Phillies-Pirates: What you need to know
Phillies (36-40) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (38-35)7:05 p.m. on CSN
Monday’s win was easy. Tuesday’s victory took a solid effort from the Phillies’ bullpen. On Wednesday, Chase Utley returns.
Utley homered last night in his final minor league rehab game. He hasn’t played at all this season because of chronic knee soreness, but Utley is feeling good and appears ready to go.
It’s a huge boost for the Phillies, whose second basemen have compiled the worst on-base percentage in the National League and the second-worst OPS. Even a 2011 version of Utley would add about 100 points of OBP to the keystone corner.
But back to the game at hand – the Phillies can win their four-game series vs. the Pirates by taking Wednesday’s contest. The Phils are 19-5 against the Pirates all-time at Citizens Bank Park, where Pittsburgh has never won a series.Starting pitchers
The Phillies are going with a collection of relievers in Wednesday’s game. The doubleheader vs. Tampa Bay last Sunday messed up the Phillies’ rotation, and rather than add a player to the 40-man roster and call him up from the minors, the Phils will start lefty reliever Raul Valdes.
Valdes is 2-0 with a 1.84 ERA this season in 12 appearances. He hasn’t pitched since Saturday, when he struck out four over two scoreless innings. Valdes has pitched more than one inning five times this season.
The 34-year-old lefty has made one career start, in Oct. 2010 for the Mets. Valdes allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings that day, throwing 97 pitches.
The Pirates will send out righthander James McDonald, who is enjoying a stellar season and deserves a spot on the NL All-Star team. McDonald, 6-3, has a 2.19 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP, both of which are third-best in the National League. Opponents are hitting .195 off him.
McDonald has tossed a quality start 10 of the 14 times he’s taken the mound, and not once has he allowed more than three runs in a game. He got a no-decision when the Phils opened the season in Pittsburgh, but allowed just two runs over six innings while inducing 13 ground balls.
Like Tuesday’s starter, Erik Bedard, McDonald has been much worse on the road than at home. McDonald has a 1.63 ERA this season at PNC Park and a 3.09 ERA everywhere else.
The Phillies saw McDonald twice last year and tagged him to the tune of eight runs and 20 baserunners in nine innings.
A former 11th-round pick, McDonald was rated by Baseball America as the 56th best prospect in the game prior to the 2009 season. He was traded to the Pirates from the Dodgers at the 2010 deadline for reliever Octavio Dotel, who has been dealt six times and played for 13 different teams.
McDonald throws a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider and curveball. His velocity is between 91-93 mph. The slider is McDonald’s best pitch, but to show how dominant he’s been in 2012, he practically ignored the pitch his last time out and still gave up one run in a complete game.
Keep on Choochin’
Carlos Ruiz was hitting .337 on May 15. He then went 8 for 12 in his next three games to raise his batting average to .371, and he hasn’t fallen below .340 since.
Chooch leads all of baseball with a .361 batting average heading into Wednesday night’s game. He hit his career-high 10th home run Tuesday and collected his 11th three-hit game of the season.
Ruiz just hasn’t had a prolonged slump this season. He was 7 for 30 (.233) in his first nine games in June, but has gone 18 for 43 (.419) since. Just an unbelievable season,
Hunter Pence is 7 for 13 with a homer and two doubles off McDonald.
Utley, who may be in the lineup Wednesday, is 2 for 3 with two walks. (How good does it feel to read the first eight words of that sentence?)
What do you predict as Ruiz’ batting average at the end of the season?E-mail Corey Seidman at firstname.lastname@example.org