Can the Phils Shake Things Up in the East?

After the Baltimore “series” and the opener in St. Louis, things were looking good for the Phils. The weekend did not work out quite as nicely. The aces got beat up, the defense was horrible and the offense was sporadic leading to 2 losses and a small drop in the standings.

Jake Arrieta toed the mound on Friday looking to add on to 3 straight Phils wins. Instead, Arrieta never saw the field after the 3rd inning after allowing 4 runs in the 3rd. In his wins this year, he’s been really good. In his 2 losses so far, he’s been really bad allowing 10 runs in 6.2 innings. The cards scored in every inning between the 3rd and 7th and the Phils just couldn’t keep up. After Arrieta left, Drew Hutchison and Yacksel Rios allowed 8 more runs before Pedro Florimon (yup, he pitched again) came in to close things out with a scoreless 8th inning lowering his ERA to 9.00. One more outing like that and he won’t drag down the team ERA as much as he has thus far (sorry, looking for a silver lining to this game). The offense scored runs on garbage time HR’s by Hernandez (in the 7th) and Florimon in the 9th (Look out, Shohei Otani!) and the Phils fell 12-4.

Zach Eflin did not have his best outing since his return to the rotation but it was a “solid” effort. Eflin only allowed 3 hits in 4.2 innings but he also walked 3 and his defense let him down. After the Phils jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, The Cards started a rally in the 4th that was triggered by a Carlos Santana throwing error. Who know how much different things would have gone had he not thrown the ball into the outfield trying to start a double play. The Cards returned the favor in the 5th with an error of their own that allowed the Phils to go back up by 2 runs. Eflin allowed another run in the 5th. Luis Garcia and Tommy Hunter allowed runs in the 6th and 7th and the Cards were back on top again. Scott Kingery came up with an RBI triple in the 8th and Jorge Alfaro knocked him in to put the Phils back on top again. After all the offense, it was time for the Phils newest addition to put his stamp on things. Seranthony Dominguez came in for the 8th and set the Cards down in order. After the Phils went down in the 9th, Dominguez came back out and did it again in the 9th to record his first big league save and helped the Phils hold on for a 7-6 win.

Sunday rolled around and it was Aaron Nola day. Nola’s dominance this season along with the fact that he was facing a winless rookie, the Phils were all set for a series win, right? Things were quiet early before Rhys Hoskins hit a solo shot in the 4th to give the Phils a 1-0 lead. It would prove to be short lived. Carlos Santana made his 2nd throwing error of the series leading to the Cards first 2 runs in the bottom of the 4th. The Phils would go on to record just one more hit the rest of the way. Nola conceded 2 more runs in the 6th and Victor Arano gave up one in the 7th finishing the scoring and ending the day on the wrong end of a 5-1 score. The Phils K’d 13 times in the game and Odubel Herrera’s 45 game on base streak came to an end (despite reaching base on a strike out wild pitch).

Despite the 3-2 week, the Braves increased their division lead over the Phils to a game and a half leading to a huge series to start this week. More on that in a bit.

Offense

It was not a great week on the offensive side of things unless you were the starting 2nd baseman or a part timer. Hernandez hit .381 for the week with a triple and 2 HR’s. Alfaro was 4-10 with a double and Florimon was 4-11 with 2 HR’s. Beyond that, there wasn’t much happening. The team struck out 51 times in 5 games. While Herrera is still batting .344, he had a rough week at the plate going 5-21 with 6 K’s. Despite coming on of late (though not this past week), Santana and Aaron Altherr are both still hitting under .200. With 429 K’s on the season (nearly 10/game) the offense needs to put the ball in play more often, especially with a huge series on tap this week. As we inch closer to June, hopefully, things will heat up with the weather.

Pitching

Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta started the week off right but it wasn’t very pretty beyond those 2 as far as the rotation. While there were some highlights (see: Dominguez, Seranthony), it wasn’t the bullpen’s best week, especially if your name is Rios or Hutchison but overall, the Phils had a shot in most of their games this week if they got some offensive help. Overall, they still have a team ERA of 3.56 for the season despite some crooked numbers from a couple of guys who are no longer on the active roster.

Around the N.L. East

Braves– OK. They aren’t a fluke. The Braves capped off a 4-2 week with a 6 run 9th inning comeback win on Sunday to increase their lead to 1.5 games. After winning a makeup game with the Cubs on Monday, both clubs headed to Atlanta. They split the first 2 games before being rained out in again in the series finale. Miami came to town and nearly won 2 of 3 from the division leads before imploding in the 9th inning on Sunday, including 5 with 2 outs. It was a huge win heading into a huge week. The Braves will come to Philly for a 3 game set with potentially huge division implications. A series sweep for either team will cause a huge shift. Then, it’s off to Boston to face the Sox who are sitting in 2nd in the A.L. East despite 2 more wins than the Yankees.

Mets– The Mets had a short week and took full advantage of it. After splitting a 2 game set with the Blue Jays in New York, the suddenly struggling D-backs came to town and were swept back to Arizona. Despite losing 10 of 11, the D-backs are still in control in the West somehow. The Marlins come into New York for a 3 game set before the Mets head to Milwaukee for 4 games with the Central leading Brewers. Having won 5 of 7, the Mets are hanging around and with their pitching, could make the jump if the Braves or Phils start to falter.

Nationals– It was an interesting and non-productive week for the Nats. After their series opener with the Yankees was suspended in a 3-3 tie, game 2 was washed out. Then the Dodgers came to town for 4. More rain and game 1 of that series…washed out! That meant a double header on Saturday which resulted in 2 losses. The Dodgers capped off the sweep on Sunday and the Nats fell to 4th place. If there is such a thing as a cure for a losing streak, this week is probably it. First off, the Padres come into D.C. for a 3 game set. Then, it’s off to Miami for 3 games. 6 games against 2 of the worst teams in the N.L. will likely get the Nats back on track.

Marlins– The Fish had a shot at a 4-2 week before their Sunday meltdown. Instead, the settled for a 3-3 week against the Dodgers and Braves. They started the week winning the first 2 games of the Dodgers series before being shutout in the finale. Then they won the opener in Atlanta before dropping the last 2. This week, it’s 6 games within the division. First is a trip for 3 games in New York with the Mets (only their 2nd series of the season). Then, the Nats come to Miami for their first meeting of the season. Pretty odd for the end of May but that’s MLB scheduling nowadays.

The Phils will start the week with probably their most important series of the season, thus far. 3 games at home against the East-leading Braves (Phils are just 3-6 vs. the Braves this season). A Braves sweep opens up a big lead while a Phils sweep reverses the standings. The Phils need a series win, at worst, to keep pace. Then the Blue Jays come into CBP for 3 games over the weekend. The Jays are 10 games out in the East and one of the worst teams in the A.L. (Central division not included…since they ALL stink). With the Braves facing off against the Red Sox on the weekend, this week could prove to be huge as far as the standings go as we get ready to head into June. This will be a big week to see just what this team is made of.

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