Phillies-Diamondbacks 5 things: Finally, the schedule lightens up

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Phillies (30-37) vs. Diamondbacks (29-39)
7:05 p.m. on NBC10

Finally, the Phillies' schedule lightens up a bit. After losing three of four games this week to the Toronto Blue Jays, the Phils begin a four-game wraparound series with the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

Let's take a closer look at Friday's series opener:

1. Out of the woods
The Phils on Friday begin a stretch where they'll play 10 of 13 games against losing teams. They have four with the Diamondbacks, who are 10 games under .500, then the Phillies head to Minnesota to face the AL-worst Twins (20-46). 

After that, the Phils have a tough three-game set in San Francisco before traveling to Arizona to again face the D-backs. A record of 8-5 or better in this upcoming stretch shouldn't be out of the question.

No major-league game is easy, but this is a much-needed respite for the Phils. Their last 10 games and 19 of their last 23 have been against teams with winning records. The Phillies went 3-16 against those winning teams. They were outscored 115-56, an average score per game of 6.1 to 2.9.

2. Three in a row for Morgan?
About two weeks ago, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he needed to see more from Adam Morgan. The left-hander had just allowed six runs for a second straight game and his spot in the rotation looked like it would soon be up for grabs. Mackanin said he believed Morgan had it in him to execute his pitches better and stop missing over the middle of the plate.

Morgan's response? Two straight quality starts against tough lineups in the Cubs and Nationals.

Morgan (1-5, 6.33) has allowed six runs in 12⅔ innings in his last two starts, walking three and striking out 13. His eight K's against Washington on Sunday were a career high.

This could be a tough matchup for him, though. The Diamondbacks' offense has been much more potent against left-handers (.275 BA, .815 OPS) than it has against right-handers (.258, .727). 

D-backs catcher Welington Castillo has hit .365 with seven doubles and five homers against lefties; Paul Goldschmidt has hit .345 with more walks (16) than strikeouts (14); and Yasmany Tomas has hit .323 with a .972 OPS.

Morgan has never faced Arizona. The only two Diamondbacks who have seen him are Jean Segura (1 for 3) and Michael Bourn (0 for 2).

3. Another lefty opponent
The Phils face another left-handed starter after scoring just one unearned run on three hits Thursday against J.A. Happ.

Tonight, they draw 24-year-old southpaw Robbie Ray (3-5, 4.57). Ray is coming off the best start of his career — he allowed four baserunners over 7⅔ shutout innings against the Marlins Sunday. 

Ray was originally a 12th-round pick by the Nationals in 2010. In the 2013 offseason, he was traded to the Tigers in the Doug Fister deal. The next December, he went from Detroit to Arizona in the three-team trade that sent Didi Gregorius to the Yankees.

In 42 major-league starts, Ray is 9-21 with a 4.32 ERA and a very high 1.47 WHIP. He's struck out 214 batters and walked 91 in those 222⅔ innings.

He's never faced the Phillies.

Ray's fastball averages 94.5 mph, making it the fastest average fastball of any left-handed starting pitcher in the majors. Lefties, specifically hard-throwing lefties, just seem to be going by the wayside. In 2012, 32 percent of major-league starting pitchers were lefties. That number has decreased each year and this season is just 25.5 percent. 

Ray also throws a sinker, slider, changeup and curveball.

Unlike the D-backs, the Phillies have been worse against lefties. They've hit just .221/.277/.321 off them with eight home runs in 517 plate appearances.

4. Trending the wrong way
The Phillies' starting staff got off to a great start this season but has steadily declined since April. The starters had a 3.54 ERA in April, a 4.16 ERA in May and have a 5.85 ERA in June.

The Phils' rotation allowed 54 earned runs in 137 innings in April. It's already allowed 49 earned runs in just 75⅓ innings in June.

Zach Eflin's horrendous line Tuesday does skew the overall June numbers, but it's not like he's the only starter to struggle this month. Morgan has a 5.79 ERA, Jeremy Hellickson has a 7.41 and Aaron Nola's at 7.11. 

5. This and that
• The Phillies swept the Diamondbacks at home last season and are 9-3 against them at Citizens Bank Park since 2012, which is notable because the Phillies have been really bad during that span.

• The Phillies have been out-homered 48-26 in 34 games at Citizens Bank Park. They have 43 fewer extra-base hits at CBP than their opponents.

• Goldschmidt, the NL MVP runner-up the last two seasons, has been on fire the last month after a slow start. In his last 25 games he's hit .367/.472/.567, but the D-backs are just 10-15. Goldschmidt leads the majors with 56 walks.

• The Phillies brought up right-hander Severino Gonzalez from Triple A to replace Colton Murray on the 25-man roster. Gonzalez, who had a 7.92 ERA in seven starts with the Phillies last season, has been successful as a reliever for Reading and Lehigh Valley this year, posting a 3.07 ERA in 44 innings with 34 strikeouts and eight walks.

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