A night after Cole Hamels’ season debut, the Phillies (10-11) look to get back to .500.
Here are five things you need to know about their series finale with the Dodgers at 10:10 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet:
1. Seize the series
A 3-1 record at Dodger Stadium would look much, much different than a 2-2 split. With a win Thursday night, the Phils would improve to 4-3 on their 10-game West Coast road trip with a winnable weekend series on deck against the 6-18 Arizona Diamondbacks. (More on that later.)
The Phils have not won a series since sweeping the Marlins at home April 11-13.
Since the 2013 All-Star break, the Phillies have won just one of 13 road series. That lone series win came at Wrigley Field in the second series of 2014. They are 14-30 in their last 44 road games.
2. Reliable Kyle
Kyle Kendrick makes his fifth start of the season for the Phillies and looks for his first win. He’s already made three quality starts and is 0-2 with a 3.60 ERA while averaging 6.3 innings per start.
In two road starts this season, Kendrick has allowed just four earned runs and 12 baserunners in 14 innings for a 2.57 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. His last time out, he induced 17 groundballs at Coors Field.
It’s always the same story with KK -- keep the ball down and he’s effective, elevate it and he’ll struggle.
In 12 career appearances against the Dodgers (nine starts), Kendrick is 5-6 with a 6.84 ERA and .327 opponents' batting average. At Dodger Stadium, his ERA is 8.34 in 22 2/3 innings and his opponents have hit .363.
Kendrick could not solve Yasiel Puig (5 for 6, double, triple) last season. Andre Ethier is 6 for 22 (.273) lifetime against KK with two homers and two doubles.
3. Haren reborn
The Nationals signed Dan Haren last year to be their No. 4 starter and they didn’t get much out of him. The Dodgers did the same this past offseason and are already reaping the rewards.
Haren is 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA in four starts. He’s struck out 20 batters and walked just two in 25 innings, but most importantly he’s been taken deep just twice.
Haren puts together gaudy strikeout and walk numbers every season. But he’s too often hurt by the long ball. He allowed 28 home runs in each of the last two seasons and that was the main reason for his 4.50 ERA.
Haren throws a sinker, cutter, splitter and curveball. He’s best known for the split, which is a dominant pitch when he’s on. Since 2011, Haren’s opponents have hit .199 with strikeouts in 30 percent of at-bats ending with a splitter.
Haren has beaten the Phillies just once in eight starts, and that came last year. The Phils were previously the only team he’d never registered a win against. In those eight starts, Haren is 1-4 with a 5.09 ERA. He’s had a strikeout per inning, but allowed 10 home runs in 46 frames.
Ryan Howard and Marlon Byrd have each taken Haren deep twice.
4. Slumpbuster for Byrd?
Byrd is 10 for 21 against Haren with five extra-base hits. This could be just the matchup he needs.
Byrd has already had nine games with multiple strikeouts. He’s whiffed 27 times in 80 at-bats and has a strikeout rate of 32.1 percent, 14 full percentage points worse than his career average. That K-rate is the fourth-highest in the National League, behind only Justin Upton, Garret Jones and Ian Desmond.
Aside from all the strikeouts, Byrd just hasn’t been getting on base. He’s hitting .238 with a .274 on-base percentage. It’s been a mystifying slump for Byrd, who hit well all during spring training and the first few games of 2014 before beginning this three-week slump.
5. Up next
After finishing up with the Dodgers, the Phils head to Arizona for three games over the weekend. The Diamondbacks are already 12 games under .500 and are 1-11 at home.
Look no further than the starting pitching to figure out why a talented team like Arizona has been so awful. D-backs starting pitchers have a 7.15 ERA. The next-worst NL rotation has a 4.39 ERA.
Diamondbacks starting pitchers have a .371 opponents’ on-base percentage and have allowed 23 home runs.
Last year’s ace Patrick Corbin will miss the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Free-agent signing Bronson Arroyo has been terrible (9.50 ERA). Trevor Cahill has an ERA near 7.00 and was already removed from the rotation, as was Randall Delgado. Brandon McCarthy’s ERA is 6.23. Nobody in this Arizona rotation is anywhere close to overpowering, and that’s a problem at a hitter’s park like Chase Field.
So if the Phillies can win this final game at Dodger Stadium, there's a good chance they can finish this 10-game West Coast trip with a 6-4 or even 7-3 record.