Phillies-Giants 5 Things: Tossing Ben Lively Out in Hopes of Rotation Turnaround - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Phillies-Giants 5 Things: Tossing Ben Lively Out in Hopes of Rotation Turnaround



    Phillies-Giants 5 Things: Tossing Ben Lively Out in Hopes of Rotation Turnaround
    Phillies-Giants 5 things: Tossing Ben Lively out in hopes of rotation turnaround

    Phillies (17-35) vs. Giants (23-33)
    4:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on and the NBC Sports App

    The Phillies' terrible, horrible, no good, very bad May bled into June. The bats stayed silent as Giants starter Ty Blach threw a seven-hit shutout. To make it worse, Jerad Eickhoff lasted just eight outs and the Phils gave up 10 runs, losing 10-0 to the disappointing Giants.

    Best part of baseball? None of that matters the next day. Ben Lively makes his MLB debut while the Giants trot out veteran Johnny Cueto for a Saturday afternoon first pitch.

    Here are five things to know for the second game of this series:

    1. Living Lively
    The Phillies are on to their eighth different starter of the season with Lively making his debut on Saturday.

    How'd Lively start in the organization? He came over on New Year's Eve in 2014 from Cincinnati in return for Marlon Byrd. Quite the throwback, eh?

    Lively has taken off with the Phillies. Between Double and Triple A last year, he went 18-5 with a 2.69 ERA over 170 2/3 innings. He struck out 139 batters, walked 42 and gave up just 118 hits, good for a 0.94 WHIP.

    In his second turn with Lehigh Valley, he went 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA, striking out 45 and walking just seven in 56 1/3 innings.

    He's a four-pitch guy who lives in the low 90's with his fastball, mixing in a slider, curveball and changeup. Baseball America had him as the Phillies' No. 18 prospect going into this season and praise him as a polished strike-thrower.

    The 25-year-old righty has earned an opportunity with his performance, although the opening for his debut was created by Zach Eflin's three-start stretch in which he gave up 22 runs over 15 innings. Eflin's struggles combined with Vince Velasquez's injury means Lively has a long leash. If he can put up reasonable results, or anything resembling that, he could have an extended stay in the majors.

    2. A rotation under fire
    Eickhoff's start Friday was the end of a poor turn through the Phillies' rotation.

    The Phillies went 6-22 in May and gave up 5.82 runs per game. The team had a 5.53 ERA for the month, made worse by the starting rotation's 6.55 ERA over the 28 games. 

    None of the team's starters have thrown a quality start since May 21, a game which the Phillies still lost thanks to their concurrent hitting slump. In the last five starts, the starters have gone just 18 innings and given up 22 runs (20 earned). Three of their starters have lasted three innings or less, taxing the bullpen in the process.

    Overall, Jeremy Hellickson leads the starters with a 4.45 ERA and is the only starter with an ERA better than 5.00. Each starter has a ERA worse than last season. 

    Like with Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco, the pitchers will need to play their way out of this slump. Some of the Triple A starters have pitched well, but Nick Pivetta didn't quite perform well enough in his stint and Velasquez's injury means there isn't pressure on many spots right now. Each of these starters showed glimpses or even an entire season worth of MLB-quality stuff last year. The Phillies simply can't afford to have everyone take a step back at once, so anyone returning to last season's numbers would be a huge boost.

    3. Keeping up with Cueto
    While Lively makes his first career start, Cueto is set to make his 270th in what has been an impressive career.

    The 2015 World Series champ has had two All-Star appearances and three top-six Cy Young finishes. He no longer hits 97 mph with his fastball but still utilizes hesistation and an ever-changing windup to throw off batters and gain an advantage.

    He lives off a 91-94 mph fastball and cutter, mixing in a sinker. His changeup and slider are his main off-speed offerings. His fastballs have been hit well this year, but his off-speed stuff is still effective.

    However, he's struggled to the tune of a 4.37 ERA this season. He's allowed 11 home runs and has allowed long balls at his worst rate since his rookie year in 2008. He's also giving up more walks and hits than a year ago, although he has one of the best strikeout rates of his career.

    Cueto could be a trade candidate with the Giants mired in last-place of the NL West. He's under contract for four more seasons, but he can opt-out of his contract after this season and has expressed interest in returning to the American League.

    The Phillies have hit him well during his career. He's 1-4 against the Phils with a 5.37 ERA and gave up 10 runs over 13 2/3 innings last season. Current Phillies are just 11 for 57 off him, but Herrera and Cameron Rupp each have home runs against him. Herrera, in fact, is 3 for 10 with a double, triple and homer.

    4. Players to watch
    Phillies: Howie Kendrick is just 1 for 7 vs. Cueto, but he's 6 for 16 since coming off the disabled list on Monday.

    Giants: Eduardo Nunez has made some big defensive mistakes this season when the Giants tried placing him in left field, but he's been better at the plate. He's hitting .288 and had three hits in Friday's series opener.

    5. This and that
    • The Phillies are a paltry 11-22 vs. teams under .500 this year. They didn't reach 18 games under .500 last year until Sept. 28, when they had just five games left in the season.

    • The Phillies haven't won a season series vs. the Giants since 2011. They're 11-21 against them in that span.

    • Two Phillies batters with at least 20 plate appearances hit .300 in May: Tommy Joseph and Aaron Altherr, who both hit exactly .300. They combined for 13 home runs and 19 runs scored.