Phillies-Pirates: What you need to know

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Phillies-Pirates: What you need to know

Phillies (1-1) vs. Pirates (1-1) 1:35 p.m. on PHL17

Starting Pitchers
Vance Worley takes the hill for the Phillies in the first start of his sophomore season. Worley was 11-3 with 3.01 ERA in 2011, finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year voting. He struck out 8.1 batters per nine innings, the 30th best mark in baseball and fifth best among starting pitchers age 23 or younger.

Opposing the Phils is James McDonald, the Pirates right-hander who started Tuesdays spring training finale at Citizens Bank Park. In that game, McDonald made 54 pitches and allowed one run on two hits over three innings. He was traded to the Pirates from the Dodgers at the 2010 trade deadline for reliever Octavio Dotel. Last season, McDonald, 27, went 9-9 with a 4.21 ERA in 171 innings. High hit and walk totals resulted in an unsightly 1.49 WHIP.

Previous games
The Phillies won Game 1 of the series, 1-0, and the Pirates came back Saturday to win, 2-1, in 10 innings. The Phillies offense mustered just four hits after the first inning.

Head-to-head
The Pirates ended the Phillies hopes for their first ever sweep at PNC Park in Saturdays win. The Phils are 25-19 against Pittsburgh since Charlie Manuel took over in 2005, but are just 4-8 in their last 12 trips to the Steel City.

Whos hot
Nobody, besides Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. No Phillie other than Carlos Ruiz is batting higher than .286, which means no other Phillie has more than two hits.

Whos not
Both offenses. The Phillies have had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs in just five of 19 innings this season. The teams have combined for four runs in two games.

Storylines
Can the Phillies offense break out in the series finale? Last year, the Phils won their first four series of the season to jump out to a 9-3 record.

Will we continue to see such an emphasis on small ball? Jimmy Rollins sacrificed out of the three-hole in the first inning Saturday and late in the game, Laynce Nix tried to do the same.

Will Freddy Galvis pick up his first major-league hit in his first major-league series? Galvis has actually hit several balls hard -- one was a line shot to deep center field on Saturday -- but he is 0 for 8 with two strikeouts and hasnt yet reached base.

Will John Mayberry, if he starts, be more aggressive at the plate? In his first and third plate appearances Saturday, Mayberry took 90 mile per hour first-pitch fastballs right down the middle.

If Kyle Kendrick enters Sundays game, will he reduce his 100 percent line drive rate?

Sound off
Would you rather the Phillies continue to bunt to manufacture a run, or save as many outs as possible for a struggling offense?

E-mail Corey Seidman at cseidman@comcastsportsnet.com.

Phillies' Darin Ruf could be facing quiet goodbye

Phillies' Darin Ruf could be facing quiet goodbye

NEW YORK — The final eight games remaining on the Phillies’ 2016 schedule will undoubtedly serve as a farewell to Ryan Howard.

Lost in the background may be the fact this week could quite possibly be the end for the man who was supposed to platoon alongside him this year, as well: Darin Ruf.

Both men have been supplanted by Tommy Joseph, who's hit 21 home runs in just 100 games this year while positioning himself as the Phillies first baseman of the near future.

Ruf will start Saturday night against Mets’ lefthander Sean Gilmartin. The Phillies are not scheduled to face a lefty starter for the rest of the season, so Saturday could be one of the final chances to see Ruf in a Phillies uniform, especially considering manager Pete Mackanin’s stated intent to give Howard more playing time down the stretch.

“It seemed like we never faced a lefty for the first month of the season. So that didn’t help Ruf at the time,” Mackanin said.  “Joseph entered the picture and made an immediate impression.”

Ruf’s departure from the majors set the stage for Joseph’s immediate emergence. At the time of his May 13 demotion to AAA Lehigh Valley – and Joseph’s promotion -- Ruf was had a .158/.206/.193 slash line.
  
Since his Sept. 1 return to the majors after rosters expanded, Ruf has done what he can to make sure his possible final season in a Phillies uniform ends on a high note. On Friday night, he drilled a home run to left center off Mets reliever Josh Smoker in pinch-hit duty, the first time Ruf had gone yard since Oct. 1, 2015.

“It felt good,” Ruf said about ending his home run drought. “You just try to simply things and last night it worked out for me.”

Where Ruf will be next year is a more complicated matter, as the 30-year-old is out of minor league options. Japanese scouts were spotted at the games he played for AAA Lehigh Valley.

With Lehigh Valley, Ruf received an opportunity he’s never truly been able to get with the Phillies due to the longstanding presence of Howard: a chance to play every day and consistently accumulate plate appearances. He hit .294/.356/.529 in 390 trips to the plate for the IronPigs. 

Ruf has never made more than 300 plate appearances in a major league season and would struggle to crack that number if he remains in Philadelphia as a backup to Joseph, who will still be 25 on opening day next year.

“I learned [this year] that you can’t take anything for granted in this game,” Ruf said. “You’ve just got to keep working to get better every day, got to put up numbers no matter where you’re at in order to get to where you want. 

“Hopefully, wherever I’m at next year, I can do that.”

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Tonight's Lineup: Jorge Alfaro catches, bats 8th vs. Mets

Tonight's Lineup: Jorge Alfaro catches, bats 8th vs. Mets

Jorge Alfaro is behind the plate for the Phillies tonight and bats eighth. Alfaro has appeared in just four games since being called up earlier this month, and has just one hit in 10 at-bats. 

Tommy Joseph is back in the lineup and batting fifth. Pete Mackanin has said that Ryan Howard would get a lot of playing time during the last few games, but it is Joseph who gets the start tonight. Joseph is batting just .154 against the Mets this season. 

Odubel Herrera, who has been hitting well in September, will remain in the three spot. He has two homers and is batting .391 over the past week. Herrera has two hits in six at-bats against Mets' starter Sean Gilmartin. 

Phillies

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Roman Quinn, RF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF 
4. Maikel Franco, 3B 
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Darin Ruf, LF
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Alec Asher, P