The Blue Jays start a series in Philadelphia tonight.
The Phillies are fourth in the NL in runs scored per game at 4.55 and fourth best in runs allowed per game at 3.70.
I sent off some questions to Liz Roscher of The Good Phight, (the name isn’t her fault) SB Nation’s Phillies blog and she was kind enough to answer.
I guess I have to ask about an old friend, you guys have Drew Hutchison on the team. What’s his role and how is he doing?
Hutchison has been an all-purpose reliever guy for the Phillies. Lately he’s done mop-up and long relief, but he started the season doing mostly one inning appearances. He’s exactly the same guy you remember. He’s... fine. He had a 5.79 ERA after four appearances, and then worked it down to under 3.00 in his next five, which included a five-inning relief outing. And then he coughed up five runs in three innings to the Cardinals last week, so we’re back to square one. The Phillies need long relief, and right now, Hutchison is that guy. Glowing praise, I know.
Can we have a quick scouting report of the starting pitchers the Jays will face?
Zach Eflin’s starting on Friday, and he has an improbable 1.56 ERA. I think everyone is holding their breath, waiting to see when the real Zach Eflin shows up. He’s capable of being brilliant, but he’s also capable of being really, really awful. We haven’t seen the awful version of Eflin yet this season, and we know he has to make an appearance sometime. The Jays could bring it out in him! On Saturday it’s Aaron Nola, and so I’m very very sorry. Jays hitters will want to get to him early, because once he gets rolling he’s unstoppable. On Sunday you’ll see Nick Pivetta, who like Eflin is having a breakout that might or might not be real. Lately, Phillies pitchers have been decent on strikeouts, but have been gangbusters at inducing soft contact. That means there’s more reliance on the defense, which can be fine, but can also be a disaster. The Phillies have been careening between both extremes lately.
Odubel Herrera is having a break out season or a breakout start to the season. Do you think he can keep up this level of hitting?
Herrera can definitely keep up this level of hitting. This is his fourth year in the majors, and he’s been an outstanding hitter for all of them. He’s always had the Chase Utley “get on base however you can” mentality, but he’s been showing off some power this year that I did not expect. He’s just exceptional and so fun to watch. He’s always in the spirit of the game, always having a good time playing the game he loves. When he bats, he’s got this leg kick that’s integral to his swing. Watching him time pitchers and figure them out is just a joy. He’s the best position player on the Phillies, hands down.
The NL East has a great 4 team race, how do you see it turning out. What do you think of the Phillies chances?
I didn’t think it would be this tight! Not early, and definitely not 50 games in. The Phillies are holding their own, and both the Phillies and Braves have benefitted from an early-season Nationals slump. That slump is definitely over, and the race is on. In the end, I think the Nationals will come back and win the division. They’re just too good. But both the Braves and the Phillies will be fighting it out for a wild-card spot. At least that’s what I hope will happen. It still feels like it’s too much to hope for!
Who is your favorite Phillie to watch?
I gave it away earlier with my answer to the question about Odubel Herrera, so I’ll pick a few others. On the pitching side, it’s definitely newcomer Seranthony Dominguez. He was a starter until this season, and made it through Double-A and Triple-A in less than two months. He’s a flamethrower who regularly touches 98-99-100 on the gun, and watching him put guys away is magical. He is something special for sure. On defense, it’s Jorge Alfaro. For a big catcher guy, he’s tremendously athletic. (He recently ran from first to home in 11 seconds after running all the way from first to third and back (!) during the previous at-bat. It was ridiculous.) But his main asset is his arm. Jays hitters should run on him at their own risk, because the guy’s got a cannon. He’s been flashing 89mph on his throws from home to second, and he’s incredibly accurate. I almost wish hitters would run on him so I could watch Alfaro (whose nickname is “Oso” aka “Bear”) gun them down (metaphorically).
How is Gabe Kapler doing as manager? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Gabe Kapler’s main strength is that he’s clearly beloved by nearly every single Phillies player. After the disaster that was his first few games, they got behind him in a major way. There’s clearly a lot of stuff he does for them behind the scenes that we don’t know about. Rhys Hoskins was on MLB Network Radio recently, and when the hosts tried to joke around about Kapler’s love of health food and insane workouts, Rhys wasn’t having any of it. He wouldn’t even joke about it. His greatest strength is that the players trust him implicitly, which is an incredible feat considering how badly his first week was. His greatest weakness is his penchant for over managing. You can see it start to happen, almost like he’s holding your hand and his grip slowly gets tighter and tighter until you suddenly can’t feel your fingers anymore. His instinct with relievers is to play the matchups instead of trusting a guy for a whole inning, so when he starts to get fancy about relievers, you know that he feels the game is slipping away and wants to stop it from happening. He’s gotten so much better at this in a short time, but when it happens, just watch out because it’s usually a mess.
Our fanbases have a shared grief over the loss of Roy Halladay. What did the Phillies do to celebrate Halladay? I can’t remember the death of someone I had met having ever effected me so much.
It’s been months now and I still have a hard time talking about Roy Halladay. I loved him more than I loved any baseball player, even more than Chase Utley and Cole Hamels. He spent just a short time in Philly, but he was beloved by everyone. Everyone. The Phillies are inducting him onto their Wall of Fame in August, alongside Pat Gillick, but for now that’s all they have planned. I think they’re trying to be respectful of his family, which is still grieving and trying to move on with their lives (oh Lord now I’m crying while writing this), and of the Blue Jays, where Roy pitched for the majority of his career. In the aftermath of Roy’s death, I know there was some bad blood between fanbases over how Roy was being remembered by the media. He spent the most years in Toronto, a place where at least one of his sons considers his home, but two of his most stellar years came with the Phillies when they were at the height of their playoff run. It’s unbalanced, and even unfair, that many pictures at the time showed him in a Phillies uniform. And I completely understood where the anger came from. (Philadelphia sports fans in general have the ability to just suck the air out of a room.) But I think most of the anger was amplified because losing Roy was so tragic and so unexpected. We all thought we had many, many more years to talk about him and honor him and playfully argue over which fanbase loved him the most. His death meant that those arguments were over, because Roy’s story was over. In the end, it doesn’t matter who loved him the most. Both fanbases are lucky, luckier than any other in baseball, that they — we! — had the pleasure and privilege of Roy Halladay pitching for our teams. He was a legend. The Phillies will eventually retire his number, I’m almost sure of that. The Phils don’t typically retire numbers until a player has been elected to the Hall of Fame. For Roy, that will almost assuredly happen next year. And it will be completely right that his plaque will show him in a Blue Jays uniform. I’m just glad we get to have a little piece of his legacy.
Honestly, I didn’t notice anything about bad blood, I think I was sad enough about his passing that I didn’t care about little things. Thanks Liz.