On August 5th, the Phils had just swept the Marlins in a 4 game series and were 5 games over .500 and in first place in the East. It’s 9/24 and they are now 1 game over .500, only a half game ahead of the Braves and closer the the 4th place Mets (5.5 games than they are to the East Champs (9.5). That, folks, is called a collapse. After winning 2 of 3 against the Mets, the Phils went to Atlanta with a chance to make the final week interesting. Instead, Gabe Kapler made more dumb moves, the bullpen coughed up leads, and the offense disappeared against a minor league lineup on Sunday to finish off a Braves sweep.
In game 2 of the Braves series, the Phils went into the bottom of the 7th with a 3 run lead. Pat Neshek came in, had nothing and Kapler let him linger to the tune of 4 runs. Luis Avilan (another stellar trade by Klentak) added one more and they went to the top of the 8th trailing 6-4. Maikel Franco got them a run closer in the 9th but too little too late. 6-5 final and the final nail was all but in.
Jake Arrieta sucked again, allowing 4 runs in the 1st 2 innings. The offense was non-existent until a 3 run outburst in the 8th but again…to little, too late. Final score: 5-3. And DONE!
The Braves threw out a minor league lineup to face Aaron Nola. Nola allowed just 2 runs on 4 hits (including another HR…what the heck happened in the last month??) but only 5 of the 16 batters (Nola excluded) were able to manage a hit. Only Scott Kingery’s HR plated a runner and the Braves finished off the sweep with a 2-1 win. Collapse officially complete.
Let’s put this in context. Your leading hitter on the season has a .256 average. Oddly, Odubel Herrera found his way back to the spot he held for the first month and a half while he was raking and near the top of the league in hitting. Now he’s about 100 points lower and leading the team again. That’s AWFUL! The team had a .193 batting average in the most important week of baseball they’ve played in a long time. If you don’t hit, you won’t win.
The starters threw a combine 31.2 innings in 7 games…though some of that is on Kapler and his over-managing. They allowed 16 ER in that time. The bullpen allowed 16 ER in 23.1 innings. It wasn’t good on either end. All facets failed and the Phils will look to next year.
Around the N.L. East
Braves– After losing the first 2 at home against St. Louis, they won the final game then swept the Phils to take home the N.L. East. They were simply a better team. They’ll head on the road to face the Mets then the Phils for 3 games each. The most important thing they will focus on this week is setting up their rotation for the playoffs and getting their starters a day or two of rest.
Nationals– The Nats went to Miami and split a 2 game series before losing 3 of 4 against the Mets at home. The Nats squandered an opportunity to move into 2nd place but will look to do that this week. First up is 3 at home with the Marlins before closing out the season with 3 in Colorado against the Rockies. If there is such a thing as moral victories, overtaking the Phils for 2nd could be just that for the Nats.
Mets– After losing 2 of 3 in Philly, the Mets went to D.C. and took 3 of 4 from the Nats. Hey and Gavin deGrom even got his record to .500. The final week consists of 3 games at home with Atlanta and 3 more with the Marlins.
Marlins– They still stink but they won 4 of 6 this week against the Nats and Reds. So…they’ve got that going for them. This week, it’s 3 each against the Nats and Mets, both on the road. Considering no one showed up at their ballpark this year, at least they’ll get to see real live fans.
And so, we come down to the final week of whatever game the Phillies have played this year. It just doesn’t seem like baseball to this old-head. They’ll head out to Colorado for 4 then back home to finish off with 3 against the Braves. At this point, let’s just hold on to 2nd place. Is that asking too much?
I”l be back next week with the post-mortem.