7:10 PM EST – Line: Red Sox -113, Over/Under: 11
A pair of teams that are desperately trying to cling to fading postseason hopes meet tonight as the Philadelphia Phillies travel to Fenway Park to battle the Boston Red Sox in the first leg of a brief two-game Interleague Series. After an ambitious Offseason, expectations were high for the Phillies (64-60, 3rd in NL East), who invested heavily in reinforcements this past winter, though have nonetheless endured an uneven campaign. With roughly six weeks left in the Regular Season, it safe to say that Philadelphia has largely disappointed in 2019 due to a variety of reasons, ranging from a rash of injuries robbing of them of key personnel for long stretches, to an underachieving Pitching Staff failing to live up to their billing, and a certain $330 Million Man who has taken his sweet time in acclimating to the City of Brotherly Love. On the Injury/Suspension Front, Gabe Kapler has lost one of his premier Free Agent Acquisitions, former MVP Outfielder, Andrew McCutchen (.256 BA, 59 G, 56 H, 45 R, 12 2B, 10 HR, 29 RBI, 43 BB, 55 K) to a torn ACL, while Odubal Herrera (.222 BA, 39 G, 28 H, 12 R, 10 2B, 1 HR, 16 RBI, 11 BB, 33 K) to a 60-Day Suspension after the emerging Centerfielder ran afoul of the league’s Domestic Violence Policy. The Pitching Staff has been without Seranthony Dominguez (3-0, 4.01 ERA, 27 G, 24.2 IP, 24 H, 13 R, 3 HR, 12 BB, 29 K, 1.459 WHIP) since early June after the former Closer tore ligaments in his elbow, while one of their Starters, Jake Arrieta (8-8, 4.64 ERA, 24 GS, 135.2 IP, 149 H, 76 R, 21 HR, 51 BB, 110 K, 1.474 WHIP), is heading towards season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs in his Right Elbow. That’s bad news for a Staff that’s already without another Starter, Jared Eickhoff (3-4, 5.71 ERA, 10 GS, 58.1 IP, 58 H, 37 R, 18 HR, 18 BB, 51 K, 1.303 WHIP), until the end of August with tendinitis in his Right Bicep. The club has really struggled in this regard, ranking towards the bottom of the National League in a slew of pitching categories, including Team ERA (4.59, 11th Overall), Saves (29, 11th Overall), Hits (1,114, 13th Overall), Runs (607, 11th Overall), Home Runs (200, 15th Overall) and Walks Allowed (415, 9th Overall), as well as Strikeouts (1,042, 13th Overall). And then there is Bryce Harper (.252 BA, 122 G, 114 H, 74 R, 30 2B, 26 HR, 90 RBI, 83 BB, 145 K), whom the club made their most expensive signing in franchise history on the strength of a 13-year, $330 Million Contract. The former NL MVP was very slow to validate such an investment, leading the league with 145 Strikeouts, but has definitely flexed his muscles of late; Harper has slugged .550 since the All-Star Break with Ten Home Runs and Twenty-Eight Runs Batted In over thirty-two games in comparison to hitting just Sixteen Homers over ninety games before the Midsummer Classic. Taking the mound tonight for the Phillies will be Aaron Nola (11-3, 3.56 ERA, 26 GS, 154.1 IP, 134 H, 65 R, 21 HR, 60 BB, 173 K, 1.257 WHIP), who has been by far and away the most consistent member of their Rotation, particularly over the campaign’s second half. After a dazzling 2018 which saw him win seventeen games and post a 2.37 ERA and 0.975 WHIP en route to his first All-Star Game, Nola got off to a slow start this season, but since the All-Star Break has rounded back into form; the 26-Year Old had recorded a 3-1 record with 3.09 ERA and 1.145 WHIP in Seven Starts since the Intermission, exhibiting finer control with a Strikeout/Walk Ratio that has since risen from 2.82 to 3.06. When we last saw him, he was absolutely masterful in an 11-1 thumping over the Chicago Cubs, relinquishing only One Run on Three Hits, including a Home Run, with Seven Strikeouts opposed to One Walk over Seven Innings of labor.
Meanwhile, following a horrid stretch in which they lost twelve out of fifteen games, the Red Sox (67-59, 3rd in AL East) appear to be authoring a final stand of sorts, as they look to climb back up the Standings in pursuit of a return to the Playoffs. Heading into this series with Phillies, the reigning World Series Champions stand 6.5 Games out of the final Wild Card in the American League, trailing Division Rival, Tampa Bay. Winners of five consecutive outings, Boston must rely upon their bats to make the necessary leap up the Standings, for it isn’t likely to come from their Pitching Staff, which we’ll discuss shortly. During this current run of form, Alex Cora’s charges are batting a blazing .335 and slugging .631 with a 1.026 OPS, scoring Thirty Runs on Sixty Hits, with Eighteen Doubles, and Nine Home Runs. The heart of the Order, consisting of Mookie Betts (.284 BA, 124 G, 139 H, 113 R, 34 2B, 21 HR, 64 RBI, 87 BB, 86 K), Rafael Devers (.327 BA, 122 G, 163 H, 101 R, 44 2B, 26 HR, 97 RBI, 38 BB, 88 K), Xander Bogaerts (.308 BA, 121 G, 148 H, 94 R, 41 2B, 27 HR, 92 RBI, 61 BB, 100 K), and J.D. Martinez (.307 BA, 114 G, 140 H, 77 R, 27 2B, 28 HR, 73 RBI, 53 BB, 104 K) has produced as expected, with Betts leading the charge during this recent stretch, batting .318 and slugging .727 with Seven Hits, Four Doubles, a Triple, and a Home Run over the past five games. Though he hasn’t been quite as productive as he was in his stellar 2018 campaign, the reigning AL MVP is leading the American League in Runs Scored (113). Taking the mound tonight for the Red Sox will be Brian Johnson (1-1, 6.45 ERA, 10 G, 22.1 IP, 35 H, 18 R, 5 HR, 10 BB, 17 K, 2.015 WHIP), the utility man whom Cora has utilized in a variety of ways throughout the campaign. With their veteran arms, Chris Sale (6-11, 4.40 ERA, 25 GS, 147.1 IP, 123 H, 80 R, 24 HR, 37 BB, 218 K, 1.086 WHIP) and David Price (7-5, 4.36 ERA, 21 GS, 105.1 IP, 108 H, 57 R, 15 HR, 31 BB, 136 K, 1.320 WHIP) both hitting the 10-Day Disabled List due to elbow and wrist maladies respectively, the Manager must scour the depths of his Pitching Staff for a solution. As we mentioned earlier, Boston’s pitching has been a major problem area for them in 2019, ranking Eighth in the American League in Team ERA (4.71), Thirteenth in Saves (24), Ninth in Hits Allowed (1,108), Tenth in Runs Allowed (646), and Twelfth in Walks (440). Making just his sixth start of the season, Johnson has proven to be no more effective than many of his teammates in the Pitching Staff, struggling with his command en route to averaging 6.9 Strikeouts per Nine Innings opposed to 4.0 Walks over that same frame, along with a miserable 14.1 Hits allowed as well. This has led to a career-worst 2.015 WHIP , burying the 28-Year Old further into the Bullpen. When we last saw the Lefthander, he was playing his part well in a 5-1 victory over the surging Cleveland Indians, providing 2.2 Scoreless Innings, in which he yielded One Run on Three Hits, with a Strikeout and a pair of Walks.