Phillies-Pirates: What you need to know
Phillies (34-40) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (38-33)
7:05 p.m. on CSN
To show you how unlucky the Phillies have been and how much managerial decisions have affected them, consider that the Pirates’ run differential is only three runs better than the Phils', yet Pittsburgh is 5½ games better.
The Phillies’ 10-game homestand ends with four games against the Pirates. The Phils are 3-3 during the homestand; they won two of three against the Rockies and lost two of three vs. the Rays.
It was a wildly disappointing Sunday afternoon for the Phils. Cole Hamels exited with a 1-0 lead after seven brilliant innings. He threw 111 pitches but labored in only one inning. His removal was a questionable decision that backfired immediately, as Antonio Bastardo allowed a three-run homer to Carlos Pena that decided Game 1 of the doubleheader.
Baseball is seen by some as a momentum-less game, but Sunday truly felt like the kind of day where the team that won Game 1 would win Game 2. If the Phils hung on, they’d be riding a hot streak with Cliff Lee opposing a bullpen by committee in Game 2. Instead, the Phils lost another excruciating game and series.
The bright side is that Monday begins a new week and Chase Utley could be back before June turns into July.Starting pitchers
It’s Joe Blanton and Jeff Karstens in Game 1.
Blanton is 6-6 with a 5.04 ERA. Karstens is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts, one of which came against the Phillies in the opening series of the season. Karstens hasn’t started since April 17 because of shoulder problems.
The results weren’t great for Blanton his last time out – he allowed five runs on three homers over seven innings in a Phillies win – but he struck out six, walked none and said he felt like he had good stuff. That game was a microcosm of Blanton’s season. He has 74 strikeouts to just 12 walks for the second-best K/BB ratio in all of baseball, but he’s allowed 17 homers in 91 innings, the second-most in the NL to Mat Latos.
Blanton has been especially prone to the longball lately, having served up 15 bombs in his last 42 innings pitched. Yuck.
Karstens shut the Phillies down on April 7, allowing just six baserunners and one run over six innings.Karstens’ repertoire
It’s nothing special.
Karstens goes sinker-slider-curveball-changeup, and nothing is harder than about 90 mph. The curve has historically been his best pitch.
Karstens is susceptible to lefthanded batters. In his three full seasons as a starter, lefties have hit .305 with a .885 OPS. He’s allowed one less home run to lefties than righties, in exactly 100 fewer plate appearances.Jimmy’s on fire
Jimmy Rollins, who is 6 for 15 lifetime off Karstens, is as hot as we’ve seen him in years. Rollins is batting .323 in June and has raised his average from .239 to .266.
He’s been even better lately. Over the last 12 games, Rollins is 20 for 51 (.392) with 10 extra-base hits, including three homers on the last three days in which the Phillies have played. Prior to that stretch, he had 15 extra-base hits in 59 games.So is McCutchen
Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen has singlehandedly saved the Bucs’ offense, which ranks 28th or lower in nearly every important category.
With zero protection, McCutchen has hit .340 with 13 homers, 13 doubles, four triples, 45 RBI and 14 steals.
No other Pirate is hitting higher than .259.
McCutchen leads the Pirates in hits, runs, doubles, triples, homers, RBI, steals, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. He’s also hitting .390 with RISP.Key matchup(s)Hunter Pence vs. Karstens
Pence saw Karstens a lot when he was an Astro – he’s 9 for 24 off him with a homer. Pence’s last home run was on June 2, 20 games and 90 plate appearances ago.Rod Barajas vs. Joe Blanton
It’s a problem anytime Barajas comes to Citizens Bank Park. Barajas hit .175 with one home run in 57 at-bats at CBP as a Phillie in 2007. Since then, he’s hit .452 with seven homers in 31 at-bats at the Phils’ home stadium.
Barajas is 4 for 13 off Blanton with four doubles.Sound off
Will Utley’s return be enough to prevent the Phillies from falling completely out of the NL playoff race?E-mail Corey Seidman at firstname.lastname@example.org