Phillies (38-42) at Dodgers (36-42)
10:10 p.m. – CSN
The Phillies fell behind early and the bullpen blew up late in Thursday’s series opener in Los Angeles, resulting in a 6-4 loss to the Dodgers that evened the Phils’ road trip record at 2-2.
Still, the offense put together another inspiring effort, churning out 14 hits and coming back from an early 3-0 deficit against Zack Greinke. The top two hitters in the order combined to go 6 for 10.
Keep it rollin’
In their last three games the Phillies have averaged 5.7 runs and hit .270 as a team. Chase Utley has impressed the most, hitting .389 this week with two homers.
Over the last seven days, Delmon Young has hit .471, Carlos Ruiz and Ben Revere are at .350, Dom Brown has hit .321 with four doubles and two homers, and Ryan Howard has slugged .538.
The lineup just looks so much more complete and effective with Utley and Ruiz. It also doesn’t hurt that Delmon Young is finally seeing the ball well.
Lannan looks to get on track
John Lannan has made two five-inning starts since returning from the DL and will look to pitch deeper into the game tonight in L.A. The lefty hasn’t been able to build any sort of momentum this season because a knee injury sidelined him for two months.
Still, Lannan (0-2, 5.84) is getting the groundballs he so badly needs. His groundball rate this season is 54.2 percent, just a tick above his career average. He’s not a strikeout pitcher, so Lannan needs to follow the Kyle Kendrick model and keep the ball on the ground to be successful.
In six career starts against the Dodgers, Lannan is 4-1 with a 3.93 ERA. At Dodger Stadium, his ERA is 2.79 in three starts.
Current Dodgers are hitting .305 off Lannan. Hanley Ramirez has torched him to the tune of 10-for-23, three doubles, a homer and seven RBIs. Andre Ethier and Adrian Gonzalez are a combined 8 for 23 with a double, a homer and six driven in.
Phils face another lefty
After facing just 12 left-handed starting pitchers in their first 60 games, the Phillies are set to take on their fifth in the last 10 games. On the hill for the Dodgers is veteran Chris Capuano (2-4, 4.09).
Capuano was spectacular in the first half last year, going 9-4 with a 2.91 ERA for the Dodgers. But he tailed off significantly after the All-Star break, going 3-8 with a 4.76 ERA. Opponents hit 50 points higher off him in the second half and hit one more homer than they did in the first half, in 24 fewer innings.
Because of the drop-off, Capuano was pushed out of L.A.’s rotation this offseason. Then a rash of injuries came and he picked up a bunch of spot starts.
Capuano has a 2.55 ERA in his last six starts and has held the opposition to a .218 batting average. Lefties are hitting .184 off him with one extra-base hit in 51 plate appearances.
Current Phils have hit .219 off Capuano. Utley is 1 for 8 and Howard is 3 for 11 with three singles. Jimmy Rollins has hit him better than the rest, going 5 for 18 with a pair of longballs.
If Utley wasn’t hitting, it might be a good idea to sit him tonight for Kevin Frandsen, who homered off Capuano in his only career at-bat. But with Utley playing so well and working deep counts at the top of the order it’s hard to justify sitting him against anyone at the moment.
Must find a formula
The offense has been an issue for much of the season, but with it finally performing the attention now shifts back to a bullpen that has the worst ERA in the National League, at 4.59.
The ‘pen allowed three runs in the seventh and eighth innings Thursday, raising the Phils’ eighth-inning ERA to 5.35 on the season. Only the Astros had a worse eighth-inning ERA last year, and only the Astros have a worse eighth-inning ERA this year.
This bullpen full of youngsters could end up determining whether the Phillies buy or sell at the deadline. If Justin De Fratus, Phillippe Aumont and Antonio Bastardo can get it together, the Phils might stay in the race long enough to make believers out of the front office. If they falter -- especially during the upcoming 10-game homestand filled with games vs. the Nationals and Braves – the result could be the departures of a number of high-priced vets.