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Series preview: Kyle Harrison will join the Giants to face the team they’re chasing

The team has given you a reason to watch them go up against yet another superior force.

MLB: Spring Training-San Francisco Giants Photo Day Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest news of the week will be Kyle Harrison’s major league debut tomorrow for the San Francisco Giants. How much he’ll help the Giants over the final 5-6 weeks, who they’re playing, none of that matters right now. This is the toughest part of the Giants’ schedule and they’re failing the test pretty easily, so it’s better just to focus on the shiny new thing.

Kyle Harrison’s fastball-slider combo promises Peak Alex Wood, and lest you think I’m condemning the rook before he throws a major league pitch, consider that for his first six seasons he was about 20% better than the leage average, limiting home runs and walks while striking out hitters at a decent clip. Heck he was even an All-Star one year.

But of course, we want — practically demand — so much more from the Giants’ new young lefty that comparing him to a guy who was at one point a quality arm but is now a guy on the verge of being released (when he’s not being used as middle inning filler) seems insulting. Maybe it should be. On the other hand, Baseball is very hard, and just being a solid player should be as celebrated as stardom.

The 22-year old third round pick from 2020 will be thrown into a Wild Card race with the unspoken piece of that being, “Hey kid, you’re the razzle-dazzle we’ve been missing; now, go out there and pitch a shutout, otherwise we lose.” You can be cynical, practical, or hopeful here: the Giants need Kyle Harrison quite a lot right now. He checks a lot of boxes, none of them created by his actions.

He’s not a polished prospect, but his stuff has always been undeniable. For 2-4 inning spurts, that might fit whatever it is the Giants are doing right now during this agonizing fade from relevance. There’s every chance he’ll struggle while showing flashes of why he’s the team’s #1 prospect (and #20 in MLB), but the team is banking on us enjoying the good while ignoring the bad. I think that’s the best way to be a fan at this point, too. The Giants are who they are and another great relief appearance isn’t going to matter too much if the lineup can’t scratch across a few runs. The worst lineup on planet Earth will be facing the best pitching staff in baseball for the next few days so, you know, manage expectations.

The Philadelphia Phillies are... complicated. They’re unambiguously a good team — maybe even a great team — featuring the best pitching staff (17.9 fWAR) in all the land, and a lineup with talented names but, perhaps, only middling performance this year (101 wRC+, 23th in runs). They just lost two out of three to a rebuilding Nationals team and five of seven overall. They could be doing a bit better, but they’re not. This is the team the San Francisco Giants have been chasing.

Odds are it’s going to be a lot like the Atlanta series, where they’re so obviously overmatched but the pitching is strong enough that they just might have a shot. The Phillies are averaging 4.83 runs per game through 58 games at Citizens Bank Park in 2023 and have scored 2 or fewer runs just 16 times (4 of which were shutouts). Meanwhile, the Giants have allowed 2 or fewer runs 33 times (11 shutouts of which 4 were on the road) and have a record of 27-6 in those games.

The Phillies, of course, by virtue of having the best pitching staff, have 34 games of allowing 2 runs or fewer, but only 3 shutouts. Because their lineup is better than the Giants’ they’re 30-4 in these games.

Remember, the Giants swept these guys in San Francisco back in May. That was when Bryce Harper was slowly working himself back from Tommy John. Since that sweep, the Phillies haven’t quite been like how the Dodgers after the Giants swept them (virtually unbeatable), but they’ve been good, going 47-34 with a 3.63 team ERA. The Giants are 45-36 with a 3.63 team ERA.

While Harper’s hit just 7 home runs since that sweep, he does have an .817 OPS. That’s second on the team to Bryson Stott’s .832 amongst starters. For comparison’s sake, the Giants’ OPS leader among starters since May 17th is Wilmer Flores at .967. Second? Mitch Haniger (.759). Michael Conforto checks in at .757. So, as you can see, the Giants and Phillies have a similar design, only the Phillies have actual talent versus mega platoons. Still Philadelphia’s big hitters haven’t quite hit big this season, and maybe that unrealized potential or down year might be enough for the struggling Giants.

