Phillies (32-61) vs. Brewers (52-46)
7:05 p.m. on NBC10; Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App
The Phillies are back at Citizens Bank Park this weekend to begin a season-long 10-game homestand. First up are the Milwaukee Brewers, who the Phils just faced last weekend at Miller Park coming out of the All-Star break.
1. A rare series win
The Phils took two of three in Miami earlier this week for their first win in a three-game series since June 2-4 vs. the Giants.
It was only the second series win of at least three games for the Phillies since they swept the Braves April 21-23 to improve to 9-9.
So from that Braves series in April through the Marlins series this week, the Phillies went 1-18-1 in series lasting at least three games.
The Phils' back-to-back wins in Miami were a result of actual, real-life offense. They scored 15 runs on 33 hits Tuesday and Wednesday.
2. The Nick Williams effect
This feels like the first time all season the Phillies' three- and four-hitters are locked in simultaneously.
Nick Williams is hitting .316 with a .963 OPS through 16 games with four doubles, two triples, three home runs and 12 RBIs. His 11 RBIs since the All-Star break lead the majors.
Over his last four games, Williams is 8 for 18 with six extra-base hits and 10 of those RBIs.
He continues to drive the ball with authority to the opposite field. He's shown an ability to let the ball get deep and still make solid contact on pitches on the outside corner.
The next step for Williams will be handling velocity on the inner portion of the plate and perhaps up in the zone. If he can do that and show some pull power, the adjustment for pitchers won't be so simple.
3. Don't forget about Franco
Maikel Franco, whose recent success led manager Pete Mackanin to move him back to the cleanup spot, has gone 11 for 25 (.440) with four doubles, a homer, seven RBIs, three walks and one strikeout since the All-Star break.
But Franco's run goes a bit further back. Over his last 32 games and 141 plate appearances, he's hit .276/.340/.528 with 11 doubles, seven homers, 22 RBIs and more walks (13) than strikeouts (12).
As a result, Franco's batting average (.233) is the highest it's been since April 12. His OPS (.698) is the highest it's been since May 4.
In Miami, we saw Franco consistently square up the baseball — line drives up the middle, down the third-base line and over the leftfielder's head. Most importantly, these line drives came on pitches that were not right down the middle and in Franco's swing path. He's been able to reach pitches on the outside corner, which for so much of this season have given him trouble and caused wild swings.
Franco still has plenty of time to change the story of his 2017 season. He may still end up with a sub-.250 batting average and an OBP right around .300, but he's also on pace for 31 doubles, 24 homers and 91 RBIs. He finished 2016 with 23 doubles, 25 homers and 88 RBIs.
4. Brewers skidding
Milwaukee holds a narrow one-game lead over the Cubs in the NL Central after losing five straight games, including a four-game sweep this week at the hands of the Pirates.
The Brewers have spent 64 of the season's 108 days in first place and held their biggest lead (5½ games) as recently as July 15.
Milwaukee's losing streak began last Sunday when Jeremy Hellickson and the Phillies beat them, 5-2. The Brew Crew then dropped four straight to the Pirates with each game decided by one or two runs.
Since homering and driving in four runs against the Phillies in the first game of the second half, Ryan Braun is 4 for 16, all singles. He's also dealing with calf and wrist issues.
We all know how much Braun loves this ballpark, though, so don't be surprised if he plays through the pain this weekend. In 29 career games at CBP, Braun has hit .383 with 10 homers, 29 RBIs and by far his highest OPS (1.150) at any venue.
5. This and that
• Don't overlook the importance of Cesar Hernandez's return to the Phillies' lineup. In Miami, he reached base in 6 of 16 plate appearances and saw 66 pitches, an average of 4.13 per plate appearance.
To put that average in perspective, Brett Gardner leads all leadoff hitters this season with 4.24 pitches per plate appearances, followed by George Springer at 4.08. Hernandez is eighth at 3.95.
• Aaron Nola, pitching like an ace lately, gets the start tonight for the Phillies. He has a 1.78 ERA and .186 opponents' batting average over his last five starts with 41 strikeouts in 35⅓ innings. All five were quality starts, including last Saturday when he allowed two runs in six innings with seven K's in Milwaukee.
Nola is 6-6 with a 3.54 ERA on the year.
• Veteran right-hander Matt Garza (4-4, 3.84) starts for the Brewers. Garza is having a rebound season after two straight dismal years in Milwaukee. He's no longer much of a strikeout threat with just one start all season with more than five K's. But even without missing many bats, Garza has been able to get key outs — his opponents have hit .167 with two outs and runners in scoring position.