Phillies face dangerous Diamondbacks ahead of first NL East trip of 2023

Phillies take on dangerous D-backs ahead of first NL East trip of 2023 originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

A 10-game NL East road trip looms, but first, the 22-24 Phillies finish up a homestand with the 27-20 Arizona Diamondbacks, a top National League offense that has hit its stride in May.

The D-backs have been one of the top teams in the National League through two months both in wins and losses and the talent level of their roster. The only two NL teams with a better record are the Braves and Dodgers, and only the Braves, Dodgers and Cardinals have scored more runs.

Arizona is receiving contributions from all over and has a deep lineup, which could test a Phillies team that beat the Cubs 12-3 on Saturday and 2-1 on Sunday.

• Outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., acquired from Toronto over the winter, has hit .304 with an .887 OPS.

Corbin Carroll, one of the fastest and most dynamic players in baseball already at age 22, has hit .284 with an .888 OPS, 10 doubles, seven homers and 13 stolen bases.

• First baseman Christian Walker has a team-leading 11 homers and 34 RBI.

• Plate discipline is a strength of shortstop Geraldo Perdomo, but he's also hit so far this season (.317/.415/.525).

• Second baseman Ketel Marte, who bats first or second every day, has a .314 average in May with a .398 OBP.

The Diamondbacks have lost just one series over the last month, dropping two of three at home to the Marlins two weeks ago. They've won seven of their last nine, scoring at least seven runs in four of them.

However, that clicking Arizona offense has not done much against the top three starting pitchers it has faced in the month of May, scoring once off of Logan Webb over seven innings, being shut out over seven by Alex Cobb and scoring once in six innings against Jesus Luzardo.

Zack Wheeler, who starts Monday's series opener for the Phillies at 6:40 p.m., is the best pitcher the Diamondbacks have faced all month.

While Aaron Nola has averaged just under seven innings in his last seven starts, Wheeler hasn't gotten consistent results yet in 2023. His runs allowed by start have gone 5, 2, 1, 4, 3, 0, 5, 1, 4.

Wheeler has done a great job of limiting walks with just six in his last six starts to go with 43 strikeouts. And he continues to thrive at home, where he is 18-9 as a Phillie with a 2.33 ERA and 0.94 WHIP.

The Phillies face left-hander Tommy Henry in Game 1, then a pair of right-handers Tuesday and Wednesday in Ryne Nelson and Zac Gallen.

Henry has a 5.00 ERA in five starts this season with 13 strikeouts and 12 walks in 27 innings. He has reverse platoon splits and lefties have done major damage off of him, hitting .351 with a .965 OPS in his 14 career starts.

Despite this, it sounds like center fielder Brandon Marsh may be out of the starting lineup for a second consecutive game Monday night. Marsh was a legitimate candidate for National League Player of the Month in April but has hit .103 since May 2, albeit with 11 walks and a .314 OBP.

The Phillies have not yet named a starter for Tuesday's middle game. Right-hander Dylan Covey, claimed off waivers by the Phils from the Dodgers this past Saturday, will factor into the early innings, either as a bulk pitcher behind an opener or as a spot starter.

Game 3 is Gallen against Ranger Suarez. Gallen has had a lengthy scoreless innings streak for the second season in a row, not allowing a run over 28 innings from his final frame on April 4 through his first on May 2. In 41 starts the last two seasons, he's 18-6 with a 2.64 ERA and his opponents have hit .194. He did get hit around Wednesday in Pittsburgh, though.

Suarez lasted only two innings in his second start against the Cubs. His command has been off in both games since returning from an elbow injury that cost him most of spring training and the first six weeks of the regular season. Suarez has had trouble working ahead and staying ahead of his hitters, which he needs to make his deep repertoire more effective and his changeup more enticing to chase.

This is the Phillies' 16th series of the season and their 15th against a non-division opponent. They've played three games against their division while every other NL East team has played at least 13. The Phils are the only team in baseball that has played just one series against its division to this point.

That ends after the D-backs series as the Phillies head to Atlanta for four games, New York for three and Washington for three. With just 13 games against each division foe this season, more than a quarter of the Phillies' games against the Braves and Mets will take place from May 25 through June 1.

They'll look to build some momentum early this week.