Phillies-Dodgers 5 Things: Tough Assignment for Jake Thompson in 3rd Start

Phillies (56-64) vs. Dodgers (66-52)
7:05 p.m. on CSN

Wednesday's game between the Phillies and Dodgers should feel more like a baseball game and less like the Welcome Home party for a loved one that Tuesday was. Chase Utley returned to Philly last night, received several powerful standing ovations and drove in as many runs as the Phillies scored in a 15-5 loss.

It's expected that Utley will lead off again tonight, and he'll get similar ovations, but the scene won't be as dramatic because it won't be the first time. Utley admitted to feeling nerves in his first at-bat Tuesday but quickly moved past them. 

Last night's game was almost a subplot. Tonight, things will slowly move closer to normalcy.

1. Thompson's third try
Rookie right-hander Jake Thompson makes the third start of his big-league career tonight against a tough offense. 

It's the third straight start for Thompson (1-1, 8.68) against an NL West opponent. He allowed six runs in 4⅓ innings to the Padres on Aug. 6 before rebounding to allow three runs on two hits and three walks over five innings vs. the Rockies last Friday.

By holding down a deep and powerful Rockies lineup, Thompson showed his stuff can play at this level. Unlike in his first start, Thompson was able to command his slider and pick up some K's against Colorado. 

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The next step for Thompson will be working ahead of hitters and showing more control out of the stretch. Thompson threw a first-pitch strike to just 10 of the 22 hitters he faced in his last start, and when he was forced into the stretch in the second inning he fell behind 2-0 to all four hitters he faced with men on base. 

The Dodgers are another tough test for the 22-year-old. With Chase Utley, Corey Seager, Josh Reddick, Adrian Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal, they have five powerful left-handed bats. Then there's Justin Turner and Howie Kendrick, who are both hitting the ball with authority late in the summer.

Thompson should take a page out of Vince Velasquez's book from last night and mix his pitches early on. Velasquez's velocity ranged from 79 mph to 97 as he struck out the side in the first inning Tuesday. He used five different pitches. The Dodgers have enough hitters who live up the middle or consistently hit the ball the other way that a pitcher can't just try to spot his fastball on the outside corner.

2. Dodger depth
Pete Mackanin and the Phillies will be glad when the Dodgers leave town. The Phils are 1-3 against them over the last week, and have been unable to hold down many hitters in their lineup.

Kendrick is 8 for 14 with two doubles, a triple, two homers and six RBIs. Utley is 5 for 17 with three homers, six RBIs and two walks. Seager is 7 for 18 with two doubles and two homers. Grandal is 6 for 13 with a double, three homers, six RBIs and seven runs. 

This is probably the deepest lineup in the National League right now.

3. Second crack at Kazmir
The Phillies beat Scott Kazmir in last week's series finale, but it was more of a tough-luck loss for the lefty. He allowed three hits over six shutout innings to begin the game, then gave up a single and walk to begin the seventh and was lifted. Freddy Galvis proceeded to hit a game-winning three-run homer off reliever Grant Dayton and two of those runs were charged to Kazmir.

Kazmir is 9-6 with a 4.44 ERA in 23 starts. He's struck out 132 batters in 127⅔ innings, and held lefties to a .200 batting average.

Kazmir has odd home-road splits. At home, he's 4-6 with a 4.11 ERA and .264 opponents' batting average. On the road, he's 5-0 with a 4.88 ERA and .207 opponents' batting average. He's been less hittable but more homer-prone away from Chavez Ravine.

In certain starts this season Kazmir has thrown six different pitches: a four-seam fastball, sinker, slider, cutter, curveball and changeup. But against the Phillies last week he threw 55 fastballs, 28 changeups, 15 sliders and two cutters. That repertoire worked for the most part, so expect to see Kazmir employ a similar plan of attack as the Phils stack their right-handed hitters.

4. Rupp-date
Cameron Rupp homered again Tuesday night, his 14th of the season. It came on a hanging curveball from Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda.

Rupp has been on fire for nearly three months. Since June 1, he's hit .285/.356/.552 with 12 homers and 32 RBIs in 47 games.

But really, this offensive production dates back to last August. Over the last 365 days, Rupp has hit .266 with an .803 OPS, 21 doubles, 19 homers and 55 RBIs in 424 plate appearances. Rupp's .473 slugging percentage over that span is 31 points higher than Buster Posey's.

5. Red light for Hernandez?
• Cesar Hernandez has hit well out of the leadoff spot lately, batting .337/.444/.469 over his last 25 games with 19 walks and 22 strikeouts. He also has eight extra-base hits in those 117 plate appearances, which is a bit surprising for a slap hitter.

Hernandez's on-base percentage this season is .352. I remember writing before the season that if Hernandez and Odubel Herrera combined for an OBP above .340, the Phillies should be in decent shape offensively. Well, they've exceeded that mark, with Herrera at .364. 

But at least with Hernandez, his Effective OBP is lower because of how many times he's been caught stealing. When you factor in the nine caught stealings in 22 attempts, Hernandez's on-base percentage is essentially 20 points lower. He should probably stop trying to steal unless he gets an amazing jump. So far in his big-league career, his speed hasn't translated to above-average base-stealing ability.

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