (Erik Drost)
FRIDAY – Mike Soroka (21/RH): 10-2, 2.46 ERA, 3.08 FIP, 1.094 WHIP, 88 hits allowed over 102.1 IP across 17 starts with an 86/24 K:BB. Soroka is a native of Alberta, Canada who was the Braves first round pick at 28th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft out of high school. Still considered a rookie this year after making five starts in 2018, Soroka is one of the leading NL Rookie of the Year contenders. He made his first NL All-Star team earlier this month. The Phillies hit him hard on Independence Day in Atlanta, and yet still were romped as the Braves offense covered.
SATURDAY – Max Fried (25/LH): 10-4, 4.08 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 1.389 WHIP, 113 hits allowed over 103.2 IP across 21 appearances (19 starts) with a 102/31 K:BB. Fried is a SoCal native who was the San Diego Padres first round choice at 7th overall in the 2012 MLB Draft out of high school. He came to Atlanta in a December 2014 trade as part of a package in return for Justin Upton. The southpaw has been on the 10-day IL with a blister on the index finger of his pitching hand, but is expected to be activated for this start. He has already faced the Phillies three times this year, twice in relief during the opening series of the season at Citizens Bank Park, and again in a start on June 14 in Atlanta. The Phillies ripped him for seven hits (including two homers) and five runs in that outing, driving him from the game after 4.2 innings.
SUNDAY – Kevin Gausman (28/RH): 3-5, 5.71 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 1.428 WHIP, 75 hits allowed over 69.1 IP across 14 starts with a 72/24 K:BB. Gausman is a Colorado native who was the first round choice at fourth overall in the 2012 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles out of LSU. He was dealt to the Braves at last year’s trade deadline along with reliever Darren O’Day in exchange for a four-prospect package. Gausman missed most of June and July while on the IL suffering from plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He returned on July 21 and was sensational in a big start against the Washington Nationals, going seven strong innings, striking out eight while walking none and allowing just one run on five hits in a 7-1 win for Atlanta.

THE SKIPPER

Brian Snitker: We have covered Snitker in detail during previous series opposition previews this year. He is a 63-year-old native of Illinois who attended the University of New Orleans. The Braves are 281-270 in his tenure over parts of four seasons, and he guided the club to the NL East crown a year ago.
Here is his official bio from the Atlanta Braves website: Brian Snitker bio

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

FRIDAY:  It will be mostly sunny and 85 degrees with nearly the same real-feel conditions at the 7:05 PM first pitch. No chance of precipitation with winds light and temps dropping through the 80’s to the upper-70’s as the game rolls on.
SATURDAY: Mostly sunny and in the upper-80’s at the 7:05 PM first pitch, with real-feels again the same, winds again light, and once again almost no chance of precipitation.
SUNDAY: A sunny afternoon with highs around 90 degrees at the 1:05 PM first pitch. For a third straight game in the series it is expected that there will be no chance of precipitation and light winds, with real-feels the same as the temps.
South Philly weekend weather forecast from The Weather Channel

Tigers need to be used as a doormat by the Phillies in quick two-game series

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Phillies hope there won’t be too much partying this week in Motown

The Philadelphia Phillies (52-48) have won five of their seven Interleague contests thus far in the 2019 MLB regular season.

The club will try to add to that winning record over the next two nights at Comerica Park as they take on the host Detroit Tigers (30-65) in Motown for a quick two-game set.
Back on April 30 and May 1, the Phillies and Tigers split another two-gamer. That one was held at Citizens Bank Park in what may have been a perfect microcosm of this 2019 Phillies season to date.
Four Detroit hurlers held the Phillies to just four hits as the Tigers won that opener by a 3-1 score. The very next night, the Phillies offense exploded for 15 hits in a 7-3 victory. It has been that kind of roller coaster year for a team that is now involved with a half-dozen other clubs in a chase for an NL Wildcard playoff berth.
The Tigers are not chasing anything, other than the top pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. Their record is the second-worst in all of Major League Baseball, just a few percentage points better than the Baltimore Orioles 31-68 mark.
The Tigers offensive attack and pitching staff both rank as next-to-last in baseball in key categories. Their hitters have produced just 3.65 runs per game. The pitchers have a combined .273 batting average against.
Frankly, this is a series that the Phillies need to sweep. The Tigers are down and out, already playing out the string with more than two months left on the schedule. However, as our look below at the starting pitchers who they will be throwing at the Phillies in this series shows, it won’t necessarily be an easy task.


DETROIT TIGERS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Nicholas Castellanos (27/RF): .284/.342/.480, 11 HR, 48 extra-base hits, 36 RBIs, 56 runs
JaCoby Jones (27/CF): .252/.317/.458, 20 HR, 27 extra-base hits, 24 RBIs, 31 runs, 6 steals
Brandon Dixon (27/1B): .255/.289/.476, 12 HR, 23 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs, 26 runs
Harold Castro (25/2B): .302/.315/.424, 2 HR, 10 extra-base hits, 15 RBIs, 13 runs (42 games, 147 plate appearances)
Niko Goodrum (27/UT): .245/.318/.407, 9 HR, 31 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs, 49 runs
Jeimer Candelario (25/3B): .218/.306/.371, 7 HR, 20 extra-base hits, 23 RBIs, 26 runs

