Phillies vs. Cubs
7:05 p.m. on CSN
After taking care of the Padres in a three-game sweep, the Phillies (28-36) welcome the National League's worst team to Citizens Bank Park. At 26-38, the Cubs are 12 1/2 games out of the NL Central race and have a better record than only the Tampa Bay Rays.
This series ends a six-game homestand for the Phillies. The Phils are just 15-19 at home, but their pitchers have a 3.26 ERA at CBP. Only eight teams have a better home ERA. The Phils have been better at preventing runs at Citizens Bank Park than some teams that play in offensive death traps, including the Mariners, Dodgers, Rays and Twins.
Here are five things you need to know about the opener of another series the Phillies must win:
Two knocks away
Could tonight be the night Jimmy Rollins sets the all-time Phillies hits record?
Rollins is just two hits away from surpassing Mike Schmidt for the franchise milestone. And considering Rollins has hit in seven consecutive games, it's looking like he's going to wrap this thing up quickly.
Over his last seven games, Rollins is 7 for 26 (.269) with three walks, a double, two homers, four RBIs and four runs scored.
He's 0 for 4 lifetime against Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, but Rollins has hit right-handers slightly better (.254 BA, .429 SLG) than he's hit lefties this season (.247 BA, .394 SLG).
Makings of a balanced bullpen?
Antonio Bastardo pitched a perfect inning Thursday, his fourth in a row. Bastardo's ERA is all the way down to 3.34, and he's allowed just one run over his last 13 innings.
Ken Giles debuted Thursday and, after allowing a cheap, opposite-field homer, struck out Alexi Amarista swinging on a slider in the dirt to end the game.
Jake Diekman also pitched Thursday, striking a batter out in a 1-2-3, 13-pitch inning.
With these three power arms and Jonathan Papelbon in the 'pen, the Phillies' biggest weakness in April is turning into their biggest strength this summer.
Papelbon has a 1.42 ERA. Diekman is striking out more than 12.0 batters per nine innings, and if you take away his two disastrous outings (one of of which was meaningless), his ERA is 2.45 in 28 appearances.
At the very least, the Phils are building trade chips in Papelbon and Bastardo. At most, the unit has a chance to spark an unlikely midseason turnaround.
Depth from Roberto?
The Phillies could sure use some innings out of Roberto Hernandez, who over his last three outings has totaled 15.
Hernandez (2-4, 4.35) hasn't thrown as many strikes as the Phillies would like. He's walked 32 batters in 62 innings and 40 percent of his pitches this season have been balls.
As a result of running deep counts, Hernandez has averaged a whopping 17.9 pitches per inning this season. That's an average of 90 pitches every five innings.
Hernandez faced the Cubs at Wrigley Field in his first start as a Phillie on April 4, when he allowed two runs on three hits over 5 1/3 innings in a 7-2 Phils win.
In the series opener the Phillies face Cubs right-hander Arrieta, a former Orioles prospect. Arrieta was dealt to Chicago on July 2, 2013 with reliever Pedro Strop in exchange for starting pitcher Scott Feldman and reserve catcher/first baseman Steve Clevenger.
Arrieta had a 5.46 ERA in 69 appearances in the AL, but since moving to the National League is 5-3 with a 3.18 ERA. His last time out, he shut the Marlins out over six innings, with just three hits allowed, no walks and seven strikeouts.
Current Phillies are 4 for 25 (.160) off the 6-foot-4, 28-year-old.
This season, Arrieta has thrown five pitches: a four-seam fastball and two-seam fastball that each average 95 mph, a slider at 90, a curveball at 80, and on rare occasions a changeup in the high-80s. As you see, there isn't a huge difference in the speed of his pitches.
Lefties have hit .302 against Arrieta this season, compared to .257 from righties. His opponents have hit just one home run in 150-plus plate appearances. That homer belongs to Seth Smith, who just left town with the Padres.
Cubs at CBP
The Phillies are 50-29 against the Cubs since 2002, including a 24-13 record at home.
The Phils haven't lost a series to the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park since 2001. They're 9-0-3 in the 12 series over that span.
At 11-24, the Cubs have the worst road record in the majors in 2014.