Phillies (53-63) vs. Rockies (56-59)
7:05 p.m. on CSN
After splitting their six games on a West Coast road trip, the Phillies return to Citizens Bank Park Friday to begin a nine-game homestand.
First up: a series with the Rockies.
Complete coverage of the Fightin' Phils and their MLB rivals from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
1. Thompson's second turn
Jake Thompson's much-anticipated MLB debut did not go as planned. He allowed six runs in 4 1/3 innings last Saturday in San Diego, escaping the first inning only after giving up four runs.
Thompson, especially in the first inning, didn't have his usual command of his sinker and slider. He missed low and away off the plate to right-handed hitters frequently throughout the short outing, throwing 18 of his 83 pitches in that specific zone. That's usually a sign of a pitcher nibbling or trying to perfectly place his pitches. In Thompson's case, he had runners on base in the first inning and appeared to be focused on getting an inning-ending double play grounder, as he did with regularity in Triple A.
Thompson was a hot pitcher at the time of his promotion. He had a 1.21 ERA across his last 11 minor-league starts. But as with Zach Eflin, that success didn't immediately translate for Thompson. Eflin responded with a 2.08 ERA over his next seven starts. We'll see tonight if Thompson can rebound as quickly.
2. Another look at Gray
The Phillies face 24-year-old Rockies right-handed Jon Gray, a hard thrower who pitched well against them right before the All-Star break. In July 8 at Coors Field, Gray allowed just two runs and three hits to the Phillies over 6 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts.
Like most Rockies starters, Gray has been much better away from Coors Field. He's 8-5 with a 4.26 ERA overall, but his ERA on the road (3.71) is more than a run lower than it is at home (4.84). Gray has held his road opponents to a .221 batting average compared to .250 in Colorado.
Expect a lot of hard fastballs tonight. Gray's heater is one of the fastest among all major-league starting pitcher with a 95.5 mph average.
3. More playing time for Howard?
Ryan Howard is on another one of his late-season hot streaks, hitting .350 (14 for 40) since the All-Star break with four doubles and four home runs. His three-run double off Kenley Jansen Wednesday at Dodger Stadium put the game away for the Phillies and may have been Howard's most impressive AB of the year given how consistently dominant Jansen is.
Howard is up to .187 on the season and can finally get his batting average over the Mendoza line with another couple good games. He's hitting .199 against righties with 15 homers and an OPS of exactly .700.
Manager Pete Mackanin will be open to playing Howard a bit more over his final two months with the Phillies if he hits. He did start the last time the Phils faced Gray and went 0 for 4 in the game with a pair of strikeouts.
4. Rockies on the road
The Rockies, as always, have one of the majors' top offenses this season. And the Rockies' bats, as always, have been much quieter on the road.
Nolan Arenado is hitting .321 with a 1.072 OPS at home; on the road, he's hit .252 with a .787 OPS.
Carlos Gonzalez, who's missed most of the week with an ankle injury, is hitting .363 with a 1.117 OPS at home compared to .284/.770 on the road. (Gonzalez pinch-hit on Thursday so he may be close to returning to the lineup, which would be bad news considering he's always killed the Phillies.)
D.J. LeMahieu is a .378 hitter at home; .276 on the road.
Charlie Blackmon is the only Rockies regular who has nearly even home-road splits.
The Phillies won't have to deal with Trevor Story this time around — the rookie is out for the season with torn ligaments in his left thumb. Story went 5 for 15 with two doubles, two homers and six RBIs against the Phillies in July.
The Phils will, however, have to face another top Rockies rookie in outfielder David Dahl. Dahl, hitting .358 with seven extra-base hits and 10 RBIs, has started his career with a 17-game hitting streak. It's tied the major-league record for the longest hit streak to begin a career (Chuck Aleno, 1941 Reds).
5. This and that
• Odubel Herrera's playing time has been irregular lately with him sitting against most lefties. The Phils face one in this series, Tyler Anderson on Saturday. But Herrera should start at least the other two games in center field.
Herrera's plate selection has lacked lately — his walk rate was 16.3 percent in his first 54 games compared to 5.3 percent in his last 60 — but he actually has hit left-handed starters well this season. Herrera has hit .320 with a .407 OBP against lefty starters, but he's 1 for 36 against lefty relievers.
• Jim Thome will be honored prior to the game as the 38th inductee on the Phillies' Wall of Fame. In four seasons with the Phils, Thome hit .260/.384/.541 with 101 home runs.