Phillies (28-56) vs. Padres (36-49)
6:35 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App
The Phillies' dreadful first half comes to a merciful end this weekend when they welcome in the San Diego Padres, the only team in baseball that has scored fewer runs or has a worse run differential than the Phils.
If they don't win this series ...
1. Weak-hitting Friars
The Padres are hitting .229 as a team. Their leading hitter, Manuel Margot, is batting .268.
San Diego has scored 16 fewer runs than the Phils and allowed 12 more. So as bad as it's been here, in some ways it's been worse for the Padres.
That said, San Diego is actually playing some decent baseball at the moment. Prior to Thursday's 11-2 loss in Cleveland, they had won three in a row over the Indians and Dodgers.
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The biggest difference-maker in the Padres' lineup is first baseman Wil Myers. He's cooled considerably, hitting just .208 with a .711 OPS since May 5, but Myers has a ton of power. He needs it in that home ballpark of his, which suppresses power on a nightly basis. Myers had 28 homers and 94 RBIs last season and enters this series with 16 and 42. He strikes out a ton, though - 106 on the year.
2. Juicy matchup for Pivetta
Nick Pivetta allowed one hit in his last start July 2 at Citi Field and could have similar success tonight against the light-hitting Padres.
Pivetta (2-4, 4.85) has pitched very well three of his last four times out, with the only bad outing being a start at hitter-friendly Chase Field in Arizona. In the other three, he allowed a single hit to the Mets, struck out 10 Cardinals in a quality start and whiffed nine Red Sox over seven shutout innings.
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said after Aaron Nola's last start (a successful one) that he thinks the success and occasional dominance Pivetta has shown has made an impact on the rest of the starting rotation. It certainly seems like he's given the staff a shot in the arm and given them something to strive toward. Pivetta is consistently in the mid-90s, misses bats with his fastball and, when he's on, uncorks some tight, impressive sliders.
3. Baserunning blunders galore
Thursday was as ugly as it gets from a baserunning standpoint for the Phillies, who had not one, not two, but three runners thrown out at second base.
All of them were nailed by Pirates leftfielder Jose Osuna, who threw out Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera by 10 feet on back-to-back plays. By doing so, Osuna became the first outfielder to throw out a runner at second on consecutive plays since Torii Hunter in 2001.
Look, some baserunning errors are a result of a team's trying to be aggressive. The Phillies don't score many runs so they do need to manufacture offense. But all of these plays were right in front of the baserunner. Herrera's mistake, in particular, was egregious because the ball lingered in the air forever, was picked up directly in his line of vision, and he had more than enough time to reverse course and go back to first base.
The Phils had six hits last night, but in reality, they had three since half of their hits resulted in an out made on the basepaths.
4. Making mediocrity look like greatness
The Phillies faced an average pitcher last night in Chad Kuhl and face another tonight in Padres left-hander Clayton Richard.
But this season, the Phillies' anemic offense has made No. 5 starters look more like No. 2 starters. Kuhl has a 5.03 ERA this season but it's 5.50 if you eliminate the two starts against the Phils.
The following pitchers have beaten the Phillies this season, and most of the starters on this list held them to one run or fewer in at least six innings: Kuhl, Brandon Finnegan, Hyun-Jin Ryu, A.J. Cole, Andrew Cashner, Tim Adleman, Scott Feldman, Edinson Volquez, Ty Blach, R.A. Dickey, Tyler Chatwood.
So it doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot that Richard enters tonight's game with a 4.85 ERA, a 1.51 WHIP and a .312 opponents' batting average.
Current Phils are 5 for 17 (.294) off Richard with two doubles, a triple, two walks and just one strikeout. Freddy Galvis has both doubles and Altherr has the triple.
5. This and that
• R.I.P. to Joaquin Benoit's trade value. His ERA is 4.54 after he allowed three runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning last night. The Phillies will probably be able to move him - Benoit had a poor first half and an excellent second half in 2016 - but they're not going to get much at all in return. Nor will they get much for Jeremy Hellickson, or Daniel Nava, or probably even Pat Neshek. The best return might come if they package two of those players together to the same team.
• Despite the mistakes on the bases, Altherr had a productive game Thursday night, going 2 for 2 with two RBIs and a walk. He's hitting .280 with an .866 OPS.
• Just going to leave this here: Maikel Franco has a .709 OPS the last two seasons with a home run every 26 plate appearances. Ryan Howard had a .716 OPS with a home run every 18 plate appearances in his final two seasons with the Phillies.