White Sox to Host Phillies for Two-Game Series
After winning the last two games against Oakland, the White Sox welcome the Philadelphia Phillies to Chicago for a two-game series.
While not yet mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. It seems as though the 2016 White Sox season has all been for naught. There are still a few things to look forward to as the team draws near to the final month of the schedule. Barring any supernatural intervention. The chance to play spoiler against contenders is all the White Sox can hope for over the next month.
The Philadelphia Phillies are currently in a similar position to the White Sox. Promising talent on paper, but mediocre-at-best execution when the time comes to take the field. It has been nearly the same amount of time since the both teams were legitimate playoff contenders. Both teams find themselves somewhere between rebuilding and trying to win now. Though it looks like the Phillies have a slight lead in the rebuilding department. A category where the White Sox seem to slip more and more as the season progresses.
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Philadelphia currently sits 15.5 games behind the Washington Nationals in the National League East division. At 58-67, they have a record slightly worse than the White Sox, who are 59-64. Poised to play spoiler in their own division, the Phillies face a tough uphill battle to regain relevancy in the NL East.
Matthew Veasey is the editor of That Ball’s Outta Here, the Philadelphia Phillies website here in the FanSided Network. Veasey was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions about this coming series with the Phillies. Veasey also provides some clarity when it comes to Philadelphia’s long-term outlook.
Southside Showdown: For White Sox fans who don’t follow the Phillies who are some players to watch out for in this series?
Matt Veasey: “The Phillies are currently led by 23-year old third baseman Maikel Franco, who is hitting for a .253 average and leading the club by a wide margin with 22 HR and 72 RBI. Catcher Cameron Rupp is having a breakout campaign, hitting .276 with 14 homers. Center fielder Odubel Herrera was the club’s lone National League All-Star representative, and probably their best all-around offensive player when he is on his game.
“Herrera is at .282/.363 with 13 homers, and leads the club with 19 steals and 66 runs scored. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez has really turned it on, and right now is at .295/.355 with 13 steals. He is a burner on the bases, but has also made some baserunning gaffes that have left fans flustered. Everyone knows Ryan Howard, who still has power in any ballpark. He is second on the club with 19 homers in just 286 plate appearances, and has hit for a .367/.404/.755 slash line over the last month.
“With lefty Carlos Rodon starting Tuesday, the Phils may go with Tommy Joseph at first base in that one. He has 16 HR in just 255 plate appearances. As you can see, he and Howard as a platoon have 35 HR, giving the Phils legitimate middle of the order power when teamed with Franco at 3-4 in the order. In the bullpen, Jeanmar Gomez has been a surprisingly effective closer with 33 saves and a 2.97 ERA, and righty Hector Neris is a strong setup man who leads MLB with 63 appearances.”
SS: What are your thoughts on the Phillies at this point in the season?
Matt: “Realistically they are right on pace with where I thought they would be when the season began. I predicted a 75-87 record, which would be a 12-game improvement over 2015, when the Phillies finished at the bottom of the MLB overall standings. That would be a .463 pace this season, and right now they are on a .464 pace. They are right where I think they should be, though now it would be nice to see them pick it up a bit over these final six weeks.”
SS: What are you looking forward to seeing in this Phillies-White Sox series?
Matt: “At this point for me it is all about the development of the Phils’ young starting pitching. In this quick two-gamer, the Phillies will be starting 22-year old Jake Thompson and 25-year old Jerad Eickhoff. I want to see Quality Starts out of each hurler, keeping the team in the games.”
SS: Who are some players in the minor league system you look forward to watching contribute in the future?
Matt: “For the Phillies, who are in the second season of a concerted rebuild, it is all about the future. I am most excited to see a couple of kids who likely don’t get here until next season: shortstop J.P. Crawford and catcher Jorge Alfaro, who are arguably the club’s #1 & #2 prospects. I am also a huge fan of center field prospect Roman Quinn, a speed burner who also could be here next year. In the longer term, this year’s top draftee Mickey Moniak has tons of talent. Hope to see him by late 2018. Corner outfielder Nick Williams is someone who could get his first shot during September.”
SS: What are some things the Phillies need to address in order to once again be competitive in their division?
Matt: “Time, patience, further development of the pitchers, and then in another two years, an open checkbook. This is a team and a fan base being conditioned to contend around 2018 and 2019. Over the next couple of seasons, incremental steps in the standings would be nice. Biggest thing to make that a reality is instilling discipline and maturity in the young players and pitchers. I would like to see a push for a .500 season next year, then a push towards a Wildcard in 2018.
“Even if both fall just short of those marks, it should all start coming back together by 2019. With a homegrown core of players and pitchers supplemented by a couple of big ticket free agents. If he comes on the market, trust me, the Phillies will be strong players in any Mike Trout sweepstakes. He is from this area, grew up a Phillies fan over in South Jersey, and fans have been counting down to his free agency, even figuring trade scenarios to make it happen sooner. The Phillies will have as much real money to spend over the next few years as any team in baseball.”
Next: Todd Frazier Should Remain In White Sox Plans for Future
The White Sox and Phillies will kick off their series on Tuesday night with Carlos Rodon (3-8, 4.26) going up against Jake Thompson (1-2, 8.79) as the White Sox look to continue this two-game winning streak. Then on Wednesday night James Shields (5-15, 5.98) will oppose Jerad Eickhoff (8-12, 3.91) to close out the only the breif two-game series. The White Sox and Phillies will play again in Philadelphia in September.