The battle between Major League Baseball’s two Pennsylvania teams begins Friday night when the Philadelphia Phillies play the host Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a three-game series. This will be the first time the two teams have played this season, with another three–game series to follow in Philadelphia in late August.
The Phillies come into the series off a split of a four-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which is akin to a long winning streak considering how good the Dodgers have been this season. Still, Philadelphia is third in the National League East, 7.5 games behind first-place Atlanta. But the Phillies are also among five teams within 1.5 games of each other in the race for the two Wild Card spots in the National League. Pittsburgh was hoping to make a run for postseason contention, but the Pirates have gone 1-5 since the All-Star break to fall 4.5 games behind the second Wild Card spot and 6.5 games behind first-place Chicago in the National League Central.
The moneyline for this contest has the Philadelphia Phillies -110 and the Pittsburgh Pirates -100. The over/under for the game has been set at 10.5.
Veteran right-hander Jake Arrieta will take the mound to start this one for Philadelphia. Arrieta is 8-7 on the season with a 4.54 ERA and has been consistently inconsistent. The longest winning or losing streak he’s had this season has been two games. He had a rough start to July, giving up five earned runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Mets, but he came back with a five-inning effort in which he allowed just one earned run and four hits in a no-decision against Washington last weekend.
The Philadelphia offense was also inconsistent against the Dodgers, scoring 16 runs in their two wins and four runs in their two losses. Rhys Hoskins leads the Phillies with 20 home runs, but he has just one in 13 games in July. Bryce Harper has started to heat up this month, batting .313 with four doubles, two home runs, and 10 RBI, and his leadership will be just as important as his bat as the Phillies make their playoff push.
Pittsburgh looked to be a potential player in the playoff picture heading into the All-Star break, winning 12 of its last 17 prior to the break, but they’ve looked uninspired in their first six games since the break. The Pirates are hoping an off day on Thursday coupled with starting a seven-game homestand turns that around. Right-hander Jordan Lyles tries to get things turned around, for the team and for himself, as he comes in on a personal five-game losing streak. On the season, Lyles is 5-6 with a 5.16 ERA, though at one point this season, he was 5-1 with a 2.81 ERA, so he’s fallen way off in recent weeks.
The Pirates’ offense could pick up some of the slack after averaging just 2.6 runs since the All-Star break. Josh Bell has been the man for Pittsburgh this season, ranking among the National League leaders in RBI (first with 84), home runs (fourth with 27), runs (seventh with 71) and slugging percentage (third with .623). Unfortunately, that hasn’t been evident recently, as he has just one home run and four RBI in his last 10 games, with all of that production coming before the All-Star break.
Phillies Win Opener
Philadelphia is brimming with confidence after going toe-to-toe with the team with the best record in baseball over the last four days. The Phillies also have the definitive edge on the mound in this one, even if Arrieta isn’t the same pitcher he used to be. I’m taking Philadelphia -110 to win the opener of the series.