Phillies in for a major challenge this week


The Phillies will be at a pitching matchup disadvantage in nearly every game this week, both because of the top-tier starters they're set to face and the issues they're dealing with in their own rotation.

Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin were both placed on the COVID-related injured list on Sunday morning. Wheeler's turn comes Wednesday in Seattle and Eflin's turn would have come up again this weekend in Los Angeles. 

If neither is able to register the negative test required for reinstatement, the Phillies will be forced to either use an opener in a bullpen game or extend Cristopher Sanchez or Bailey Falter, two swingmen recently sent to Triple A to get stretched out. Sanchez started the second game of Sunday's doubleheader and threw 51 pitches. Nick Nelson threw 46 in relief. They allowed a combined five runs, all on homers by Pete Alonso.

Ranger Suarez (2-1, 4.63 ERA) starts the series opener Monday night in Seattle opposite Chris Flexen, a contact-based right-hander with a 3.10 ERA. 

On Tuesday, it's Aaron Nola (1-3, 3.38) vs. 2021 American League Cy Young winner Robbie Ray (2-3, 4.38). The Mariners signed Ray to a five-year, $115 million contract over the offseason.

Nola has been at his best over his last three starts with command as sharp as he's had since 2018, the year he made the All-Star team and finished third in Cy Young voting. He's allowed four runs in 20 innings over those three starts with 25 strikeouts and two walks. His opponents have hit .162. The Phillies somehow lost all three games.

On Wednesday at T-Mobile Park, they'll draw 25-year-old right-hander Logan Gilbert, who is 4-0 with an AL-best 1.36 ERA. The Phillies haven't named a starter yet for that game.

Then comes the four-game series in L.A. against the 19-7 Dodgers. The Phillies are set to face Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias. Good luck with that. Kershaw has a 1.80 ERA, Urias a 1.88 and Buehler a 1.96. The Dodgers have an absurd 2.07 ERA as a team and have gone 10-2 at home.

So many different looks, so much premium stuff the Phillies are up against out west this week.

Jean Segura said Sunday that he thinks the way the Phils attacked and beat Max Scherzer Sunday -- scattering 10 hits against a pitcher who will give up homers but doesn't often get hit around -- could be a well-timed confidence-builder.

"We set a tone today. We faced Max, we beat Max," Segura said. "We beat one of the best pitchers in the game. I don't think this is going to be an issue. Whoever steps on the mound, it doesn't matter how good you are, we have to play baseball."

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