Phillies (31-43) at Giants (47-27)
10:15 p.m. on TCN
The Phillies begin the second series of their nine-game road trip Friday night at beautiful AT&T Park in San Francisco.
The Phils have at least a little bit of momentum to begin the set as they won their series finale in Minnesota and scored 22 runs in that series.
This will be a completely different challenge, though.
1. Giants among men
It's been Cubs, Cubs, Cubs nationally all season. And yet entering the weekend, the Giants have the same number of wins as Chicago (47-24).
It just never seems to matter which players the Giants lose or which anonymous minor-leaguers are called up to replace them. The Giants have won nine of their last 10 games despite Hunter Pence and Matt Duffy being on the DL and Brandon Belt missing a few games.
Just look at the Giants' lineup Thursday in their win over the Pirates. Mac Williamson batted third and played right field. Trevor Brown caught and batted fifth. Ramiro Pena played shortstop, Jarrett Parker played left field and Conor Gillaspie played third base. You could argue that all except Brown are 4-A players — i.e. guys who are good enough to hit at Triple A, but not good enough to be productive at the major-league level.
It's amazing how the Giants win despite all the hurdles. Buster Posey's presence obviously helps, but he's not even having his typical MVP-caliber season. Posey is hitting .277/.338/.450, which is solid but well below his career slash line of .308/.372/.481.
San Fran has been led mostly this season by great starting pitching and the emergence of Belt into one of the best hitters in the National League. Belt is hitting .302 this season with a .409 on-base percentage. He has 44 walks to 50 strikeouts, and he's been an extra-base hit machine with 19 doubles, three triples and 10 home runs.
2. Start No. 3 for Eflin
Zach Eflin is a level-headed 22-year-old, so it's unlikely he's going to look at this assignment and overhype himself. And if he can keep things in perspective and focus on just commanding his sinker low in the strike zone, he could find some success against that previously described patchwork Giants offense.
Eflin pitched well last week in his second start, allowing two runs to the Diamondbacks over 5⅔ innings. It lowered his ERA from 27.01 to 10.80. Tonight he'll look to get that thing under 9.00.
It seems unlikely the Phillies called Eflin up from Triple A only for him to make three starts in place of injured Vince Velasquez. If nothing else drastic happens, it looks like Adam Morgan will be the odd man out when Velasquez returns either Monday in Arizona or later in the week. But if Eflin gets bombed again tonight, who knows.
3. The night to score
The Phillies' best chance to score some runs this weekend is tonight against 35-year-old, now-mediocre right-hander Jake Peavy. Why? Because on Saturday and Sunday the Phils will face Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto, who are a combined 19-4 with a 1.96 ERA this season.
Peavy (3-6, 5.47) hasn't been able to retire lefties with any regularity this season. They've hit .331 with a .908 OPS against him, although all eight home runs Peavy's allowed have been by right-handed hitters. It's obviously difficult to hit one out at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park.
Peavy had an ERA of 8.21 through his first nine starts this season but has been much better since, giving the Giants four quality starts in his last five tries. Over that span Peavy has a 1.76 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and .189 opponents' batting average. He's allowed just five extra-base hits among 114 batters faced.
Peavy has a diverse repertoire. He's thrown six different pitches this season: four-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, sinker, changeup and slider. His main pitches are the four-seamer, cutter and curve.
He likes to throw the cutter to lefties to jam them but it hasn't worked this season. They've hit .404 with a .575 slugging percentage in 47 at-bats ending in that pitch.
The only three Phillies to ever face Peavy are Ryan Howard, Peter Bourjos and Carlos Ruiz. Howard has had some success, going 3 for 9 with two doubles and four RBIs. Bourjos owns a triple off Peavy.
4. Prospect update
Nick Williams remains hot from a power standpoint, Jorge Alfaro is drawing rave reviews with his defense, and a piece of the Ken Giles trade debuted at Double A Reading this week.
For more on those prospects and a handful of others, check out Friday's Future Phillies Report.
5. This and that
• The 22 runs scored by the Phillies in the Twins series were their most in a three-game span since last Sept. 27-30.
• Howard's multi-hit game Thursday was his first since April 29, a stretch of 37 games.
• Maikel Franco has five walks in his last two games. He walked six times all of April and seven times in May.