Similar Starting Pitchers Open a Fun Phillies Series at Coors Field

Remember how terribly the Phillies' four-game series in Colorado went last season? This should be a different story.

Last September, the Phils were swept at Coors Field and outscored 39-7 by a playoff-bound Rockies team. That sweep ensured the Phils would finish with a losing record.

Expectations were high for the 2019 Rockies but they've started off on the wrong foot, going 6-12 in their first six series. They began 2-0, then lost 12 of 13 before winning three in a row.

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The 11-6 Phillies have gone 4-1-1 in their six series, five of which have come against NL East teams.

When: 8:40 p.m. - Pregame Live starts at 8

Where: NBC Sports Philadelphia+ and streaming live on the MyTeams app and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com 

Pitching matchup: Zach Eflin (2-1, 3.94) vs. Kyle Freeland (1-3, 5.40)

Facing Freeland

The Phillies will see lefty Kyle Freeland, who last year had maybe the best season ever for a Rockies starting pitcher, going 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA in 33 starts and an astonishing 10-2 with a 2.40 ERA at Coors Field. The narrative with Freeland is that because he's a Denver native, he's used to pitching at altitude.

Last year's fourth-place Cy Young finisher is off to a rough start. After a gem on opening day, he's allowed 13 runs and 29 baserunners in 14⅔ innings, failing to make it past the fifth inning.

There was a school of thought that Freeland was bound for regression this season because of his home park, the extended book the league now has on him, and his lack of consistent swing-and-miss stuff.

With Freeland, you will see mostly sinkers, cutters and four-seam fastballs. Those three pitches have accounted for more than 85% of his repertoire this season. He's a lanky, 6-foot-4 lefty with a three-quarters delivery who has good movement.

The cutter is the pitch that led him to so much success a season ago. He used it to jam right-handed hitters or backdoor them on the outside corner for strike three. He also used it against lefties, which you don't see all the time because a cutter in the strike zone against a same-handed hitter tends to move directly toward the barrel of the bat. 

Freeland's opponents have still struggled with the cutter this season but have teed off on his fastball, hitting .348 with three homers, three doubles and a triple.

Who's in, who's out?

Jean Segura and Odubel Herrera exited the Phillies' wins Tuesday and Wednesday with hamstring injuries. Segura is being considered day to day, while Herrera was taken out as a precautionary measure. Gabe Kapler described Herrera's injury as a hamstring cramp. Herrera was his typical smiley self in the Phillies' clubhouse after Wednesday's game.

The issue is, though, that the Phillies can't afford to carry two position players who both need to sit for a few days. It would leave them with a three-man bench in a four-game series that you know will feature a good number of pinch-hitters and/or early exits for pitchers.

We'll see this afternoon what the Phillies decide to do, whether one or both of Segura and Herrera are ready to return or if they have to send one to the IL to free up a spot for another position player.

Which Eflin shows?

Zach Eflin lived on the corners in his first two starts against the Nationals and Twins before a surprising stumble last Saturday in Miami. 

Eflin's outing showed that even the worst of teams can hit a fastball that catches too much plate or a breaking ball that hangs. 

It will be difficult to judge Eflin too strongly one way or another tonight because of what Coors Field does to most pitchers. He's started there twice, allowing two runs in six innings as a rookie in 2016 and five runs in 2⅔ innings last September.

The Rockies' lineup isn't currently as formidable as it was last season. Daniel Murphy, a big free-agent signing with batting title potential in that ballpark, broke his finger two games into the season and has been out since. Starting outfielder David Dahl was activated from the IL today.

The three big threats in Colorado's lineup are Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon. All three are off to relatively slow Aprils, but Arenado and Story are coming on. The Rockies are 0-5 at home but were eager to get back to Coors Field after spending most of their month on the road.

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