Phillies-Brewers: What you need to know
Phillies (43-54) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (44-51)7:05 p.m. on CSN
Monday’s thrilling, 7-6 walk-off win showed exactly how much better the Phillies are with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the lineup.
That’s not to say Howard and Utley will be instrumental in four-run ninth innings every night, but without them on Monday the Phillies likely would have scored just two or three runs in a long, frustrating loss. Howard went 3 for 5 with a homer, double and a two-run single, and came mere feet away from a second bomb. Utley was 1 for 2 with a homer and three walks. It was just the second time this season a Phillie has walked at least three times in a game (Hunter Pence, June 24).
The Phils look to build on their two-game winning streak by taking their home series with the Brewers on Tuesday night. A win would ensure the Phillies can’t end their quick homestand worse than 3-3.
They’ll have their work cut out for them, though.
Cliff Lee just can’t catch a break, huh? He pitched eight brilliant innings last time out, but the Phillies’ lack of run support for their lefty manifested again vs. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Tonight, Lee has the duty of facing Brewers ace Zack Greinke.
Greinke, 9-3 with a 3.57 ERA, is on the radar of more than a few teams as the trade deadline nears. With Lee’s name appearing in the rumor mill, there figure to be plenty of scouts monitoring Tuesday’s action.
Greinke has 117 strikeouts and just 28 walks. He hasn’t been hurt by the home run ball, either. He allowed two in his last start, a poor one vs. Pittsburgh, but he’s sitting on just seven gopher balls for the year.
Greinke had a 2.82 ERA entering July but has allowed 14 earned runs in 14 innings this month. That came after a brilliant June in which Greinke allowed less than a baserunner per inning and pitched to a 1.70 ERA.
Since being traded to Milwaukee prior to the 2011 season, Greinke just hasn’t been the same pitcher away from Miller Park. He’s 15-0 with a 2.93 ERA at home during that span, and 10-9 with a 4.56 ERA everywhere else.
The Phillies have avoided Greinke since 2007. He’s only made two career appearances against them, both as a Kansas City Royal. It’s not even worth showing how he did, because one of those appearances was a reliever and he faced names like Abraham Nunez and Wes Helms in 2007 and David Bell and Ricky Ledee in 2004.
Lee looks to keep rolling whether he’s supported or not. The numbers still don’t sparkle – Lee is 1-6 with a 3.72 ERA – but he’s allowed five runs and 21 baserunners over his last 21 innings. Naturally, the Phillies are 1-2 in those games despite Lee going eight innings twice.
Lee has faced the Brewers three times as a Phillie. In two outings last year, he allowed three runs in 13 innings but took two no decisions.Let the big dogs eat
Howard’s season batting line is up to .237/.356/.605 after Monday’s game. He has four homers and eight RBI, and six of his nine hits have gone for extra bases. He’s started four consecutive games, but it’s almost impossible to sit him based on how he saw the ball last night.
Utley is at .239/.325/.448 with four homers and 10 RBI in 77 plate appearances. Monday’s start was his seventh in a row and 12th in the Phillies’ last 13 games, but with how locked in he’s been of late, he needs to start, too.
For a second straight season, Utley has returned to everyday duty almost immediately after returning from an injury that mostly lacked a timetable.
Protect the park
A win on Tuesday would be the Phils’ third in a row at home, where they are an NL-worst 19-29.
The Phillies’ last streak of more than two wins at home was completed on May 18, when they beat the Red Sox after taking two from the Astros and one from the Padres at Citizens Bank Park.
Current Phillies are hitting .284 off Greinke, but remove Placido Polanco’s 14-for-40 line from that equation and the Phils are 11 for 48 for a .229 clip.
If Polanco’s back keeps him out of action again, Ty Wigginton could start. Wigginton is 4 for 16 lifetime off Greinke with three doubles.
Greinke’s platoon splits are almost identical – .262/.306/.378 vs. lefties and .259/.301/.356 against righties.
The Brewers’ two most dangerous hitters – Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez – area combined 5 for 18 (.278) with one double and one homer off Lee.
Ramirez is the key for Lee. He is a notorious first-pitch swinger and Lee throws a ton of first pitch strikes. This season, Ramirez is 19 for 55 (.345) with seven doubles and three homers on the first pitch. He’s a .324 career hitter on the first pitch with 70 of his 325 home runs.
Lee leads the majors with a first-pitch strike to 71.2 percent of batters.
Was Monday’s win the best of the season?E-mail Corey Seidman at firstname.lastname@example.org