The dog days of summer are upon us. In the last few weeks the Phillies (53-67) have DFA’d Laynce Nix and Delmon Young, picked Casper Wells up off the waiver wire, given Ethan Martin 3 starts while penciling him in to start Monday’s game against the Rockies, are taking serious looks at Darin Ruff and Cody Asche to ascertain if they’ll be ready to start the 2014 season as everyday players and continue bringing in relief pitchers from Lehigh Valley as the DL list grows. The Phils 25 man roster continues to change week by week, but since the All-Star break there have been two constants; the Phils have won just 5 times in 24 games – a .208 winning percentage, and have scored 2 runs or less in exactly half those games.
Meanwhile it’s anything but the dog days for a resurgent L.A. Dodger (70-50) team that comes to South Philly this weekend. The Dodgers entered the All-Star break at 47-47, but have come out roaring in the second half. They’ve won 23 of 26 as they ride an eight-game winning streak coming into Citizens Bank Park Friday night.
In what looks to be a premier pitching match-up of two former Cy Young winners Zack Grienke 10-3, 3.21 ERA squares off against Cliff Lee 10-5, 3.18 ERA. Greinke was the prize among free agent pitchers the past offseason. He hasn’t disappointed. Greinke, a RHP fractured his collarbone in a brawl the second game of the season back on April 11th. After missing 5 weeks on the DL Greinke struggled in his first 4 starts after coming back, but has since found his groove. In his last three starts he’s 2-0 with a ND, pitching to a 1.83 ERA. In those games Greinke has pitched 19.2 innings while striking out 18, walking 4 and only allowing one long ball.
After losing 3 straight starts Lee didn’t factor into the decision in last Saturday’s 8-5 loss to Washington. In six lifetime starts against the Dodgers Lee is 2-1 with a 1.40 ERA and 0.887 WHIP. In 45 innings he’s racked up 49 SO’s and has limited the free passes to 7 and HR’s to 2. In Lee’s last six starts his ERA has gone up every game. After a June 24th start against the Padres where Lee went 8 innings and gave up just 2 ER, his ERA sat at an impressive 2.53. Today, it’s 3.18 and he’s 1-3 in that time frame. In Lee’s first 16 starts he gave up 2 ER or less 11 times. Since then he’s given up 3 or more ER in each start.
Saturday night the Phils face perennial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw who is 0-4, 4.31 ERA lifetime against the Phils in 8 starts. Kershaw is having another monster year leading the NL in ERA and WHIP and is 2nd in SO’s. This is Kershaw’s 3rd straight year leading the league in ERA and WHIP. Among all active starting pitchers with at least 1,000 innings Kershaw has the lowest WHIP, coming in at 1.093. To beat Kershaw the Phils will need a great start by the struggling Kyle Kendrick and some timely hits. In 25 starts this season Kershaw’s allowed 3 ER just 4 times and 4 ER twice. In his other 19 starts it’s been 2 ER or less. He’s allowed zero ER in 6 games and 1 ER in 8 games. There’s no such thing as an easy win when facing the 25 year-old lefty.
The aforementioned Kendrick (10-9, 4.48 ERA) will need to be at his best to give the Phils a shot at victory. If history is to be our guide it doesn’t look good for the Phils. Kendrick is 5-5 lifetime against the Dodgers but has a 7.36 ERA. In his one start against the Dodgers this year Kendrick is 0-1, giving up 10 hits and 4 ER in 6 innings. In his last 3 starts Kendrick has struggled badly. In 12.1 innings he’s given up 25 hits and has a 10.22 ERA.
In Sunday’s series finale the Dodgers will send recently acquired right hander Ricky Nolasco 9-9, 3.62 ERA to the mound to face the Phils Cole Hamels. Nolasco came over to the Dodgers for a trio of pitching prospects back on July 7th. Nolasco has been everything the Dodgers expected and more. He’s 4-1 since joining the Dodgers with a 2.97 ERA. Nolasco has three starts against the Phils this year while pitching for the Marlins. He was 0-1 with 2 ND’s, posting a 3.37 ERA for the NL’s worst club. However in his his last 3 starts for the Dodgers Nolasco has come away with the W. Though he’s only pitched 16.1 innings total his ERA in those games is 2.75 and he’s handed the ball to the pen with a lead.
The Phils will counter Nolasco with their best pitcher the last month and a half and their opening day starter, Cole Hamels 5-13, 3.65 ERA. Hamels has pitched like the ace he was expected to be when he signed his massive contract extension last July right before the trade deadline. Hamels has been the victim of poor run support most of the year and didn’t get off to a great start himself, but lately he’s looked more and more like the guy the Phils made the centerpiece of their team moving forward. Hamels won his last start, a complete game 1-run effort against the Braves Monday night. His two starts before that he gave up a total of 2 ER in 15 innings but didn’t figure in either decision. That’s been the story for much of the year with Hamels. Since July 4th Hamels is only 3-2 in eight starts despite a 1.98 ERA. He’s on top of his game right now but with the inconsistent offense the Phils run out every night, it’s hard to think of any game as an easy take down…and certainly not against a team that’s 23-3 in their last 26 games.