You can’t, you won’t, and you don’t stop: Phillies vs. Rangers series preview

Mar 30, 2023 - 3:12 PM
Spring Training
Old enemy, new uniform | Photo by Ben Ludeman/Texas Rangers/Getty Images

The National League champs are back! The last time we saw the Phillies, they were taking on the Houston Astros for the right to be crowned world champions of baseball. They were sadly unable to accomplish that goal, but as Queen Elsa sang, the past is in the past. We can’t dwell on last season’s accomplishments and failures since they mean absolutely nothing in terms of how the 2023 edition of the team will fare.

And how will the 2023 team fare? According to the writers at The Good Phight, pretty well! The first opportunity to justify our faith will be against a team that gave the Phillies a lot of trouble last year and figures to be more formidable this year.

Texas Rangers

2022 record: 68-94

The last time they met

The 2022 Rangers were a bad team, losing 94 games, but you wouldn’t know it by the way they played the Phillies. The teams met in a pair of two-game series, and the Rangers won all four games. The Phillies lost just about every which way: There was a 7-0 shutout, there was an extra inning game, with a couple of run of the mill losses mixed in.

This was somewhat typical of the 2022 Phillies. The outcome of a given series seemed to depend little on the quality of the opponent, and more on how the Phillies themselves were playing. It would be grand if the Phillies left that tendency behind them and consistently beat the teams they should beat in 2023.

What’s the deal with the Rangers?

The Rangers will return most of the same lineup that ranked fifth in the American League in runs scored in 2022. It’s surprising that they ranked that highly, since they were just 12th in on-base percentage. They compensated by hitting a lot of home runs, with seven players hitting more than ten, and four players hitting more than twenty.

As mentioned, the Rangers were bad last year, but perhaps they weren’t actually as bad as their record indicated. They were dreadful (15-35) in one-run games, and that type of thing tends to even out from season to season, so even if they didn’t make any improvements, the Rangers could be expected to be somewhat better this year.

However, the Rangers did make improvements, attempting to bolster a pitching staff that largely sucked in 2022. Through free agency and trades, they basically got themselves a brand-new rotation for 2023, headlined by a player very familiar to Phillies fans.

This guy again?

After years with the Mets when he was arguably the best pitcher in baseball (when healthy), Jacob deGrom signed a five-year deal to head up the Rangers’ rotation. You might think it’s insane to give an expensive five-year deal to a 34-year-old pitcher who hasn’t pitched a full season in four years, and you’re probably right. This contract has very little chance of ending well.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, despite dealing with some “tightness” early in Spring Training, deGrom is currently healthy and will get the ball on Opening Day. DeGrom is 9-1 with a 2.81 ERA against the Phillies for his career, which doesn’t bode well for the Phils’ chances, but it’s worth noting that none of the Phillies team that deGrom defeated had Trea Turner on them.

Trea day

After signing a big contract and almost single-handedly bringing the WBC title home to America, people are HYPED about Turner. The Phillies’ big offseason addition is being hailed as an MVP candidate, and there’s talk that we’re about to witness a 30-30 (if not more) season.

I wrote in my infield prediction piece that we may be setting ourselves up for a bit of disappointment with Turner. I think he’ll have a good season, but if he doesn’t have an elite season, many fans will feel let down. Heck, at this point, if he doesn’t lead off Opening Day with a home run, it will be seen as a disappointment.

Former Phillie(s) alert

In case you were feeling wistful for the 2021 Phillies, the Rangers have a couple of them on their team: Outfielder Travis Jankowski and reliever Ian Kennedy. Jankowski was the long-haired center fielder who was a fun story at first until manager Joe Girardi gave him way too much playing time.

Kennedy was a trade deadline pickup who served as the team’s closer down the stretch. He proved adept at getting two strikes on any given hitter, and then being maddeningly unable to put them away. Despite being on the team for just a little over two months, he must have surrendered about twenty home runs.

The Rangers as an MCU villain

Long-time readers will know that I’m a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so as a new feature for 2023, I’ll compare each opponent to a villain from the MCU.

The Texas Rangers are Karli Morgenthau and the Flag Smashers. Surely you remember her: She was the bad guy in Falcon and the Winter Soldier; The red-headed woman who was upset because she liked the world better when half the population had been snapped away and tried to somehow fix the problem using terrorism?

She was pretty forgettable, right? The same could be said about the Rangers for most of their existence. But the comparisons run deeper: In 2022, neither one was really much of a threat to the world at large, but they did cause our heroes an odd amount of trouble. And much like the Rangers made a questionable move in trying to improve themselves by signing deGrom, the Flag Smashers tried to enhance their chances of victory by taking the Super Soldier Serum. We’ll see if the Rangers’ plan is more successful than the Flag Smashers’ was.

Closing thought

After last season, I figured I was done with writing these season previews and probably writing for TGP altogether. I’ve been doing these previews since 2018, and after getting to write a World Series preview, that seemed as good a time to stop as any. But inertia is a hell of a drug, and as it turns out, I’m too lazy to quit. So, you’re all stuck with me for another season. Enjoy!

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