Back above .500 for the first time in nearly a month, the Philadelphia Phillies head to the West Coast this week to put their better brand of baseball to the test.
The Phillies open a three-game road series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday, followed by another three games at San Francisco later in the week.
On a four-game winning streak after sweeping a short, two-game series at home against the New York Yankees, the Phillies were able to settle in and relax on their long flight following Sunday’s 7-0 victory. Philadelphia also has won six of its past seven.
The Phillies will even bring a bit of California with them into their first game in the state in two years, sending right-hander Spencer Howard (0-1, 4.61) to the mound in Monday’s game. Howard, who grew up along California’s Central Coast and attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, has never appeared in a big league game west of Denver.
Since moving into the Phillies rotation on May 22, Howard has a 2.89 ERA in three starts but has just 9 1/3 combined innings and has never thrown more than 68 pitches in any of those outings.
His latest start came June 5 when he did not give up an earned run in 2 1/3 innings against the Washington Nationals. He walked two, which was an improvement from the nine combined walks during seven innings in his previous two starts.
One trait Howard has shown in his three short starts this season is a slight velocity dip after two innings from near 95 mph to 93 mph.
“He’s not hurt; we’ve done all the tests,” Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. “If we believed he was hurt, I’d be worried. It’s unusual, but I think he’ll be OK. Then all of a sudden it starts getting in somebody’s mind and people talk about it a lot. But I’m not as concerned as others.”
The Dodgers will have a starter Monday who has emerged from actual injury issues. Right-hander Tony Gonsolin (0-0, 5.40) will make just his second start and appearance of the season after returning from shoulder inflammation.
Gonsolin, who has never faced the Phillies, went just 1 2/3 innings in his season debut Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, giving up one run. He walked five in the outing and needed 66 pitches to record his five outs.
“I was just throwing a lot of balls and couldn’t really find the zone with anything and just competed through it and luckily got out of there with only one (run),” Gonsolin said.
The Dodgers hope Gonsolin can take over the spot in the rotation that was vacated when Dustin May was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery.
The Dodgers enter the series having won five of their past six games and are coming off a series victory over the Texas Rangers.
After falling 12-1 to Texas on Saturday, the Dodgers rebounded with a 5-3 victory Sunday that included a home run from Mookie Betts, who has gone deep twice in the past four games to give him seven on the season.
–Field Level Media