|Phillies, D-backs a battle of surprise early powerhouses|
The Philadelphia Phillies have the best home record in baseball. Their next test at Citizens Bank Park comes against the team with the best record in the National League.
The Phillies host the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are 15-6 and have won all seven of their series so far in 2018, for a three-game set starting Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Philadelphia enters the series off a four-game home sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Phillies have lost just once in 10 games this season at Citizens Bank Park and are 14-7 overall.
"I feel really good about our confidence levels right now," Phillies first-year manager Gabe Kapler told mlb.com after Sunday's win over the Pirates. "We're having a lot of fun. I think having fun in baseball is really important. It's a long season. Keeping it light -- we laugh in the dugout. I hope you guys are seeing that. A lot of smiles and a lot of laughter, and after the games, we're having a great time in there."
The Phillies are off to a strong start despite not getting a ton of production from their bats. They enter the series opener with a .230 team batting average and .697 OPS -- numbers that ranked 22nd and 20th, respectively, in the majors as of Monday.
Matchups for Phillies hitters won't get any easier as they are set to face Arizona left-hander Robbie Ray on Tuesday and four-time All-Star Zack Grienke on Wednesday.
Ray (2-0, 4.98 ERA) has a 3.24 ERA over his last three starts after giving up six earned runs over five innings in his season debut against the Rockies. Ray has 32 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings this season, and his 13.3 K/9 rate was tied for the best mark in baseball as of Monday.
Ray struck out nine in six innings and gave up two runs on five hits in three walks during his last outing against the Giants on April 18.
"His outing looked like it was more of a typical Robbie outing with nine punchouts," Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo told mlb.com after Ray's last outing. "...He was getting some outs with pitches in different areas at different times. I thought it was his best outing of the year."
Tuesday will mark Ray's fifth career start against the Phillies. He's 2-1 with a 4.56 ERA and 1.648 WHIP in his previous four outings.
Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez (1-2, 3.80 ERA) will face Ray in the series opener. Like Ray, Velasquez has settled into a groove following a shaky opener. The 25-year-old has a 2.41 ERA in his last three starts after allowing seven runs (four earned) to the Braves in his debut.
Velasquez went six innings in his last start, which also came against Atlanta. He surrendered his first home run of the season, a three-run shot by Ryan Flaherty, which accounted for the only runs against him in a loss.
In three career appearances against Arizona (one start), Velasquez has not allowed an earned run and has 11 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings.
The Diamondbacks won six of their seven meetings with the Phillies last season, including a three-game sweep at Citizens Bank Park.