The Phillies spent less than 24 hours in Baltimore, but they were in the Charm City long enough to leave Thursday night with a win. Nick Pivetta won his first start since May 21, Cesar Hernandez and Scott Kingery each had three hits, and Jorge Alfaro finished a triple shy of the cycle. The Phillies made a pit stop in Baltimore, refueled with a win, and flew to Miami with some confidence.
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Standing between the Phillies and four days off are just three games against those lousy Marlins. The Phillies could not have drawn up a better way to end the first half than sending their three best pitchers to the mound against one of the worst teams in the National League. It is always difficult to sweep on the road, but the Phils have a pretty solid shot of entering the All-Star break riding a four-game winning streak as Jake Arrieta, Aaron Nola, and Zach Eflin will face the Marlins (39-56).
The Marlins have hit the lowest number of homers in the National League, scored the third-lowest runs, and have the fourth-worst on-base percentage. Their pitching staff has the NL's highest ERA, and their bullpen has the highest WHIP.
Nola and Eflin both pitched well against the Marlins in May, but Arrieta struggled. But he faced them in two of his first five starts as he still seemed to be figuring himself out after missing most of spring training. Eflin and Nola are on a roll, and Arrieta is coming off his best start in more than a month. This Marlins team seems ripe for picking.
Nick Pivetta ended his first half with a promising start against the Orioles. He didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning and struck out seven before being removed in the seventh. The Phillies received solid starts on consecutive nights from Vince Velasquez and Pivetta, both of whom might have been a bit motivated by the promising debut of Enyel De Los Santos earlier in the week.
Rhys Hoskins will be the first Phillies player since 2009 to be in the Home Run Derby, and he has no worries that the contest will affect his swing. He said he would text Ryan Howard for advice this weekend, and that sounds like a good idea. Not only did Howard win the derby in 2006, but he hit 30 more home runs once the season resumed.
Remember when the Phillies drafted Aaron Nola and he was pegged to be a mid-rotation starter? Scott Lauber revisited that and found out how Nola surpassed those expectations. He talked to Nola, his old college coaches, and even the Phillies general manager who drafted him.
Friday: Jake Arrieta vs. the Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
Saturday: Aaron Nola Day, 4:10 p.m.
Sunday: Zach Eflin ends the first half, 1:10 p.m.
Monday: Rhys Hoskins competes in the Home Run Derby, 8 p.m.
Tuesday: Nola represents the Phillies in the All-Star Game, 7:30 p.m.
If Aaron Nola wins Saturday's start, he will enter the All-Star break with a National League-leading 13 wins. That would make him just the fourth Phillies pitcher to have 13 wins before the break, as he can join some guys named Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts, and Curt Schilling. Talk about elite company …
Let's get Ken Giles back. Make an offer to Houston. They don't want the distraction, so I think we can get him without giving up a lot. – Robert R., email