After a week long layoff due to a Covid-19 breakout in the Marlins’ lockeroom, the Phillies are finally back on the diamond tonight. That’s the good news.
The bad news?
They are being welcomed back in grand fashion by the 7-1 Yankees. Oh, and their ace Gerrit Cole is on the mound tonight. Oh, and their best position player, Aaron Judge, has hit six HRs in his last 5 games.
Signing a nine-year, $324 million contract with the team he grew up rooting for, Cole will be making his home debut tonight for the Bronx Bombers. While the lack of fans might affect some players’ debuts, the awe of Yankee Stadium is sure to give the lifelong fan an extra boost. Exactly what a guy who pumps his fastball consistently in the upper 90’s needs. Coming off a start in which he really didn’t have his best stuff in Baltimore, I’m guessing Cole is going to be much more focused coming into this one.
After Cole, it doesn’t get much easier. While they suffered a big blow to the relief corps when Tommy Kahnle went down, Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Adam Ottavino still make up what is arguably the best bullpen in the game.
Not only do you have to deal with the pitchers tonight, but the opposing offense lead by Judge has also found its stride to start the year. Big #99 is off to a sizzling start and has been putting on a home run show to start the season. Judge could be looking to feast against Jake Arrieta, who has shown us the last two seasons that he can be prone to the long ball. Along with Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, and Gleyber Torres round out a very potent offense for the Yankees.
The aforementioned Jake Arrieta looks to start his season on the right foot after limping to an 8-8 record with a 4.64 ERA in 2019. Definitely not an ideal team and place to start the season with. Arrieta will have to rely heavily on movement tonight, as I don’t think he is going to miss many bats. Arrieta is at his best when he pitches to contact and relies on his movement to miss the sweetspot of bats. The strikeout stuff he had circa 2015 has disappeared, and he can definitely get into trouble when he overthrows looking for the K. I am not optimistic about tonight or his season for that matter, but who knows. Anything can happen in 2020.
The offense will also look to rebound from what what a dismal display against the Marlins in the opening series. Expect the hitters in the lineup to be aggressive early against Cole, as they’ll want to avoid his devastating offspeed pitches with two strikes. My eyes are on Didi Gregorius tonight in his return to Yankee Stadium after 5 productive years there. He was a fan and clubhouse favorite, and I’m sure he’ll want to show out in front of both. Bryce Harper has a swing that’s made for Yankee Stadium, and he seems to be at his best in the big games. I wouldn’t be shocked if he also had a big series.
The question marks on this team lie in the bullpen, and for good reason. If the Marlins’ series was any indication, we are in for a long series. This could be the worst bullpen in Major League Baseball and that doesn’t look to change anytime soon. Let’s hope we won’t see much of them against the Yankees, because if we do, it definitely isn’t going well.
Of all the teams we play in 2020, this was the last team I wanted to see coming off of a week break. In a shortened season, the Phillies can’t afford to be losing too many series. With 57 games in 56 games being possible, the Phillies will need all the strong performances they can get.
It starts tonight.