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Phillies have most plate appearances against lefties, but are amid a respite from them

PHILADELPHIA — The Phillies are in the midst of what has, for 2024, been a rare situation. Starting Friday night, the Phillies may face two straight series without a left-handed starter.

If all goes as planned, neither the St. Louis Cardinals this weekend or the Milwaukee Brewers next week will start a left-handed pitcher. The Mets have Sean Manaea and Jose Quintana on deck for the London series, but until then, it’ll be righties galore.

That’s been a rarity this season. The Phillies having logged the most plate appearances in baseball against left-handed pitching in 2024. Entering Saturday’s game against right-handed Sonny Gray, the Phillies have 780 plate appearances against lefties. Only Miami’s 719 has crossed the 700-PA threshold.

It hasn’t slowed down the Phillies, the team with the best record in baseball leads the majors with 303 runs scored, is fourth in batting average and third in on-base percentage. But this two-series window may be a chance to get some guys going against the right-handed pitching they’re used to seeing.

The Phillies have MLB’s sixth-highest batting average against lefties at .270 and the highest OBP at .347. Their 22 homers are tied for second, and their 96 runs scored is second. Tough lefties have stymied them before — the Phillies were 12th in the bigs in average and 15th in OBP against southpaws last year — but this year, they’re feasting.

Much of that comes from the mainstays in the lineup on the left-handed side. Led by Kyle Schwarber, Bryson Stott and Bryce Harper, the Phillies’ lefties have a .261 average (ninth in baseball) and a .364 OBP against lefties. Their nine homers and 40 RBIs lead baseball, as does a walk rate of 14.0 percent.

“I think the three guys that we have in there most of the time — Schwarber, Harper and Stott — have hit really well against lefties,” manager Rob Thomson said Friday. “And we’ve got good depth and good balance on the bench. Those guys that don’t play every day, they’ve played pretty well.”

Stott has emphasized that part of his game in particular. Never a liability against lefties, he slashed .263/.336/.414 against them as a rookie in 2022. That rose to .282/.347/.383 in 2023. He stands at .265/.379/.347 this year.

For Stott, all the looks against lefties require him to stay sharp on certain aspects of his swing.

“I personally like facing the lefties because you can’t spin off the ball. You can’t try to pull everything,” he said. “You have to really stay in there and stay on them, and really try to stay up the middle against them. Righties, as a left-handed hitter, you tend to get bigger and know you can get your A swing off at any time. You’ve just got to really make sure that you … make sure that you’re still seeing the pitch and still taking it where it’s pitched.”

Where the lefties are producing consistently if not with a ton of slug, righties are providing pop.

Phillies righties are ninth in baseball in plate appearances against lefties. Their average of .276 is sixth — J.T. Realmuto leads the way at .355 — and they are slugging the fifth-best percentage at .449.

The preponderance of left-handed pitching has forced Thomson into decisions on rest. While he’s not shy about putting Marsh or Stott out against lefties, he knows it helps to get a run against righties to get those guys going and take a little momentum into it.

Stott, for his part, doesn’t much care who he faces. That’s the example set by Schwarber and Harper at the top of the lineup, and it’s had a pervasive effect this year.

“It kind of goes to show you that with Schwarber and Bryce and myself and Marsh, it doesn’t matter the type of pitcher, really,” he said. “It just depends what their (opposing) manager wants to do and some still do it the traditional way: They’ll bring in the lefty to face a lefty and it doesn’t work out sometimes.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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