Phillies have been beating good teams despite a couple concerning signs


The Phillies are back home for three games against the Cardinals following a 4-3 road trip and their first off day since May 9. 

The forecast for today/tonight isn’t great — rain from 2 p.m. until around midnight — but with this being St. Louis’ only trip to Philadelphia, all efforts will be made for the game to be played.

When: 7:05 p.m. 

Where: NBC Sports Philadelphia; streaming live on and the MyTeams app

Productive month

The Phillies are 15–9 in May and have gone 5-1-1 in their seven series. On May 13, they began a string of 20 straight games against National League contenders and they’ve gone 8-6 during it. 

The interesting thing about their play this month is that the Phillies really have not done a ton of hitting, situational or otherwise, yet continue to beat good teams. Over their last 20 games, the Phillies have the third-worst batting average with runners in scoring position in the majors at .220. 

They haven’t exactly made up for it with huge power either, hitting 20 home runs, sixth-fewest in MLB. 

And yet they’ve gone 12-8. 

Pivetta’s return

After posting a 3.41 ERA in six Triple A starts with 50 strikeouts in 37 innings, Nick Pivetta is back in the Phillies’ rotation. As long as he keeps them in games, he will stick there. 

One of the goals the Phillies sent Pivetta to the minors with was developing a better and more focused plan of attack early in games. Less nibbling and fewer hangers over the heart of the plate. He did pitch well for the most part at Triple A but those are adjustments you can only buy in to once they occur at the major-league level. Jamming Paul Goldschmidt is different than jamming Tim Tebow. 

This game will not make or break Pivetta, but a strong five or six innings against an experienced Cardinals lineup would be big for his confidence and the team’s confidence in him. 

Need more from Harper

One of the byproducts of Bryce Harper’s career-worst swinging strike rate and league-high number of punchouts on fastballs is that he just isn’t hitting many singles. There haven’t been many RBI knocks from him with a man on second, or first-to-thirds created when someone reaches ahead of him. 

Harper enters the Cards series hitting .227, and of his 44 hits, 21 have been singles. He has nine home runs and 14 doubles. 

Would you rather a player collect more extra-base hits than singles? Sure. But what about when the power isn’t there? In many ways, Harper so far has resembled Ryan Howard — power, low batting average, strikeouts, groundouts to the right side. The only difference has been the higher walk rate. 

It is true that Harper also started slowly last season, entering the All-Star break with a .214 batting average. But even then, his OBP was 10 points higher than it is now. And through this many games last year, Harper had 17 home runs, nearly twice as many as he has now. 

The Phillies’ winning has done a decent job of masking the concerning signs from their most expensive player. Over his last 180 plate appearances, Harper has hit .201 with five home runs, 24 walks and 58 strikeouts. 

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