Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (July 31, 2018 – Source: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images North America)
The Boston Red Sox face a brutal final month and a half of baseball, facing several playoff-bound teams prior to the postseason. This daunting schedule begins with a trip to Pennsylvania to take on the Philadelphia Phillies. The Sox and the Phillies previously split a two-game series in Fenway, and both teams have a lot to play for. Without further ado, here is the Boston Red Sox vs Philadelphia Phillies series preview.
Two-Game Rematch: Boston Red Sox vs Philadelphia Phillies Series Preview
Despite their impressive record, Philadelphia is not a team which wins through its’ offensive prowess. The Phillies offense currently ranks 20th in runs, 29th in average, 25th in slugging, and 16th in home runs. Essentially, this is a subpar offense which shouldn’t be a major threat to the Red Sox.
While the overall unit is weak, there are still a few good bats in the Philadelphia lineup. Chief among the offensive weapons is left fielder Rhys Hoskins. The second-year Philly is having a solid season in the pros, posting a .255/.367/.499 slash line with a 132 wRC+.
The other biggest bat on the Phillies belongs to third baseman Maikel Franco. However, the fact that he’s the second best bat on the Phillies speaks a lot about the current state of Philadelphia’s offense. Franco currently owns a fairly unremarkable .277/.319/.480 slash line was an accompanying 109 wRC+. He’s barely better than a league average hitter, yet he’s the second-best bat in the Phillies lineup.
While the Phillies bullpen is an above average unit, it’s still not an elite grouping by any means. Philadelphia’s bullpen boasts the 12th best ERA, 10th best FIP, and the 9th best WAR. While it’s a good unit, it’s certainly not the reason for Philadelphia’s 65-52 record. The main reason the Phillies are tied for first in the NL East is that of their fantastic starting rotation.
Game One: Rick Porcello vs Nick Pivetta
The first time the Red Sox played the Phillies, the Sox had to face Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. This time, they will face an easier task in starting pitcher Nick Pivetta. Pivetta currently owns an unremarkable 4.51 ERA over 119.2 innings, but his underlying numbers suggest he’s a better pitcher than his ERA implies.
Pivetta currently owns a 3.47 FIP, over a full point below his ERA. This suggests he’s been highly unlucky, and other peripherals back that up. Pivetta currently has a .339 BABIP, while the league average sits around .290. His 11.06 K/9 is above league average, and he induces ground balls at a 45.3% rate. He’s not as good as the aforementioned Nola or Arrieta, but he should still pose a decent threat to the Red Sox offense.
Rick Porcello, meanwhile, is coming off of an ugly start against the Toronto Blue Jays in which he allowed seven runs in just four innings to give him a season-long 4.17 ERA and a 3.81 FIP. Overall, the righty is having a better season than those numbers indicate, as they are somewhat inflated by a few horrible outings. These pitchers are at a similar skill set, so the deciding factor should be the offense. As previously established, the Red Sox offense is considerably better than the Phillies. The offense should be the difference in this matchup.
Game Two: ??? vs Vince Velasquez
Vince Velasquez is no ace, but he’s yet another solid member of the Philadelphia Phillies rotation. In 23 appearances (22 starts), Velasquez owns a 3.98 ERA, 3.92 FIP, and a 1.22 WHIP. While he’s not primarily a strikeout pitcher, he still owns an impressive 10.02 K/9 while increasing his swinging strike rate from 9.1% in 2017 to 11.6% in 2018.
Velasquez is essentially a three-pitch player, but he favors his fastball considerably, throwing the pitch 65.3% of the time. His average velocity is 93.9 miles per hour, which is pretty good for a starter. He also uses his slider 14% of the time and his curveball 16.1% of the time. Neither pitch is elite, but they both play well off his fastball. He also throws a changeup 4.5% of the time, but that’s only to keep batters guessing.
The Red Sox will counter with either Nathan Eovaldi or Brian Johnson. During his short Red Sox tenure, Evoldi has been either dominant or terrible. In his first two starts, Eovaldi pitched a combined 15 scoreless innings. In his most recent start, he allowed eight runs in 2.2 innings. The real Eovaldi lies somewhere in the middle, as he’s typically good for six to seven innings of two to three run ball. However, if his cutter isn’t working, it could be a long night for the Red Sox.
Johnson pitched an inning of relief Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles, so he may not be available to start on Wednesday. However, Alex Cora hasn’t ruled him out, so the Sox will likely play it by ear. Johnson has been a pleasant surprise as in 2018, posting an impressive 3.21 ERA as a starter. While he doesn’t have the best stuff in the world, he consistently gives the Red Sox a chance to win any time he takes the hill.
No matter which pitcher takes the mound, both should be good enough to match Velasquez pitch for pitch. Neither guy is an ace by any means, but both guys are quality starters. Once again, Boston’s elite offense should be able to give the Phillies more than it can handle.
The Philadelphia Phillies are a good team, and won’t be easy to take down on the road. That being said, the Phillies are a team powered by their starting pitching, and the Red Sox won’t have to face their two best starters like they did last time.
Rick Porcello and Nick Pivetta are rough equals on the mound, with Porcello probably holding the slight edge. The Red Sox vastly superior offense should lead the Sox to victory. Likewise, Eovaldi and Velasquez are pretty equally matched pitchers, so by the same logic, the Red Sox should win the second game. Even if Johnson ends up pitching, the talent gap between Johnson and Velasquez is easily eclipsed by the talent gap between the Red Sox and Phillies offense. Once again, the Red Sox offense should prevail.
It’s baseball, so obviously anything could happen, especially in a shortened two-game series. However, the Red Sox should be favored in both games. Look for the Red Sox to sweep the series and continue their run of success.