Phillies-Brewers 5 things: Trying to avoid yet another sweep

Phillies-Brewers 5 things: Trying to avoid yet another sweep

Phillies (29-60) at Brewers (52-41)
2:10 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Thanks to a late home run off Joaquin Benoit, the Phillies lost their second straight game to the Milwaukee Brewers coming out of the All-Star break. With Jeremy Hellickson on the hill, the team will look to avoid yet another sweep. Matt Garza takes the ball for the Brewers.

Here are five things to know for the series finale.

1. The question of trade value
Last season, Hellickson took a 3.70 ERA and an expiring contract into the trade deadline, only to find himself a Phillie in August. In much of the same situation a year later, the 30-year-old starter is hardly a stranger to his circumstances.

The veteran has been traded twice before and it would make plenty of sense for him to be shipped out against before the calendar flips to August. The Phils aren't going to offer him the qualifying offer again and he'll surely want to pursue a long-term deal if one is out there this winter. 

The issue for the Phillies? Hellickson hasn't been quite as effective this season. He had a brilliant April followed by one of the worst months of his career in May. He's been so-so since in seven starts, pitching to a 4.54 ERA over his last 41 2/3 innings. Furthermore, he's allowed 20 home runs, on pace to go well beyond his career-high 25 allowed. He's striking out the fewest batters of his career while his walk and hit rates have both gone up from last season. 

Any return for the righty would be preferable for the Phillies, who would want his rotation spot to give their younger arms a chance this fall. One would have assumed a similar logic last season. However, at the same time, the Phillies' young starters struggled to stay healthy at the end of last year, so maybe it makes sense to keep a veteran who can at least absorb innings. It's unclear which contenders, if any, would want Hellickson as a back-of-the-rotation piece.

2. Going Garza
It's been nine years since a 24-year-old Matt Garza started against the Phillies in the World Series. The former Tampa Bay Ray is still pitching in the last year of his four-year deal with the Brewers at 33. 

He's no longer quite the same pitcher, the one that inspired promise and led the Cubs to trade a young Chris Archer and other prospects for his services. But unlike the last couple seasons, the right-hander is a more than respectable pitcher, throwing above-average innings for the NL Central leaders.

Through 13 starts in 2017, Garza is 4-4 with a 3.98 ERA over 72 1/3 innings. He's struck out just 51 but dished out just 19 free passes and brought his WHIP down to 1.272 after it exceeded 1.5 the last two seasons. The veteran earned a four-year, $50 million contract during the 2013-14 offseason and hasn't quite lived up to it. However, it's tough to argue that if he helped Milwaukee to its second ever division crown, he'd be a lot closer to being worth the investment.

These days, his fastball averages just 91.7 mph. He still utilizes his four-seamer and sinker close to 60 percent of the time, mixing in his go-to offspeed pitch, a slider, along with a curveball and changeup. In that way, he's still the same pitcher as always. He's coming off 6 1/3 shutout innings against the Orioles on July 5.

In eight career non-playoff starts dating back to 2009, Garza is 2-2 with a 2.32 ERA over 54 1/3 innings against the Phillies. He hasn't faced them since 2015, when he allowed four runs on 10 hits in six innings. Four current Phils have two or more hits against him: Freddy Galvis (3), Andres Blanco, Cameron Rupp and Odubel Herrera. All but Blanco have a double against him.

3. The road ahead
The Phillies close out their brief post-All Star break road trip with a three-game set in Miami, the site of this year's ASG. The Phils are 2-3 against the Marlins this season with each team undefeated at home. The Fish swept a three-game set at Marlins Park on May 29-31. 

After that, the Phillies return to Citizens Bank Park for a 10-game homestand, one of three home stretches of that length remaining this year. This homestand, which will bring the Brewers, Astros and Braves to CBP, will take the Phillies up to the trade deadline. It will be their longest homestand of the year to date. In their two 10-game stretches at CBP in 2016, the Phillies went 5-5 and 3-7, respectively.

By the time the Phillies head to the West Coast on Aug. 1, they'll have a much different roster than they do now. Vince Velasquez will likely be back in the rotation. Same goes for Cesar Hernandez, who is expected back Monday in Miami. Pat Neshek and others will be wearing new uniforms after the deadline, opening up spots for players currently in the minors. 

