Through 10 games the Philadelphia Phillies are 4-6, 4th in the National League East, and have lost six of their last eight games. For a team with sky-high expectations, their performance – from big name free agents and prospects alike – has been lackluster. Conversely, the Colorado Rockies, a team without much expectation of being competitive, have exceeded off-season predictions – the club is 6-3, 3rd in the National League West, and 2nd in the league in team batting average (.277).

Although the season is still in its infancy, and the assumptions to be made from these games undoubtedly premature, the Phillies – 3-11 at Coors Field in 2017 – still face a stiff test tonight in Denver. Two players in particular – Alec Bohm, potentially making a rare start at 3rd base, and Aaron Nola, tonight’s starting pitcher – will be tested especially hard.

Bohm, who has not had a start at 3rd base since last Monday’s disastrous 3-error performance, looks to quell his fielding woes while staying hot at the plate. On the season, Bohm is 7 for 10 with 4 RBIs and 3 walks. Before going 0 for 1 in a pinch hit appearance in Sunday’s loss, Bohm had gone 4 for 5 in the series against Miami – a pinch hit single in each of the first two contests, and a dominant 2 for 3, 3 RBI, 2 sacrifice fly start at DH on Saturday night.

Bohm will need to continue this hot streak on Monday night to ensure the success of both the team and himself. While Bohm has thrived at the plate in stark comparison to heralded infield prospect Bryson Stott (.154/.185/.192 with 5 strikeouts Saturday night), he faces stiff competition for playing time from utility free-agent signing Johan Camargo. Both Camargo and Stott have proven more confident and fluid than Bohm in the field this year – a likely contributor to Bohm’s decreased playing time.

In turn, the Phillies also need Bohm to continue his hot streak for their own sake – following an 11-3 loss on Sunday afternoon, the team looks to finally get their heart of the lineup involved in clutch situations. Last year’s MVP Bryce Harper has started off slowly, hitting just .216 with 2 HRs in 37 at-bats, and erstwhile lead off man, Kyle Schwarber – one half of the team’s marquee free agent signings – is 1 for his last 28. The inability to bring home runners in scoring position has haunted the team early on. That, combined with lackluster starting pitching has made for lopsided losses, like Sunday’s affair, in which winning doesn’t seem possible after 5 innings.

Regarding starting pitching, this upstart Rockies lineup turns Coors Field into an early-season proving ground for Aaron Nola. Following a strong Opening Day outing – only hampered by manager Joe Girardi’s decision to leave Nola in the game one inning too many – Nola devolved to his lowly 2021 form. 

In his last start, it took Nola 76 pitches just to make it 3.1 innings – allowing 3 earned runs on 3 hits, 3 walks, and 2 hit batters. Sure he posted 5 strikeouts, but at what cost? His performance was reminiscent of a largely regrettable 2021 campaign in which high strikeout totals and pitch counts begot early-game exits and an inflated ERA.

Despite historically solid numbers at Coors Field – 2-0 with a 4.12 ERA in 19.2 innings over three starts – Nola’s propensity to allowing the long ball makes him an easy target for a hungry and hot Rockies lineup. His start tonight – while nearly inconsequential in the long-term standings for the team – could prove vital in developing his confidence early on in the season. If Nola succeeds, he could set the tone for not only himself but the rest of the starting rotation. But if he fails, Nola could cast a long shadow of doubt over his future performance. 

 

Featured Image:  Kyle Ross / USA TODAY Sports

 

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