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Series Preview: Phillies at Pirates

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When the Phillies come to Pittsburgh, I'm thankful they're not good anymore. When the Phils were a playoff team (and the Pirates were not), their fans overran PNC Park to an embarrassing extent. They were loud, understandably.

I don't mean this in a tired Philadelphia-fans-trope kind of way. There are plenty of nice ones; there are bad ones in every bunch. My point, though, is I'm pretty glad we'll be able to just watch some damn baseball this weekend.

May has not been kind to the Phillies. They're 3-12 since the calendar turned and have lost 15 of their last 18. They just got swept in three games at Texas and sit 10 games back of the Nationals in the NL East. The Pirates (18-23) have suddenly won four of five, having taken the final two games of a three-game midweek series against Washington.

Schedule

Friday, 7:05 p.m. - Jeremy Hellickson (4-1, 3.71 ERA) vs. Trevor Williams (2-2, 6.41)

Saturday, 4:05 p.m. - Vince Velasquez (2-3, 5.63) vs. Ivan Nova (3-3, 2.48)

Sunday, 1:35 p.m. - Aaron Nola (2-0, 4.50) vs. Chad Kuhl (1-4, 6.69)

Phillies

14-24 (17-21 Pythag, 4.55 RS/G, 5.08 RA/G)

Offense

Aaron Altherr (.326/.423/.663) got regular playing time when Howie Kendrick got injured, and he's mashed eight home runs in 91 at-bats. Cesar Hernandez (.299/.368/.433) has turned into a pretty nice second baseman. Odubel Herrera's average has fallen to .242. It says something about the Phillies lineup that Herrera, at 0.8, still ranks third among their position players in that fWAR. Maikel Franco seemed to break out in 80 games in 2015, but had a meh 2016 and is off to a worse start in 2017. Michael Saunders left Thursday's game with a groin injury.

Pitching

Hellickson has walked eight batters all season (43 2-3 innings), while Velasquez has issued walks aplenty. Nola is set to come off the disabled list on Sunday after dealing with a lower-back strain. He last pitched April 20. Former Pirate Jeanmar Gomez went on the DL on May 9 with an elbow impingement. Hector Neris (3.40 K/BB) has taken over the closing duties. Joely Rodriguez, a former Pirates prospect traded to Philadelphia for Antonio Bastardo before the 2015 season, is not impressing out of the bullpen.

Speaking of Former Pirates you Might Not Remember

Pete Mackanin, manager of the Bucs for 26 games after Lloyd McClendon was fired in 2005, recently signed an extension through next season as Phillies manager.

Outlook

After taking two from the Nationals, here's an opening for the Pirates to build something nice after a pretty crappy year to date. The Phillies' starting pitchers have their days, but this is a team the Bucs can beat. After this, they head to lowly Atlanta, then return home to face the extremely metsy Mets.