Over the next few weeks, or months for that matter, wins and losses won't mean a ton for a squad that is 24.5 back in the division. However, for a team in the midst of a rebuild, some signs of hope, whether continued success for Aaron Nola/Altherr or a rebound from a player like Herrera or Maikel Franco, would be huge for a team on its way to a sixth straight season outside the playoffs.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Herrera has a home run in three consecutive games. On Saturday, he put together his first game with multiple extra-base hits since June 22

Brewers: Last night, Travis Shaw hit his 20th home run in his 340th plate appearance. In 530 PAs last year, Shaw hit 16 home runs. 

5. This and that
• The Phillies have been swept seven times this season. They were swept eight times in all of 2016. They haven't been swept at Miller Park since a four-game series on June 29-July 2, 2015. Matt Garza started the series finale of that series.

• The Phillies have not been more than 31 games under .500 since the final day of the 2015 season. 

• Nola in his last five starts: 1.78 ERA in 35 1/3 innings, 41 strikeouts, five quality starts. 

• Phillies leadoff hitters have produced a .686 OPS, seventh worst in baseball.

Tonight's lineup: Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford sit vs. lefty

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Tonight's lineup: Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford sit vs. lefty

With the Phillies facing lefty Alex Wood tonight, Tommy Joseph gets a rare start at first base.

It's Joseph's third start in the Phillies' last 12 games. He's become a forgotten man with the Phils' outfield fully healthy and Rhys Hoskins thriving at first base.

Pete Mackanin is using the matchup with a southpaw as a reason to get Joseph in the mix. Joseph has actually been dreadful this season against lefties, hitting just .197/.272/.410 in 135 plate appearances.

J.P. Crawford and Nick Williams have the night off.

Andrew Knapp is behind the plate to catch his second game since returning from a six-week DL stint.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Rhys Hoskins, LF
5. Aaron Altherr, RF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Tommy Joseph, 1B
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Jake Thompson, P

Phillies-Dodgers thoughts: Rhys Hoskins refuses to go into a slump

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USA Today Images

Phillies-Dodgers thoughts: Rhys Hoskins refuses to go into a slump

Phillies (60-91) vs. Dodgers (96-55)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Well, this series hasn't gone as planned.

Despite facing Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish, the Phillies have beaten the Dodgers on back-to-back nights to force at least a split. 

For L.A., it continues a miserable four-week stretch. The Dodgers were 91-36 on Aug. 25 and have gone 4-19 since.

The Phillies, meanwhile, are 31-33 since the All-Star break and 17-14 since Aug. 6.

More on tonight's game and the series in general:

• Last night was yet another fantastic game for Rhys Hoskins, who hit the game-deciding three-run double, drove in four runs in all and reached base three times. 

It appeared Hoskins was going into a slump after he went 0 for 11 with six strikeouts against the Athletics this past weekend, but he's responded by reaching base in five of seven plate appearances against the Dodgers. 

Through 39 games, Hoskins has hit .299/.428/.739 with five doubles, 18 homers and 43 RBIs. He has 29 walks and 33 strikeouts.

Odubel Herrera hit his 40th double of the season last night, becoming the first Phillie since Jayson Werth in 2010 to reach 40. 

The Phils had just one player hit 40 doubles in 2008 (Chase Utley), 2009 (Jimmy Rollins) and 2010 (Werth) and then none from 2011-16.

• Another scoreless inning last night from Luis Garcia, who's allowed one run in his last 18 appearances and has a 2.43 ERA in 61 games.

Nick Williams picked up his 11th infield single of the season last night. That kind of speed will allow him to maintain a higher batting average on balls in play than most players (see story).

• The Phillies face left-hander Alex Wood, who's had a career year. Wood is 15-3 with a 2.69 ERA in 140⅓ innings this season, with 144 strikeouts, 37 walks and just 13 home runs allowed. 

Lefties and righties alike have struggled against Wood, but he's been much more hittable since the All-Star break. Wood had a 1.56 ERA in the first half and has a 4.07 ERA since.

In his last start, Wood shut out the Nationals over six innings with eight strikeouts. In his previous three starts, he allowed 12 runs and six homers in 17 innings.

• Two Phillies, in particular, have seen Wood well: Freddy Galvis is 7 for 13 with a double; Cesar Hernandez is 5 for 11 with a double and three walks. 

Jake Thompson starts for the Phillies. He's 2-2 with a 4.46 ERA in nine games (six starts). He put 10 Marlins on base in 5⅓ innings in his last start but didn't allow a run.

• The Phillies would need to go 2-9 or worse the rest of the way to reach 100 losses. If the season ended today they'd pick second in the 2018 draft. The Giants are 1½ games worse.