Phillies-Brewers: What you need to know
Phillies (54-65) at Milwaukee Brewers (54-64)7:10 p.m. on CSN
The Phillies had problems at the plate, in the field and on the mound in Friday’s 6-2 loss that dropped them behind the Brewers in the NL wild-card standings. They managed just four hits off starter Yovani Gallardo, and up one with two outs in the fourth, Domonic Brown dropped a ball in deep right field that was generously ruled a two-run triple. Vance Worley couldn’t execute after that, giving up a two-run single to Gallardo then hitting and walking the next two batters before striking out Ryan Braun on three pitches to end the inning.
There weren’t too many positive signs Friday night, but the good news is that Cole Hamels carries his 22-inning scoreless streak into Saturday’s contest.
Hamels (13-6, 2.91) has pitched shutouts his last two times out; the only other pitcher to accomplish that feat this season is the rapidly declining Johan Santana.
Hamels hasn’t allowed a run since the third inning at Nationals Park on Aug. 2. Since then, Hamels has allowed 14 hits in 22 scoreless innings, walking one and striking out 15.
Hamels didn’t face the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park last month. He’s 5-2 with a 3.41 ERA vs. Milwaukee in nine starts. He’s allowed just 45 hits in 60 2/3 innings for an opponents’ batting average of .208.
The Brewers counter with rookie revelation Mike Fiers (6-5, 2.63).
Fiers allowed eight runs in two innings at Coors Field his last time out to raise his ERA all the way from 1.80. Prior to that, Fiers had allowed a total of six runs in his last eight starts.Solving Fiers
Fiers was drafted out of high school in the 22nd round of the 2009 draft and forced his way to the bigs by pitching brilliantly at every minor league level. Last season in his first stint at Triple A, Fiers went 8-0 with a 1.11 ERA.
His peripheral numbers this year are very good – 81 strikeouts to 16 walks in 82 innings. He’s been especially effective against righthanded batters, who are hitting .204 off him in 162 at-bats. Lefties are at .273.
Like most young pitchers who come out of nowhere to have success, Fiers has been successful at limiting damage with runners on base. It’s what we saw from Worley last season, and from J.A. Happ in 2009 and 2010. Fiers has a .161 opponents’ batting average with two outs and runners in scoring position, and a .184 mark in high leverage situations.
Like teammate Marco Estrada, whom the Phillies faced Thursday, Fiers’ effectiveness wanes as the game wears on. Hitters have a .537 OPS against Fiers the first two times through the batting order, but that jumps to .711 in round three.
Expect the Phillies to stack the lineup with lefties, per usual.
It starts at the top
Jimmy Rollins is 1 for 9 in the series and has seen just 3.4 pitches per plate appearances. He leads the National League with 372 outs made, and his .305 on-base percentage is hard to look past out of the leadoff hole. Regardless of loyalty, Rollins’ comfort level in the leadoff spot and his occasional power, .305 is unacceptably low for a table-setter.
It may seem like this is normal for Rollins, but it’s not. From 2003-11 he had a .332 OBP.
Rollins also leads the NL with 32 infield flies. Next closest on that list is Dan Uggla, with 23.
No rest for Utley
Saturday was the 29th straight game for Chase Utley, who has sat out just twice since returning on June 27. If Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro thought his knees needed a break, they’d rest him, but Utley looks like his normal self.
He’s hitting just .240 on the season, but he has a .353 on-base percentage and a .473 slugging percentage. In August, he’s hitting .246/.386/.509 for an OPS of .894.
This is a shocking stat, but despite being 10 games under .500, the Brewers have three of the top four in the NL in terms of extra-base hits. Aramis Ramirez is tied with the Reds’ Jay Bruce, with 57. Braun has 55 and Corey Hart has 54.
The last trio of teammates to finish 1-2-3 in their league’s extra-base hits leaderboard? Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle and Bill “Moose” Skowron for the 1960 Yankees.
Playing the matchups
Braun, Ramirez and Hart are a combined 14 for 62 (.226) off Hamels, with five home runs, two walks and 16 strikeouts. Rickie Weeks is 2 for 17.
The lefties in the middle of the Phils’ order will be counted on to produce against Fiers. It would be ideal for Brown to drive a ball or two off the equally inexperienced starting pitcher. Brown has barely driven the ball since his call-up, but did hit a pair of line drives Saturday, one fair, one foul.Sound off
If Hamels has a strong final nine starts but the Phillies finish far below .500, is he worthy of Cy Young consideration? Who is your current NL Cy Young pick?E-mail Corey Seidman at email@example.com