A scheduling quirk has the Phillies off Monday and Thursday this week, with a two-game series against the Cleveland Indians coming Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a three-game weekend series with the Cincinnati Reds. The Phils were 0-5 against those teams in Ohio.
The Indians are still rolling. They've won 12 of 14, and lead the majors in slugging percentage and OPS. They might not be as potent as they were in Cleveland, but they will have Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher this time around. Neither prized offseason acquisition played in the last series.
The pitching matchups in this series are Jon Pettibone (2-0, 3.63) vs. Scott Kazmir (2-1, 4.87), then Cole Hamels (1-5, 4.18) vs. Corey Kluber (2-2, 5.64).
Kazmir has made three straight solid starts and was spectacular his last time out, allowing one run over six innings with 10 strikeouts against Oakland. It was his best outing in several years. Kazmir averaged 93-94 mph with his fastball that day and reached back to throw it as hard as 96. Velocity has been an issue in recent years for the former first-round pick -- he's been between 88-91 the last two seasons.
Kluber has a terrific first name but middling stuff. The opposition has hit .311 off him this year and .299 for his career. He's a 6-foot-4 righty who goes fastball-cutter, with some curves and changes mixed in.
Looking forward to the Reds series ...
Cincinnati is a much different team away from Great American Ballpark. The Reds are 16-6 at home and 6-10 on the road. They hit .265 with a .777 OPS at home, compared to .224 with a .641 OPS on the road. They have 28 homers at GAB and 9 everywhere else.
At home, Reds pitchers have a 2.87 ERA; on the road, 4.70.
If you recall, the first time the Phils played the Reds, they were in that four-game walkless stretch. The Phillies aren't going that bad anymore, and Shin-Soo Choo isn't going as good. The well-rounded lefty leadoff man still leads the league with a .451 OBP, but he's hit just .200 with 15 strikeouts over his last 16 games.
For some reason, Dusty Baker insists on batting Zack Cozart second, in between Choo and Votto, who rank 1st and 2nd in the NL in on-base percentage. Choo is at .451, Votto .444 and Cozart .237.
Cozart hasn't hit for average or power, he doesn't advance runners and all he does is pull the ball. It makes no sense why Baker continues to bat him at the top and waste outs. Votto has led off an inning 35 times already this season because Cozart makes the final out in anning so often. It's straight up terrible use of Votto, the best pure hitter in the National League, and it explains why he has fewer RBIs this season than Domonic Brown.