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Miguel Cabrera: The great Miggy has become somewhat a shell of his former MVP self as he ages with a losing ball club. Cabrera is slashing .283/.346/.373 with 18 extra-base hits and 37 RBIs. Basically, Cabrera can still hit, but he seems to have lost his power almost completely.
Cabrera has enjoyed a storied 17-year big-league career since debuting as a 20-year-old third baseman with the Florida (now Miami) Marlins back in June 2003. The young Miggy helped lead the Fish to their second World Series crown that year as a rookie, finishing fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Cabrera would go on to five consecutive NL All-Star Game appearances with the Marlins, winning a pair of Silver Slugger Awards at the hot corner and finishing 5th in NL MVP voting twice.
Then in December 2007, Cabrera was traded away to the Detroit Tigers along with pitcher Dontrelle Willis in exchange for a six-prospect package that included outfielder Cameron Maybin and pitcher Andrew Miller.
With Detroit, Cabrera would elevate his game to another level. He was an AL All-Star for seven consecutive seasons, and won five more Silver Sluggers. Cabrera was the American League Most Valuable Player in back-to-back seasons, edging out Mike Trout in both 2012 and 2013. In that 2012 campaign, Cabrera became the first AL triple crown winner in 45 years when he led the league in home runs, RBIs and batting average.
Now age 36, Cabrera still has four years and $124 million guaranteed on a contract that runs through the 2023 season.  It’s a deal that likely makes him untradeable. That is especially so now that he has been diagnosed with chronic knee issues that will limit him almost exclusively to the Designated Hitter position.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

TUESDAY – Matthew Boyd (28/LH): 6-8, 4.13 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 1.133 WHIP, 112 hits over 120 IP across 20 starts with a 160/24 K:BB. Boyd has become the subject of intense rumors as the trade deadline approaches. With three seasons of team control remaining, the southpaw would not come cheap. The Tigers would be looking for multiple young pieces to help in their rebuild. The Phillies have been seriously linked, and this appearance makes for an interesting showcase.
WEDNESDAY – Jordan Zimmermann (33/RH): 0-7, 7.51 ERA, 4.59 FIP, 1.686 WHIP, 76 hits over 56.1 IP across 12 starts with a 40/19 K:BB ratio. Zimmermann, who missed the bulk of the 2009-10 seasons while with the Washington Nationals after undergoing Tommy John surgery, had elbow pain earlier this year. That condition drove him to the IL, causing him to miss the entire month of May and much of June. Since returning he has not been good. Over his last three starts, the veteran has allowed 28 hits over just 11 innings with a 9/4 K:BB. His season results say that he won’t last long, won’t register many strikeouts, and is likely to be hit hard. He has faced the Phillies 16 times in his career, most of those with the Nationals, with a career 4.17 ERA and 1.316 WHIP in those outings. The Phillies have to hope that he doesn’t somehow turn back the clock to his 2013-14 NL All-Star past in this one.

THE SKIPPER

Ron Gardenhire: The 61-year-old is a native of Germany, born to a U.S. military family stationed at Butzbach in what was then West Germany back in October 1957. He became a 6th round choice of the New York Mets in the 1978 MLB Draft out of the University of Texas, and played for the Mets over parts of five seasons from 1981-85, spending 1982 as their starting shortstop.
After his retirement, ‘Gardy’ was hired as a manager in the minor league system of the Minnesota Twins, serving there from 1988-90. He then served for 11 years as the Twins third base coach, after which Gardenhire was given his first shot as a big-league skipper by Minnesota in 2002.
Over 13 seasons he guided Minnesota to a 1,068-1,039 record and six division championships. It was nearly seven, as his 2008 club lost a one-game playoff to the Chicago White Sox after the two clubs finished the regular season in a tie for first. His first 2002 team lost the ALCS to the Angels in five games.
In April of 2014, Gardenhire became the 60th skipper in big-league history to win 1,000 games, just the 10th to do it with one team. However, over his final four seasons the team deteriorated to big losing campaigns, finishing in last place three times and ending his tenure.
Gardenhire spent the 2017 season as bench coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and during the season also underwent prostate cancer surgery. After the season was over he was hired to guide the Tigers rebuilding program in October 2017.
Gardnehire’s son, Toby, was drafted by the Twins in 2005 and rose through their system to the Triple-A level. After his retirement as a player, Toby Gardenhire was given an opportunity at managing. He is now skipper of the Low-A Cedar Rapids Kernels in the Minnesota farm system.

THE BALLPARK

Comerica Park: Opened in April 2000 to replace historic Tiger Stadium, the team’s previous home from its own 1912 opening, Comerica Park has a seating capacity of just over 41,000 fans. Tigers are everywhere you look. Not just talking about the players here. There are no fewer than nine statues of the animal spread around the ballpark, including a giant 15-foot tall cat at the main entrance and a pair of Tigers on the left field scoreboard whose eyes light up when a Detroit player cranks a home run.
In the left-center concourse, more statues are found in the Tigers Hall of Fame, including of legendary great players such as Ty CobbAl Kaline and Hank Greenberg.
Field dimensions are 345 and 330 feet down the left and right field lines respectively. It is a deep 420 feet out to dead-center field, 370 to left-center, and 365 to right-center field.
Nick Castellanos, a pending free agent who is a hot trade target as the deadline approaches, recently called the ballpark a “joke“:
This park is a joke,” Castellanos said, per the Detroit News. “It’s to the point where how are we going to be compared to the rest of the people in the league in terms of power numbers, OPS, slugging and all that stuff when we got a yard out here that’s 420 feet straight across center field? I mean, they can move in center and right-center field. There’s no reason I hit a ball 434 feet off (Nationals right-hander) Anibal Sanchez and it goes in the first row.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

TUESDAY: There is a 30% chance of isolated thunderstorms at the 7:10 PM EDT first pitch, but this will not be a rainout, nor should there be any significant delays, if any at all. Winds will be almost non-existent, and temps will drop from the low-70’s into the upper-60’s during the game.
WEDNESDAY: Mostly sunny for the 1:10 PM EDT scheduled first pitch and throughout the game. Winds will remain light, and temps will range from the mid-upper 70’s.
Detroit, Michigan forecast from The Weather Channel