Phillies set to open second half against division leading Brewers

Philadelphia Phillies open second half in Milwaukee against the Brewers
The Philadelphia Phillies open the second half of the season with a three-game set against the Milwaukee Brewers beginning tonight. The club wrapped up the first half of the season with a 7-1 win over the San Diego Padres on Sunday.

The Phillies currently sit 29 games below the .500 mark and on pace to lose 100 games, a mark not reached since 1961.

"We need to come back refreshed and start things off right," said Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco. "It's time to show what we can do and that we have the ability to win."

This second half is especially important for Franco. Once heralded as a top prospect within the organization, he's pieced together a lackluster start to the season and his future role a pillar in the current rebuild has come into question. He's hitting .217 with 13 homers and 45 RBI; his OPS+ is 73. (See out mid-season report card)

"I think he's pushing a bit too much," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "His approach right now just isn't working. He needs to focus on the at-bat at hand and do what he's capable of doing."

For the series opener the Phillies turn to rookie Nick Pivetta. The right-hander has allowed four runs over his last two starts, going seven innings in each of those outings. This after struggling and allowing 13 earned runs in 20 2/3 innings of work.

“It’s just settling in. I have more innings underneath my belt. I’ve seen a little bit more. I still have a lot to learn, a lot to work on,” Pivetta said. “I think this is a good basis for where I’m at right now and I just want to keep moving forward with that.”

“He still needs work on his secondary pitches, but once he hones those, he’s got a chance to be really good,” Mackanin said. “I really like him.”

The Brewers counter with right-hander Zach Davies who is 10-4 with a 4.90 ERA over 18 starts.

Milwaukee enters play tonight with a 5 1/2-game lead over the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central.

“Our lead in the division, that surprises me. It certainly does,” manager Craig Counsell said Thursday. “How we’ve played, I’m not really that surprised. I’m really not. We’ve earned our record. It’s something we’ve fought for and had to earn it.”
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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