Philadelphia Phillies at Boston Red Sox
When and Where: Tuesday, Aug. 20, Fenway Park, Boston, Mass., 7:10 p.m. EDT.
If this is indeed the last stand of the Boston Red Sox, they are at least going down with a fight.
The defending World Series champions look to match a season best Tuesday night with a sixth consecutive victory as they play the first of two games versus the Philadelphia Phillies.
Nola seeks fourth win in five starts as Phils try to gain ground in NL wild card
The Phillies (64-60) entered play Monday night part of a three-way tie with Milwaukee and the New York Mets, two games behind the Chicago Cubs for the second National League wild-card spot and 3 1/2 games behind division rival Washington for the first.
The momentum of a three-game sweep of the Cubs fizzled out over the weekend as Philadelphia dropped the final two games of its series versus San Diego, capped by a 3-2 loss Sunday. Jean Segura drove in both runs with a pair of RBI doubles, but the Phillies generated few scoring chances and finished 1 for 3 with runners in scoring position.
“There’s really no time to think about what happened here and what could have or should have; we have to go to Boston and do the job,” pitcher Jason Vargas told the Phils’ official website after allowing two runs in 5 2-3 innings and not factoring in the decision.
“It’s frustrating to lose the game and the series,” manager Gabe Kapler added. “We were 4-2 on the homestand and [had] really high-quality at-bats across the board today that didn’t end with the best possible results.”
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) August 19, 2019
Aaron Nola (11-3, 3.56) hopes the offense perks up and Bryce Harper is able to play after leaving Sunday’s contest due to dehydration. Nola shook off a subpar outing in San Francisco with a sharp one Wednesday versus the Cubs, pitching free and easy with a 10-run lead after three innings and conceded a solo homer and two other hits in seven innings of an 11-1 rout.
Though Nola is 5-2 on the road, he has not shown Wednesday’s type of dominance often as he has a 4.63 ERA outside Citizens Bank Park. While the righty has pitched well in interleague matchups against AL Central teams this year, the opposition has been the division’s also-rans — Nola is 1-0 with a 1.37 ERA in three outings against the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox.
He had nothing to show for a stellar outing at Fenway Park last year, holding the Red Sox to one run in eight innings of Philadelphia’s 2-1, 13-inning defeat. It is also his lone appearance versus Boston.
Harper has struggled all season against AL pitching, hitting .130 (6 for 46) with 17 strikeouts and one homer. He has fared slightly better against Boston in his career, hitting .250 (8 for 32) with a pair of home runs in nine games ahead of his first trip to Fenway since 2015.
BoSox still face sizable wild-card deficit
Currently the hottest team in the majors, the Red Sox (67-59) still have much work to do for a chance to defend their World Series title in October. They began play Monday night 6 1/2 games out of the second wild-card spot and must still overtake the Oakland A’s in addition to knocking out either Cleveland or division rival Tampa Bay.
After this series, Boston has a soft patch of schedule in the form of an eight-game road trip that features sub-.500 teams San Diego, Colorado, and the Los Angeles Angels. But first things first, and that is matching the six-game run established as a season best from June 12-17.
Alex Cora’s team took care of business over the weekend sweeping three games from Baltimore, erasing a five-run deficit to win 13-8 Sunday. Rafael Devers went 4 for 5 with a homer and two doubles and drove in four runs for the Red Sox, who have scored 38 runs during their win streak.
— Red Sox (@RedSox) August 19, 2019
“It’s amazing,” Cora said of Devers, who leads the majors with 101 RBIs, to the club’s official website. “We go back to April, like people were talking about him going to Triple-A and trying to find it down there. But his on-base percentage was way up there and he wasn’t striking out.
So we saw a few things that we liked and he wasn’t hitting the ball in the air. When he found it, he just took off. Just quality at-bat after quality at-bat. He’s a joy to watch.”
Devers is hitting a blistering .541 (20 for 37) with four homers and 12 extra-base hits during an eight-game hitting streak and also has 11 RBIs during a five-game run with at least one run driven in.
Brian Johnson (1-1, 6.45) hopes Devers and Boston’s offense can continue to produce at a prolific clip. Cora has been quick to hook the left-hander at the first sign of trouble in his last two starts and pulled him in the third inning Wednesday against Cleveland after yielding an unearned run with three hits and two walks in 2 2-3 innings.
Johnson has lasted just five innings once in his five starts and has no record and a 3.86 ERA in those contests. He has given up 22 runs in 16 1-3 innings in those games, with opposing hitters batting .319.
The southpaw’s lone interleague appearance in 2019 was a disaster as he gave up more runs (7) than recorded outs (4) in a relief role in Boston’s 15-8 loss at Arizona on April 5. Johnson’s only matchup with Philadelphia was a road start in 2017 when he yielded three runs and four hits in 2 2-3 innings before Boston rallied for a 7-3 victory.
The Phillies are:
- 5-1 in Nola’s last six interleague starts.
- 20-8 in Nola’s last 28 starts on five days of rest.
- 5-1 in Nola’s last six starts vs. above-.500 teams.
The Red Sox are:
- 2-9 in their last 11 games vs. above-.500 teams.
- 4-10 in their last 14 games after allowing five or more runs in the previous game.
- 0-4 in their last four home games vs. above-.500 teams.