The Phils opened the 2nd half of the season with a 3 game series against the worst team in the N.L. The final results looked good but how they got there wasn’t the prettiest picture.
Jake Arrieta kicked things off and things did not go exactly as most would have hoped. Arrieta and his defense allowed 4 runs in the first inning to start things off and Freddy Galvis returned to CBP for the first time recording 3 hits and 2 RBI. Arrieta (wild pitch and an error) and Jorge Alfaro (error) contributed to the issues before ultimately settling down. Carlos Santana knocked in a run in the bottom of the inning with a ground out and the fireworks commenced from there. Arrieta settled down in the 2nd and retired the Padres in order. The Phils patience reared it’s head in the bottom of the 2nd as they recorded 3 walks and 2 singles to chip away at the lead and eventually tied it at 4. Santana came back around and opened things up with a 3-run bomb to left center. Suddenly up 7-4 at the end of the 2nd, things settled down for a little bit. Both teams went down in the 3rd before Arrieta got himself in another jam in the 4th. After a walk, a couple singles and another run, Arrieta’s day was done in the 4th. Austin Davis worked out of the jam and the Padres never truly threatened again. The Phils closed the door in the 8th. They offense strung together 5 singles and a double to add 4 runs and put the game to bed. After Arrieta allowed 5 runs (4 earned) in 3.1 innings, the bullpen shut down the Padres over the final 5.2, allowing just 3 hits. It wasn’t the optimal start to the 2nd half but it was a) a win and b) not game 2.
Speaking of game 2, Saturday was washed out so the Phils and Padres played a split doubleheader on Sunday. In the opener, Nick Pivetta made sure the bullpen would get another opportunity, the bullpen would not repeat it’s Friday performance, Freddy Galvis put together his 2nd straight 3 hit game and the Phils made a pitcher on a 7 game winless streak look like an ace. Pivetta allowed 6 runs on 8 hits in 5.1 innings. After allowing 3 runs in the first, things weren’t looking good. Rhys Hoskins homered in the bottom of the inning to cut the lead to 3-1 but things were just starting. After allowing another run in the 3rd, Nick Williams knocked in another run in the 5th cutting the lead to 2 again. It never got close again. The staff allowed 3 runs in the 8th and 3 more in the 9th, ultimately allowing 15 hits in the 10-2 loss while the offense could manage just 6 hits of their own.
The 2nd game of the double header ended with better results. Vince Velasquez put together another near-dominant start taking a no -hitter through 5 innings for the 3rd time this year. VV managed to go 7 innings- 7 K’s and 1 BB-on just 87 pitches (usually a 5 inning total) shutting down the Padres when the Phils needed it. He likely could have gone further but the offense was mostly nowhere to be found through the first 6 innings. Odubel Herrera homered in the 4th to give the Phils a 1-0 lead and VV made that hold up. When they finally started a small threat in the 7th, Kapler went to a pinch hitter for Vinnie (surprise, it didn’t work) but Carlos Santana, in the lead off spot for Sunday night’s game, delivered a 2 out RBI single and Rhys Hoskins hit a 3 run bomb to put things away. Pat Neshek closed things out in the 8th and Adam Morgan recorded 2 infield outs in the 9th before Kapler, for whatever reason, decided he needed to use Seranthony Dominguez for 1 out with a 5 run lead. The 5-0 win along with some help allowed the Phils to open up a 1 game lead in the East.
Offense– Friday may have inflated the end result but looking at the numbers, the Phils had a pretty good weekend coming back from the break. They recorded 26 hits in the 3 games and 18 runs. Nick Williams was 4-9 and Herrera was 5-12 with a HR in the series. Hoskins picked up where he left off on Monday with 2 HR’s (and very nearly a 3rd). He and Santana each had 5 RBI. However, their .236 team average still needs to go up. Now that we know there will be no Manny Machado in the middle of the lineup, the heart of the order is going to have to come up big. In the aftermath of another rough series, Aaron Altherr was sent down to AAA to get more steady at bats. Considering how bad the bench has played up to this point, losing one of the “better” hitters from that spot opens a window to a MAJOR area that need improvement in the next few weeks.
Pitching– Velasquez did his job but the starting pitching prior to that certainly left a lot to be desired. With the exception of Mark Leiter Jr (6 hits and 3 R in 2 innings of work) the bullpen did a shutdown job in 11.1 innings. Arrieta and Pivetta looked bad despite the time off. Pivetta especially has not looked good in he last month and is currently the most likely to lose his spot in the rotation should the Phils look to add an arm in the coming weeks.
Around the N.L. East
Braves– The Braves split a rain-shortened 2 game series with the Nats. The Braves won game one 8-5 in a back and forth battle before game 2 was rained out and will take place as a doubleheader in August. Sunday night was an elongated effort that saw a 2 hour delay to start and another long delay later in the game. Ultimately, the Braves dropped the finale and fell a game behind the Phils (with 2 games in hand). The Braves head to Miami for a rare divisional 2 game series before the Dodgers come in for 4.
Nationals– The highlight of the series was a dugout blowout between Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. Add in some choking and this could have been Bryce Harper/Jonathan Papelbon all over again. Scherzer was dominant yet again but since he’s not an everyday player, he can’t keep them in the race for long. The Nats head out on the road to Milwaukee for 3 and Miami for 4.
Marlins– The Fish have actually been playing well of late and continued that stretch taking 2 of 3 from the Rays. With 2 against the Braves and 4 with the Nats, they won’t be climbing back in the race but they could at least put some room between themselves and the Mets.
Mets– Like many of the other East Coast games, things were cut short in New York. The Mets actually managed to split the 2 games they played with the Yankees before making themselves a bigger laughingstock. After Noah Syndergaard recorded the win in the opener, he was placed on the 10-day DL with…wait for it…hand, foot and mouth disease. Yes, the Mets ace is on the DL with a childhood disease. You can’t make this stuff up.
Chase Utley makes his final appearance at CBP as the Dodgers come to town for 3 games in a battle of N.L. division leaders. Zach Eflin and Aaron Nola start the series with Arrieta closing it out against Manny Machado and Co. This is a huge series and the offense will need to show up. After the Dodgers, the Phils head out on the road and will close the week with 4 games against a BAD Reds team. Anything short of a series win is a cause for concern. With series against a team they will NEED to beat and one they SHOULD beat, this is an important week. Then again, with just over 2 months remaining…they all are from here on out.