Major League Baseball

Phillies, Padres set for Harper-Machado Round 1

PHILLIES (33-26) AT PADRES (30-29)
10:10 p.m. ET; FSSD, NBCSP, MLB.TV

Since the start of March, many people in baseball have had the next three days at Petco Park in San Diego marked down on their calendars.

The Phillies vs. the Padres. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. The two most costly free agents from the 2018-19 cycle on the same field for the first time. Now’s the time for every fan of baseball to judge which team — or player — got the best deal.

It was Feb. 21 that the Padres made Machado the highest-priced free agent in franchise history, signing the 26-year-old infielder to a 10-year, $300 million deal.

On March 2, the Phillies went a step further, signing the 26-year-old Harper to a 13-year, $330 million contract.

Ever since, both teams have faced questions about the value of those deals.

Machado has played 58 games for the Padres. He has hit .251 (53-for-211) with seven doubles, nine homers, 27 runs scored and 27 RBIs. He has a .339 on-base percentage with a .412 slugging percentage for a .751 OPS.

But Machado has also been a marvel on defense at both third base and shortstop, where he has started 30 games since rookie sensation Fernando Tatis Jr. went on the injured list with a hamstring strain on April 29.

“Manny has been everything we expected him to be,” Padres manager Andy Green said recently. “We couldn’t ask anything more of him.”

Harper has come on strong after a slow start and is hitting .248 (54-for-218) after 59 games with 19 doubles and 11 homers for 43 RBIs and 35 runs scored. He has a .360 on-base percentage and a .486 slugging percentage for a .847 OPS. But over his past 13 games, Harper is 15-for-52 (.268) with six doubles, two homers, seven runs scored and 12 RBIs.

“I’ve been feeling really good as of late,” Harper told reporters recently. “But being able to be in the lineup every day, keep plugging away, is huge. You’re going to have ups and downs in a season. I went through a little of it last year. It’s just part of it.”

As for the teams who signed Machado and Harper, each has improved on their records from this point last year while simultaneously making impressive gains at the gate while overall attendance across the league is down 1.4 percent as of June 1.

The Phillies come to San Diego leading the National League East. The Padres, meanwhile, were tied for the second National League wild-card berth before losing five of their last seven games — including two straight by 9-3 scores to lowly Miami at home over the weekend.

Monday night, the Phillies will send right-hander Aaron Nola (6-0, 4.18 ERA) to the mound to face Padres left-hander Eric Lauer (4-4, 4.45 ERA).

Lauer will be making his first career start against the Phillies on his 24th birthday. It will be his 12th start of the season. He has worked 58 2/3 innings, giving up 31 runs (29 earned) on 60 hits and 14 walks with 49 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting .259 off Lauer, who has a 1.261 WHIP. Over his last three starts, Lauer is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA — and the Padres have won all three contests.

Nola has also been sharp recently, going 4-0 with a 2.96 ERA over his last five starts. He will be making his 13th start of the season and the sixth of his career against the Padres. He is 2-2 with a 2.65 ERA against the Padres with a .180 opponents’ batting average and a 0.912 WHIP. He is 1-0 at Petco Park with a 2.25 ERA in two starts.

–Field Level Media

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