Phillies-Giants 5 things: Madison Bumgarner looms as Phils seek to snap skid


Phillies (31-44) at Giants (48-27)
10:05 p.m. on CSN

After losing for the 10th time in 11 games, the Phillies face a tough a test as they may face all year Saturday night: Giants ace Madison Bumgarner.

One of baseball's premier pitchers, Bumgarner will take the hill against Jeremy Hellickson, with the Phils' looking to avoid another defeat.

Here are five things to know for tonight's matchup.

1. This is Mad-ness. No, this is Bumgarner!
Whether it is his lucious locks of hair, his 2014 World Series MVP award or his sterling ERA, Bumgarner seems to have everything going for him. 

Still just 26 years old, Bumgarner is in the midst of his best regular season ever. The lefty ace known as "Mad Bum" has the third best ERA in all of baseball (1.85) and has the fifth most strikeouts of any pitcher with 128 K's. 

Ever the workhorse, he's also sixth in baseball with 102 innings pitched in his 15 starts. He is easily on pace for his sixth straight year with at least 200 innings pitched and he has never had an ERA above 3.37. 

All of this is to say that the Phillies are going to have a lot of trouble scoring Saturday. 

Bumgarner's bat has even made news this year. He has two home runs this year (one off Clayton Kershaw) and has created headlines with his desire to join the home run derby in July. He has 13 career homers, including five last season.

To make matters worse for the Phils, Bumgarner has had their number. He is 4-2 with a 3.14 ERA in seven starts against the Phillies, striking out 51 batters in 48⅔ innings. He also had a .353 average in 19 plate appearances against the Phils, picking up six singles. 

2. What to make of Hellickson
Phillies fans now have a solid sample size with which to judge Hellickson. Acquired from the Diamondbacks in the offseason, the veteran righty was supposed to fill a role atop the Phillies' rotation, providing steady innings. Furthermore, many wondered whether he could be used as a trade chip to bring back a prospect come July.

As we near July, it's time to take stock in what Hellickson has actually provided the Phillies and what they can expect from him moving forward. 

A. Innings: He's been solid on this account. In his 15 starts this season, he's completed at least five innings in all but two games (one of which the Phillies won). In his last eight starts, he has thrown at least six innings seven times and has done so 10 times. 

B. Quality: It was tough to expect high quality innings from Hellickson a few years removed from arm injuries. He hadn't produced an ERA below 4.50 since 2012. So far in 2016, he's been about as expected, sporting a 4.41 ERA in 87⅔ innings. He has seven quality starts, a good but certainly not great mark.

C. Trade value: This is still tough to gauge. When he had a 3.68 ERA at the end of May, it seemed like he may get something back in a trade, but a few below average starts brought him back to his post-2012 levels. Still, his penchant for pitching deep into games paired with few high quality pitchers set to be free agents this offseason make him a useful chip for general manager Matt Klentak.

3. Wait, where is Hunter Pence?
There is only one former Phillies player on the Giants and it's a fan favorite: Hunter Pence. Pence patrolled the outfield in Philadelphia for 155 games during the 2011 and '12 seasons before he was traded to San Francisco mid-year. Pence hit 28 home runs in a Phillies uniform to go with 94 RBIs and a .289 batting average

But Pence won't be on the field this weekend for the Giants. He tore his hamstring in early June and underwent surgery, which was supposed to keep him out for 6-8 weeks. 

The Giants come to Citizens Bank Park to begin August, which would be right around the time Pence rejoins the roster. 

With Pence out, rookies Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker alongside veteran Gregor Blanco have been taking turns filling in the spacious right field at AT&T Park.  

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Cop out here with two people. I'm going with the catching duo of Cameron Rupp and Carlos Ruiz. Rupp has been solid in his first year as a starting catcher while Ruiz has success against Bumgarner in his career, collecting seven hits and a home run.

Giants: Underrated at shortstop, Brandon Crawford is well on his way to earning his contract extension with the Giants. Crawford made a lot of that money off of his defensive prowess, but he can handle the bat, currently with a career-high on-base percentage in his age 29 season.

5. This and that 
• Another Phillies hitter with a home run off Bumgarner is Andres Blanco, who is 1 for 4 off the lefty with just the dinger to show for it. 

• Unsurprisingly, Ryan Howard struggles against the lefty ace. He is 2 for 11 with a walk and six strikeouts. It'd be tough for Pete Mackanin to go with him at first, even with Tommy Joseph in the midst of a slump.

• Buster Posey is 0 for 7 with a walk against Hellickson. Crawford is 4 for 7 with a walk in eight plate appearances against the righty.

• Before this recent stretch, the Phillies hadn't had a stretch of 11 losses in 12 games since June 8-20, 2015. 

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