Phillies-Braves 5 Things: Ben Lively Vs. R.A. Dickey as Phils Hope to Stop Lining Out

Phillies (21-36) at Braves (25-32)
7:35 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on and the NBC Sports App

The Braves on Wednesday picked up the most lopsided win of the series but it's the Phillies who have a chance tonight to take 3 of 4.

Let's take a look at the series finale:

1. Feelin' Lively
Ben Lively gave the Phillies one of their best starts of the season on Sunday in his major-league debut: 7 innings, 4 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 0 strikeouts. 

Manager Pete Mackanin was effusive in his praise of the 25-year-old right-hander after the game, making sure to mention his efficiency and attacking style on the mound.

Lively likely won't be able to survive by walking three batters each start because he doesn't have the kind of put-away stuff that can routinely enable a pitcher to work out of a jam. He's not a strikeout pitcher and the organization knows that, but it was still noteworthy that he recorded 21 outs against the Giants without whiffing anyone.

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In that start, Lively induced swinging strikes on only 5.1 percent of his pitches, well below the league average of 10.3 percent. When you're getting weak contact and quick outs, that kind of pitch-to-contact ability makes it fun for the fielders and for the fans to watch. But on an unlucky night when an extra groundball or two finds a hole, a pitcher who lacks swing-and-miss stuff to that degree will struggle. We've seen it several times with Zach Eflin the last two years.

It may have been the adrenaline of a debut, but Lively's fastball and sinker both averaged close to 92 mph, a tick or two above his usual range.

The Braves have an aggressive lineup, which could play into Lively's favor if he's able to hit the corners for strike one.

2. A lack of luck
The Phillies have played themselves into this major-league-worst record, there's no doubt about that. But they've also been unlucky. Last night, they squared up five or six balls that resulted in lineouts. There's little you can do about that.

Maikel Franco had two of those himself, lining out twice to center field. Both were great swings. Franco is 25 for 44 this season on line drives, a .568 batting average. The league average on line drives is .630, and Franco last season hit .633. 

If his batting average on line drives this season was even mediocre, he'd have three more hits. Three more hits would have him hitting .230 rather than .215. So, no, bad luck doesn't explain all or most of Franco's struggles but it has played a role.

Ordinarily, I'd say that the good swings Franco had Wednesday night could or should lead him to a nice upcoming stretch, but with Franco one game rarely seems to have a bearing on the next.

3. Hard to soft
The Phillies last night dealt with Mike Foltynewicz and his upper-90s fastball. Tonight they have an entirely different look in knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and that's probably why the Braves' rotation is set up the way it is.

Dickey, like Bartolo Colon, has had a rough first year in Atlanta. Dickey is 3-4 with a 5.10 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in 11 starts. He's allowed 12 home runs in 65⅓ innings, and his opponents have hit .296 against him at home.

Dickey has thrown his knuckleball less than usual this season. The last three years, he was at about 88 percent. This season he's thrown it 83 percent of the time and used his sinker a bit more. That sinker is the pitch the Phillies need to take advantage of when they see it - Dickey's opponents are 15 for 27 (.556) against the pitch with two doubles, a triple and four homers.

In 13 career starts vs. the Phils, Dickey is 5-5 with a 3.12 ERA. But they've done a better job against him the last two seasons, scoring 10 runs off him and reaching base 26 times in 18⅓ innings.

Current Phillies have gone 21 for 71 (.296) against Dickey with nine extra-base hits. Michael Saunders is 3 for 7 with two homers and a double. Freddy Galvis is 4 for 14 with a triple and a homer. Odubel Herrera is 2 for 5 with a longball.

4. Odubel update
Mackanin, Matt Klentak, writers local and national ... I don't think anyone's ever going to be able to explain Odubel Herrera's ebbs and flows. He's such a unique player and we've seen that this week, as he's broken out of a long skid in the most eye-popping way possible.

In five games in June, Herrera is 11 for 20 and all 11 have been extra-base hits. He's the first Phillie ever to have 11 straight hits go for extra bases.

His 11 extra-base hits this month are four more than anyone in baseball and five more than anyone in the National League, and Herrera didn't even play the first game of the month.

Herrera's pair of doubles in last night's 14-1 loss gave him 21 for the season, which puts him alone in the major-league lead ahead of Nolan Arenado. Herrera is on pace right now for 60 doubles.

In the span of five games, his OPS has increased by 121 points from .588 to .709. And as bad as his May was, this uptick in extra-base power is exactly what the Phillies wanted to see in Year 3. Herrera's already tied his 2016 total with 21 doubles, and he's on pace to finish with 74 extra-base hits, which would be 32 more than his career-high.

Despite hitting 35 points below his career average, Herrera's slugging percentage of .418 is just one point below his career rate.

5. Bullpen change
The Phillies will make a move today to replace left-hander Joely Rodriguez in the bullpen. Rodriguez was designated for assignment last night after another poor outing. He just didn't throw enough strikes, walking 15 batters and hitting four in 27 innings. He also allowed 37 hits.

It was one of the worst seasons imaginable for a left-handed reliever. He faced 66 lefties and put 31 on base for a .470 OBP.

The Phillies will likely replace Rodriguez with a player who was not on the 40-man roster when Thursday began. That could be switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, who has a 1.20 ERA at Triple A and allowed 13 hits in 30 innings.

Other candidates would be fellow lefties Hoby Milner and Cesar Ramos.

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