Phillies-Giants: What you need to know
Phillies (41-54) vs. San Francisco Giants (53-41)
1:35 p.m. on PHL17
If the Phillies don’t sell prior to July 31, they’ll have missed a great opportunity to shed some payroll and stock a fledgling farm system.
It’s becoming more and more clear with each game that this team doesn’t have a miraculous second-half run in it. Even if the starting pitching and offense excel, the Phillies’ bullpen simply can’t protect ties or hold leads.
On Saturday, Cole Hamels blew an eighth-inning lead and Jonathan Papelbon’s control disappeared in the 10th as the Phils fell to 2-9 in extra-inning games.
How bad have the Phillies been in late innings? Well, the bullpen has 18 losses, 18 blown ties and 13 blown saves. The Phils are 11-18 in one-run games.
Maybe they’ll build a large enough lead Sunday afternoon to avoid another late meltdown. They’ll need to, because it’s hard to imagine Papelbon is available after throwing 36 pitches Saturday.
Luckily, the Phils face a hittable lefty in Barry Zito.
Joe Blanton (8-8, 4.79 ERA) faces Zito.
Blanton’s pitched very well in three of his last four starts and has turned into a big-time strikeout pitcher over his last eight outings.
In those eight starts, Blanton has struck out at least six batters in every game and totaled 54 strikeouts to just six walks in 56 innings.
If Blanton turns in another decent performance on Sunday, his trade stock could rise even more. If the Phils can acquire an intriguing minor-leaguer for a half-season of Blanton, that’s a small victory.
Zito is 8-6 with a 3.75 ERA, but you never know which Barry Zito is going to show up. He has 10 quality starts in 18 chances and an ERA of 4.56 over his last 13 outings.
It’s funny to see a pitching matchup like Blanton vs. Zito, because Blanton has incredible strikeout (102) and walk (16) numbers, while Zito’s are among the worst in the game. Zito has 59 strikeouts and 49 walks in 105 2/3 innings.
In six career starts vs. the Phils, Zito is 3-3 with a 4.75 ERA.
Difference in bullpens
Saturday’s game showed you how important it is to have relievers with put-away stuff. The Giants don’t send out pitchers late in games crossing their fingers and hoping to get outs. No, they have Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla.
Lopez is death to lefties – they’re hitting .198 off him since 2009. Lopez induced a Ryan Howard groundout to start the ninth inning Saturday.
Then there’s Romo, he of the 0.64 ERA. He finished the ninth by getting two outs on seven pitches. No member of the Phillies’ bullpen has a pitch as devastating as Romo’s slider, and Romo’s not even San Fran’s closer.
That job belongs to Casilla, who took over for the injured Brian Wilson. Casilla picked up his 24th save in 30 chances Saturday.
You look at the Giants’ pen and you see why they’re 7-1 in extra innings and 21-14 in one-run games.
Current Phillies are hitting .321 off Zito, with Placido Polanco leading the way. His numbers off Zito are silly – Polly is 12 for 16 for a cool .750 batting average.
Sunday would be a good day for Polanco to get back on track. He’s 7 for 51 since June 28 with one extra-base hit, two RBI and two runs. That’s about as little as you can do over 13 starts.
Angel Pagan, who was ejected from Saturday’s game for arguing balls and strikes, has hit Blanton very well. A New York Met from 2008-11, Pagan is 8 for 15 off Blanton with two homers and a triple.
Which player would you try hardest to trade before July 31?