The Yankees took advantage of the Phillies’ slow start, taking two of three in the teams’ only series this season.
For the defending National League champions, 1-5 Philadelphia sure doesn’t look the part. Injuries have hit their pitching staff hard and their lineup harder, plus the usual World Series hangover. Not even adding Trea Turner on a $300 million contract fill the holes in the heart of the order.
How quickly we forget that the Phillies were under .500 in June last season and got as far as Game 6 of the World Series. Speaking of, there’s still a chance they right the ship and go on a deep playoff run where they might face the Yankees in a 2009 rematch.
In which case, both teams match up better than this short three-game April series showed.
Hitting: The Yankees outscored the Phillies 13-7, but Philadelphia out-hit New York 26-22. 11 of those hits came in Monday’s 8-1 loss against Nestor Cortes. However, the Phillies actually made regular hard contact in 21 plate appearances against the crafty lefty, making soft contact in just one of them.
The greater issue was the Phillies not having Rhys Hoskins nor Bryce Harper in the lineup due to injuries. The Yankees didn’t get as many base hits, but hit four home runs to Philadelphia’s three.
It just goes to show that even with no shifts allowing for more contact hitting, it’s hard to win without hitting home runs. Philadelphia got an abject lesson in that this series and sitting 1-5 after six games shows just how much Harper means to the lineup. Unfortunately, he won’t be back until likely June.
Pitching: This is where the Phillies proved more in line with the Yankees than was initially thought on Opening Day. Philadelphia’s pitching was uniquely sharp in two of three games. Taijuan Walker just had a bad start in Monday’s loss.
The rest of the way, converted reliever Matt Strahm shut down the Yankees on Tuesday. Wednesday was simply a duel between Gerrit Cole and Phillies ace Aaron Nola, and Cole won. Even Philadelphia’s bullpen, its biggest weakness, wasn’t completely awful. The rotation could craft its way to some more wins once lefty Ranger Suarez comes back from some elbow trouble.
How do the teams match up? Oddly enough, the Yankees and Phillies match up better than this series implied. Philadelphia just misses both Hoskins and Harper that much. They’ve slugged a combined 197 home runs in four years as teammates and now both are injured, with Hoskins out for the season. Good as Philly’s lineup is on paper without them, it’s hard to replace elite power.
Thankfully for the Phillies, they still have a solid enough pitching staff and more than enough time to right the ship. Harper will be back soon and should inject some much-needed power into the lineup. Another World Series run will be tough but a fully loaded Phillies team against these Yankees has instant-classic potential.
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