Series details

Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Where: Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When: Monday (3:40 pm PT), Tuesday (3:40 pm PT), Wednesday (1:05 pm PT)
National broadcasts: Monday & Wednesday — MLB Network simulcasts

Projected starters

Monday: Scott Alexander (opener) vs. Aaron Nola
Tuesday: TBA vs. Taijuan Walker
Wednesday: Alex Cobb vs. Michael Lorenzen

Where they stand


Record: 67-57, 2nd in NL East
Run differential: +44, 5th in NL
Postseason standing: +2.5 up in Wild Card, 13.5 games out of the division
Momentum: 1-game losing streak; 5-5 in their last 10 games


Record: 65-59, 2nd in NL West
Run differential: +8, 6th in the NL
Postseason standing: +0.5 up in Wild Card, 11.5 games out of the division
Momentum: 1-game winning streak; 3-7 in their last 10 games

Phillies to watch

Trea Turner: He’s the poster player for the team’s struggles. His 92 OPS+ through 122 games (542 PA) is not what they expected when they signed him to an 11-year/$300 million deal in the offseason. His career 2.5 K/BB is 3.5 this season, and that’s despite returning to the NL East where he played for a long time before being traded to the Dodgers in 2021. He’s 22-for-22 in stolen base attempts, though, and he’s played in all but two of Philadelphia’s games this season. He has a .754 OPS in the second half buoyed by an absolute tear here in August: .300/.347/.557 (.904 OPS) in his last 75 plate appearances. 4 home runs, 6 doubles among 21 hits.

Kyle Schwarber: Crushes the Giants every chance he gets. His 12 home runs against them are sixth-most against any opponent and his .915 OPS (in 35 games) is the third-best against NL teams. They have a book on Ohtani that has prevented him from hitting a home run against them to this point, but they have the inverse of that with Schwarber.

Bryce Harper: A career .787 hitter against the Giants, but he hasn’t homered against them since 2021, which is weird. In fact, the past two seasons, he’s just 6-for-30 with 1 extra base hit (a double). Like Trea Turner, he’s really picked it up in August: .302/.392/.603 (.995 OPS) with 4 home runs and 7 doubles.

Aaron Nola: He was fourth in Cy Young voting last year, but this season has been a disappointing showing on the eve of his free agency. His 4.25 FIP is a career high/worst and his strikeouts per 9 have fallen from a 4-year average of 10.7 to 9.4. His second half has been really rough: 5.24 ERA (4.00 FIP) in 34.1 IP (6 GS).

Craig Kimbrel: Strikeout rate up, walk rate down, 19 saves in 54 games — all solid improvements over last season with the Dodgers (22 saves in 63 games, career-low strikeout rate). Still — and even though the Giants didn’t get to him — as we saw with Kirby Yates in Atlanta, FIP is an indicator, and Kimbrel’s 3.56, while still really good, suggests that there’s a sliver of hope if the Giants find themselves tied or down a run late. His second half has been a bit bumpy, too: 2 blown saves and a 2.77 ERA / 4.34 FIP.

Giants to watch

Kyle Harrison: They say he’s the most consequential pitching prospect in the Giants organization since Madison Bumgarner, and I’d like that to be true. Everyone’s quick to point out that Tim Lincecum made his debut (which featured 5 walks) against the Philadelphia Phillies, but I’ll point out that Bumgarner’s was a 5.1 inning effort against the Padres where the two home runs he gave up were the only two runs he allowed. That would be a great performance to repeat.

Michael Conforto: His top two parks for hitting home runs in his career: Citi Field (66) and Citizens Bank Park (15). He has a career line of .279/.356/.569 in Philadelphia. He’s hitting .294/.410/.451 (.861 OPS) in August. LET’S. GO.

Wilmer Flores: He was 3-for-7 against the Phillies back in May, he has a career line of .290/.302/.516 at Citizens Bank Park (126 PA), and since returning from the IL on June 29, he’s hitting .350/.400/.642 (1.042) with 10 home runs and 10 doubles (150 PA).

Joc Pederson: His August line looks like a cry for help: .200/.268/.220 with just one extra base hit (a double on August 16th). He’s unlikely to come back to the Giants next season, but if he has another thumpless series in a park where, in 92 career plate appearances, he’s hit .300/.391/.513 (4 home runs, 5 doubles), I wonder if he’s going to be worth rostering even in September. Not only is he bad at hitting (.645 OPS since June 20), he’s a blight on defense. The Giants have no margin for error at this point and he’s a walking error.

... Kyle Harrison: The Phillies are actually better against left-handed pitching than right-handed pitching (.757 OPS vs. .745), but that just means this will be a great opportunity for him to test out his changeup and see just how much a sweeper that low-80s slider could be, as the Phillies can struggle against these two pitches.

Prediction time


San Francisco @ Philadelphia - how will it go?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Giants win series
    (49 votes)
  • 27%
    Phillies win series
    (40 votes)
  • 9%
    Phillies sweep
    (14 votes)
  • 4%
    Giants sweep
    (7 votes)
  • 25%
    (38 votes)
148 votes total Vote Now