Is the Phils Ship Sinking?

First the Marlins, then the Mets. After a week where the Phils lost 2 of 3 to both of the teams occupying the bottom of the N.L. East standings, I don’t think anyone needs or wants a game by game recap. Who wants to relive that disaster? Somehow, despite their varying schedule difficulties, the Phils lost ground to the Braves in a week where they should have absolutely made their way back. Instead, Gabe Kapler played the “Mad Lineup Scientist” role and it did not work well scoring an average of just 4 runs per game (including a 9 run outburst…followed by a 1 run dud).

Offense

Credit where it’s due…Carlos Santana had what was probably his best week as a Phillie. He went 8-25 with 3 walks, a double and 3 HR’s. Of course, his move to the top of the lineup meant that only one of the 3 came with anyone else on base.  Cesar Hernandez finally got off the schnide going 8-20 though with just 1 XBH…and he even STOLE A BASE!!! Rhys Hoskins went on a bit of a power tear in the Mets series with 3 HR’s reaching 30 for the season. Unfortunately they were 3 of just 5 hits he recorded for the week. Asdrubal Cabrera chipped in with 7 hits of his own including 2 doubles, 2 HR’s and 6 RBI. Thanks to the September call ups, 16 offensive players recorded official AB’s (17 when you add in Andrew Knapp and his 1 appearance leading to a walk) during the week…only 6 recorded more than 2 hits. 7 players had an OBP above .350 and only 4 of those had more than 12 AB’s. I don’t care what encouraging words Kapler has for his team, this offense is terrible and only 1 mid-season trade (Wilson Ramos…who can’t stay on the field) has paid off consistently thus far. With just 3 weeks remaining and the cold air coming in, it’s unlikely we’ll see these bats heating up any time soon.

Pitching

The pitching staff which kept the Phils in this season took a bit of a hit this week. Aaron Nola’s Cy Young case took the biggest punch in the gut as he had trouble keeping the ball in the park over his last 2 starts. That’s not saying he didn’t pitch well but the 5 HR’s he allowed in his last 2 starts are nearly half of the 13 he’s allowed all season. 2 of the 3 hits he allowed to the Mets left the yard and he still needed a late HR from Hoskins to sneak out with a win. Nick Pivetta was lifted early (just 69 pitches and 2 runs on 3 hits over 4 innings) in his start and took the loss thanks to another anemic offensive outing. Vince Velasquez was lit up again..twice…allowing 8 runs on 12 hits in 9 innings…in 2 starts! Zach Eflin was also lit up again and has fallen apart after a solid start. Jake Arrieta wasn’t bad in his win but he wasn’t good either. The bullpen was called on for 19.2 innings of work allowing 14 hits, 7 BB’s and 5 runs. Had the offense appeared more, maybe that stat line doesn’t look quite as “bad”.

Around the N.L. East

Braves- The Phils might allow these guys to win the division by default but despite a tough schedule, they did their part to keep themselves at the top of the division. Things started badly after the Red Sox swept the 3 game series in Atlanta. It was topped off with a major gut punch in the series finale conceding a 6 run lead in the 8th, retaking the lead in the bottom of the inning then giving it up again in the 9th. A trip out West appears to be what they needed though. The Braves took 3 of 4 (2 in extra innings) against the D-Backs and padded their division lead which had fallen to 2 games after the Boston series. This week it’s 3 in San Fran then 3 at home with the Nats.

Nationals–  After starting their week with a win over the Cards, they dropped the next 2 against the Red Birds. Then, the Cubs took 2 of 3 in a rain soaked (and shortened) series. At 8 games out, they are all but dead but this week could swing their season in either direction. This week will likely cap their final chance at making a run. The week starts in Philly with 3 against the Phils who they currently trail by just 3.5 games. A (very plausible) sweep at CBP could put them back in the hunt in both the East. After a quick trip home on Thursday to cap off their Cubs series, it’s on to Atlanta for 3. They’ve split their 2 2nd half series 3 games apiece. Depending on what happens in Philly, this series could be HUGE for both teams.

Mets– The Mets are actually on a bit of a tear. However, since they buried themselves so early, it’s basically a moot point. They capped off their west coast trip taking 2 of 3 from the Dodgers who had very briefly taken over first place in that division. Then, a visit from the Phillies was all they needed to keep the momentum. After losing the opener, they blew the Phils doors off on Saturday and then scratched their ace on Sunday and STILL came away with the win. This week starts with 4 games against the Marlins at home before a trip to Boston for 3 where any momentum they may have (depending how the Marlins series goes) is likely to fade.

Marlins– After taking 2 of 3 from the Phils, a trip to Pittsburgh literally rained on their parade. After dropping the first 2 games, Sunday was rained out and those 2 teams will get to make up that game on October 1st when absolutely no one will be watching. This week starts with 4 in New York with the Mets and then 3 in Philly against the one team that can’t seem to beat them consistently. At 22.5 out, they are looking to play spoiler. If  they Phils keep beating themselves, that should be an easy task.

Jimmy Rollins was with the Phils for part of the week. Famously a catalyst in their 2007 stretch run when they came back from 7 back and 17 games to go, the timing could not go unnoticed. The Phils are 4.5 out with 20 to go (7 against the Braves). The division is there for the taking but they just haven’t shown they have what it takes to take it. We’ll see if a little Jimmy swagger rubbed off this week. With their next 9 at home, the Phils need to take advantage.

First up is 3 with the Nats. A sweep in either direction likely buries the series loser (and maybe even the winner depending how the Braves play). A series win is an absolute necessity for the Phils here as time ticks off the clock. Arrieta (10-9) will face some guy named Erick Fedde (1-3) in the opener. Nick Pivetta (7-11) faces Tanner Roark (8-15) in game 2 and Aaron Nola (16-4) faces Stephen Strasburg (7-7) in the finale.

Then the Marlins come to town for an absolute MUST sweep. Eflin (9-7) squares off with Wei Yin Chen (6-10) in the opener. Velasquez (9-11) faces Jeff Brigham (0-1) then Arrieta takes on Jose Urena (5-12) to close it out.

If the Phils walk away with anything short of 2 series wins, there is likely no coming back without sweeping the 2 series with the Braves. Being inconsistent is about they only thing they’ve been consistent at so nothing is over yet but things are certainly not trending in a positive direction. Can Gabe and Co. turn things around? We’ll start to find out on Monday night.