Phillies-Diamondbacks: What you need to know

Phillies-Diamondbacks: What you need to know
May 9, 2013, 3:30 pm
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Phillies (16-19) at Diamondbacks (19-15)

9:40 p.m. – CSN

The Phillies couldn’t complete their first sweep in San Francisco since 1984, but on Wednesday they accomplished something they hadn’t done much over the last two seasons: they got to an elite closer (see story).

The west coast road trip continues Thursday when the Phils begin a four-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-backs have won three in a row and four of five, thanks in large part to slugger Paul Goldschmidt, who is red hot.

Goldschmidt is 7 for 13 with four homers and nine RBIs in his last three games. The underrated right-handed first baseman looks even bigger than 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, and his bat speed is something to behold. He keeps the bat back on his shoulder until the very last second and yet still manages to turn on inside pitches, as he did for a game-winning homer on Wednesday.

Goldschmidt is the only Diamondback with more than four homers, but he is far from the only threat in Arizona’s lineup.

Old nemeses
Arizona has gotten very little from catcher Miguel Montero (.202 BA, .275 slugging percentage), Martin Prado (.281 OBP) and shortstop Cliff Pennington (.216 BA). Cody Ross started the year on the DL and has just one home run in 22 games.

But none of that really matters heading into this series, because the Phillies often struggle to retire Prado and Ross.

Prado is a career .303 hitter against the Phillies with 11 homers – four more than he has against any other team. And Ross … what even needs to be said?

Montero has struggled since the season began and has never done much against the Phillies (six RBIs in 23 games), but his track record suggests this slump will end very soon. From 2009-12, Montero hit .283/.361/.457.

First look at Corbin
Cole Hamels (1-4, 4.34) opposes 23-year-old lefty Patrick Corbin (4-0, 1.80).

Corbin, former second-rounder of the Angels traded to Arizona in 2010 as part of the Dan Haren deal, is off to a tremendous start. He’s holding lefties to a .160 batting average and doing a great job of limiting walks. Like Madison Bumgarner, who started the first game of the Phillies-Giants series, Corbin enters the game having yet to allow more than two runs in any start this season.

The Phillies have never seen Corbin.

Hamels on a roll
Hamels is on a roll. He has a 2.31 ERA and .172 opponents’ batting average over his last five starts, but only a win on the season to show for it. His last time out, he allowed two solo homers to the Marlins in a losing effort but cruised after that, retiring the final 13 batters he faced. It was also the first time in his last 16 starts that Hamels didn’t walk anyone.

Hamels is 4-1 with a 3.47 ERA in seven starts against the Diamondbacks, with all of those decisions coming at Chase Field. Hamels has pitched very well at Arizona’s hitter-friendly park, holding the D-backs to a .183 batting average. The longball has been a problem out there – six for Hamels in 34 2/3 innings – but he’s put on so few baserunners that it hasn’t mattered much (0.81 WHIP).

Bullpen breakdown
Arizona leads the majors with 10 blown saves, but the main culprit won't be featured in this series.

J.J. Putz (5 for 9 in save opportunities) is on the DL with a strained ligament in his elbow. Heath Bell is closing games for the Diamondbacks now and, believe it or not, he's pitching like his old, pre-Marlins self.

Over his last 12 appearances, Bell has a 2.25 ERA and 17 strikeouts to just two walks. He's 2-0 on the season with three saves and one blown save. Bell has pitched on back-to-back days, though, which may make him unavailable for tonight's game.

If that's the case, hard-thrower David Hernandez would likely get the nod.

The Youngs
One has shown impressive patience, and the other accomplished his goal on Wednesday by being overly aggressive, as always.

Michael Young worked a great plate appearance against Sergio Romo in the series finale, walking to set up heroics from Chase Utley and Delmon Young. The Phils’ third baseman walked in each game of the series and has 14 on the year, four more than any other Phillie. Last year Michael Young had 33 walks in 156 games.

Delmon Young, often criticized for a lack of plate discipline, tied the game Wednesday with a first-pitch sacrifice fly. It was the kind of situation where you wanted a good first-pitch hack. Too often in those situations we saw Jayson Werth work deep counts and either ground out to third base or strike out on a 3-2 count. Not every situation calls for patience or a walk. Had Delmon Young grounded into a game-ending double play on the first pitch, it would be a different story. But he saw a pitch up in the zone and did his job by taking it deep to the opposite field.

If the positive signs from the Phillies’ offense continue, this could turn out to be a surprisingly successful trip out west.  

The Phils and D-backs have split their last 16 meetings at Chase Field.