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The Phillies are back to finish what they started

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The last time the Phillies and Giants met, it didn’t go so well. Will things be different this time?

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Phillies and Giants met, the Giants were coming off sweeping the Braves. The Giants had stymied Atlanta’s young hitters, and their own bats had come alive. They were exuding confidence. They were filled with moxie. They had momentum. How did the series with the Phillies go?

Yikes.

Since then the Giants are 7-15. If you believe that positive momentum is a thing, the inverse must also be true. The four-game sweep of the Phillies sent the Giants on a downward spiral. The Phillies stripped the Giants of their mojo. This is all their fault.

If the Giants can scrape out a series win against Philadelphia, it might be enough for the Giants to clean up their mess before Madison Bumgarner returns on Tuesday. Or it might be three meaningless games in another losing season.

If the Giants want to win, they’ll have to go through Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, and Jake Arrieta. That means they’ll miss Aaron Nola, which is fortunate because the last time the Giants faced Nola, he smote their ruin on the mountainside.

The bad news is the Giants couldn’t touch Pivetta or Velasquez either. The Giants couldn’t hit any pitcher the Phillies threw out except for Zac Curtis. Curtis is the guy got sent to AAA for besmirching the Phillies name by giving up earned runs to San Francisco’s offense.

At the time of writing this, the Giants haven’t announced who will start Sunday’s game. With Samardzija on the DL, it’s between Ty Blach and Dereck Rodriguez. Recency bias suggests it should be Rodriguez, because Rodriguez looked good on Wednesday and Blach hasn’t been good for a month. Is Rodriguez any better than Blach? The only way to find out is to start him.

On the bright side, even if they get swept again, none of the games will be on Facebook.

Hitter to watch: With Rhys Hoskins on the DL after horrifically fouling a ball of his jaw, I don’t think there’s a Phillies hitter as exciting as Odubel Herrera. Cesar Hernandez comes close, but a lot of his value comes from his base on ball skills. And you know what they say:

In the last series, Herrera was 7-for-17 with two home runs and a double. He was in the middle of what would eventually become a 45-game on-base streak. The Giants tried to pitch him inside all that week, but they were pitching right into his wheelhouse.

His weakness, if he has one, is above the zone where he’s likely to swing and miss. The difficulty in pitching above the zone is if you miss up, it’s easy for the hitter to lay off; if you miss down, the pitch is going to get crushed.

Pitcher to watch: I swear Jake Arrieta isn’t as good as everyone thinks he is. His peripherals haven’t been great this year. I would argue that he wasn’t good last year, and maybe wasn’t even that good in 2016. Somehow, though, despite the red flags (declines in velocity, spikes in home runs, issues with command) he winds proving me wrong.

This year, his K/9 is 6.17 which would put him fifth among Giants starters (including Jeff Samardzija, but not Johnny Cueto). And yet, he’s put together a 2.16 ERA including a 0.90 ERA in May. But it’s all just has to be batted ball luck. Right? There’s no way he’s this good without striking anyone out.

His HR/FB percentage is 4.3, the best in the National League, despite throwing over half his innings in Citizen’s Bank Park. His groundball rate is six points higher than his career average. These things are going to normalize, right? And then maybe his ERA will match his 4.11 DRA.

Prediction: Despite their fecklessness in Philadelphia, I don’t think the offense will be overmatched again. There are enough guys in the lineup swinging the bat well to keep the Giants competitive. I don’t know if I can say the same about the rotation. As has been the case recently, the Giants will have to rely on the bats.

My pessimistic predictions have been mostly coming true—the Rockies only walked off against the Giants once—so I’m going to try optimism for a change. Things will break the Giants’ way and they’ll take two out of three.