9:40 PM EST – Money Line: Diamondbacks -132, Run Line: 8.5
Division Leaders clash in the desert as the Summer enters it’s final leg, as the Philadelphia Phillies travel to Chase Field to face the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first of a Three-Game Series in Phoenix, Arizona. After a disappointing Four-Game Losing Streak, the surprising Phillies (62-48, 1st in National League East) have managed to turn things around, winning each of their last four outings before last night’s Series Finale with the NL East-worst Miami Marlins. Gabe Kapler’s young charges have taken full advantage of the struggles of their contemporaries over the past two months, virtually coming out of nowhere to unseat the Washington Nationals atop the Division. Back on June 9th, Philadelphia was barely treading water at 32-30, but since that point have matured by leap and bounds, going an impressive 30-18 in the process. Power coupled with Pitching has led to this renaissance in the City of Brotherly Love, with a young Lineup consisting of the likes of Rhys Hoskins (.267 BA, 28 2B, 22 HR, 72 RBI), Odubel Herrera (.275 BA, 16 2B, 19 HR, 58 RBI), Maikel Franco (.274 BA, 14 2B, 18 HR, 56 RBI), and Nick Williams (.261 BA, 8 2B, 15 HR, 43 RBI), alongside veteran First Baseman Carlos Santana (.221 BA, 18 2B, 17 HR, 64 RBI) belting 132 Home Runs, the Fourth-Most in the National League. Santana, the only member of their regular Batting Order that is over the age of Thirty, flexed his muscles in Saturday’s 8-3 romp over the Marlins, going 3-of-4 including one of his tram’s Four Homers. Hoskins, on the other hand, failed to register a hit, but with a couple of Walks managed to extend his On-Base Streak to a Career-High Twenty-One Games. On the Mound, it’s been a similar formula for Philadelphia, buoying young talent with experienced veterans. 25-Year Old Ace Aaron Nola (12-3, 2.35 ERA, 142 K, 38 BB, 0.972 WHIP) has been borderline dominant throughout the campaign, while Zach Eflin (8-3, 3.61 ERA, 78 K, 18 BB, 1.110 WHIP) rebounded from a rough stretch (0-1, 6.92 ERA over his previous Three Starts) with a stellar outing against Miami. The 24-Year Old Righthander retired the first Twelve Marlins he faced, ultimately relinquishing just Three Runs on Four Hits, with Six Strikeouts and Zero Walks over the course of just Eighty-Five Pitches. Heading to the bump for tonight’s Series Opener with the Diamondbacks will be Jake Arrieta (9-6, 3.32 ERA, 87 K, 38 BB, 1.240 WHIP), the 32-Year Old World Series Champion, who has served as valuable mentor to this young Rotation. Deemed expendable by his former club in the Offseason, the Righthander has gotten better as the season has progressed, particularly of late; Arrieta has lasted at least Six Innings while yielding fewer than Two Earned Runs in Four out of his last Five Starts, including an impressive performance in last week’s 3-1 Win over the American League-leading Boston Red Sox. In what was clearly a difficult matchup, the former Cy Young rose to the occasion, permitting just One Run over Seven Innings of Quality Labor, Striking Out Seven Batter and Walking None. Kapler and his Staff had to be elated to see this kind of outing from the veteran, who landed 70% of his Pitches for Strikes, exhibiting far greater command than he did in the earlier stages of the term. Over the last Three Seasons, Arrieta has faced the Diamondbacks on Six Occasions, going 3-2 with a 2.54 ERA, while racking up Forty-Six Strikeouts in comparison to just Eight Walks. These teams met way back in April in a similar Three-Game Series at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia, in which the visiting side certainly got the better of the hosts, outscoring them 19-11 over the Series, including 16-6 in the two Arizona victories.
Meanwhile, it’s been a similar story for the Diamondbacks (62-50, 1st in National League West), though hardly as surprising, given their return to the Playoffs a year ago after a lengthy Six-Year Hiatus. However, as is the case with their opponent tonight, Arizona is peaking at the right time, while taking full advantage of the misfortune of the team that has reigned over the Division in recent years, the Los Angeles Dodgers. While the defending National League Champions continue to fall in the standings, Torey Lovullo’s charges have been in full-blown ascension mode for quite a while now; after a dreadful stretch which saw them drop Thirteen out of Fourteen Contests relegated them to a middling 25-24 back in late May, denizens of the desert have since gone a stellar 57-26, including their latest surge which has seen them prove victorious in Nine out of their last Thirteen Games. As a result, Arizona now leads Los Angeles by One Game in the Standings. Pitching has been the key here for this team, as the Diamondbacks rank among the National League’s best in most categories, including ERA (3.67, 2nd Overall), Runs Allowed (440, 1st Overall), Walks Allowed (343, 4th Overall), and Strikeouts (989, 3rd Overall). Veterans Zack Greinke (12-6, 2.96 ERA, 148 K, 25 BB, 1.044 WHIP) and Clay Buchholz (5-1, 2.68 ERA, 51 K, 14 BB, 1.105 WHIP) have been excellent, with the latter further augmenting one of the more stable Rotations in the Majors, while another Zack, this one Godley (12-6, 4.46 ERA, 130 K, 59 BB, 1.472 WHIP), is slowly returning to his impressive 2017 form. In Tuesday’s 6-0 beatdown of the Texas Rangers, the 28-Year Old Righthander put on a show, Striking out Ten Batters, while yielding just Two Hits over Seven Innings of Work. After a slow start to the campaign, he’s really been heating up over his last Five Starts, owning a 2.73 ERA with Thirty-Six Strikeouts in comparison to just Eight Walks in that span. If Godley can maintain this course of improvement throughout the second half of the season, than the Diamondbacks would have an excellent chance of being able to overcome some of the injuries they’ve sustained on the offensive side of things. All-Star Third Baseman Jake Lamb (.222 BA, 8 2B, 6 HR, 31 RBI) opted to undergo season-ending surgery to repair a frayed Rotator Cuff in his Left Shoulder, leaving a hole in the Batting Order that Lovullo hopes can be filled by the continued power of the likes of Paul Goldschmidt (.277 BA, 21 2B, 24 HR, 68 RBI), David Peralta (.296 BA, 22 2B, 17 HR, 54 RBI), Nick Ahmed (.247 BA, 24 2B, 16 HR, 57 RBI), and A.J. Pollack (.286 BA, 15 2B, 15 HR, 44 RBI). Ahmed, in particular was impressive in Saturday’s 9-3 Victory over the San Francisco Giants, blasting a pair of Home Runs and logging a quartet of RBIs. The 28-Year Old Shortstop’s development has been quite the surprise thus far, for in his four previous seasons before 2018 he had never hit more than Nine Home Runs with Thirty-Four RBIS in a single term. However, with Sixteen Homers and 57 Runs Batted In, he’s clearly making a name for himself, while helping fill the void left by Lamb.