After a series in Los Angeles where the Phils very well could have walked out with a series win, the team headed north to San Francisco but forgot to pack whatever bit of offense they still had. The “O” was completely missing as the Phils finished off their west coast swing.
The Phils started the trip off against a pitcher coming into the game with a 6.31 ERA in May. Nick Pivetta took the mound trying to get back on track after going just 5 innings in his last start. He only made it through 4 this time. Pivetta walked the leadoff batter in both the 1st and 2nd innings and watched as both eventually came around to score. He allowed another run in the 4th before eventually being lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the 5th. The Phils hitters combined to strikeout 13 times while recording just 6 hits. Hector Neris allowed another run in the 8th on a wild pitch to finish out the scoring and complete the 4-0 shutout. Well, things could only get better, right?
Wrong! Vince Velasquez put together another fine start but once again the offense was nowhere to be found. Velasquez allowed 1 run in 6.1 innings, struck out 9, walked 1 and allowed just 5 hits. Finally, the Phils were in good shape. Oh yeah, they need to hit too, don’t they. The Phils managed just 3 hits. Twice, however, they managed to get a runner to 3rd with less than 2 outs. They were unable to plate them in either instance. Adam Morgan allowed the only 2 hitters he faced in the 8th to reach on singles and the Giants plated another run with a sac fly to cap the scoring and shut the Phils out for the 2nd straight game, 2-0.
Sunday afternoon rolled around and Jake Arrieta took the mound to stop the bleeding and for a while, it looked like he would do just that. The Phils were facing a pitcher making his first big league start which had to get the offense going. Nope! Arrieta cruised through the first 5 innings and even got the Phils on the board early with a solo HR in the 3rd. He continued to dominate, facing the minimum 15 hitters (thanks to 2 DP’s and a caught stealing) and it looked like he might just win the game all by himself. Then the 6th inning rolled around. After striking out the first hitter, Arrieta allowed 4 straight singles before Andrew McCutchen deposited one over the right field wall for a 3R homer and all of a sudden, it was 5-1. Meanwhile, despite having multiple base runners in multiple innings, the Phils could not get anyone to cross the plate. Hector Neris came on in the 8th and allowed a solo HR to Buster Posey to finish things off at 6-1. The 2 SF homers may have cleared the fences by a combined 4 feet but it was still enough to sweep the Phils out of the Bay Area and send Arrieta off on a pretty epic rant. Arrieta called out his coaches (re: defensive shifts- “we’re the worst”), his defense (re: Scott Kingery’s decision making on a ground ball- “Kingery should have gone to 2nd”) and the ultimate snowball effect (re: McCutchen’s HR). Arrieta called the entire series “horseshit” which was a pretty accurate description.
After the disappointing week, the Phils fell to 3 games back in the East despite the Nats and Braves beating up on each other.
What offense? Oh, well, there was Jorge Alfaro who went 8-21 with 5 doubles, a triple, 3 RBI and 3 runs scored (and some tremendous defense). Carlos Santana had 7 hits although 4 of them went a combined 200 feet. The man is a walking infield single machine all of a sudden. I’m thinking that kind of production in the 4 hole is not going to carry the Phils to the postseason though. Cesar Hernandez also chipped in 7 hits including a double, a HR and 4 RBI. Overall, the Phils managed to score just 15 runs in the 7 games, 1 in San Fran. Odubel Herrera, who was leading the league in hitting less than a month ago, is now hitting just .305 after a 4-29 week which included 7 K’s. Then there is Aaron Altherr who went 2-20 with 11 K’s (that’s a 55% K rate for those doing the math). Let’s just sum the week up by including the fact that their expected offensive centerpiece, Rhys Hoskins, who wasn’t exactly lighting up the box scores himself somehow managed to foul a ball off his face and fracture his jaw. No really…that happened! This team is in a significant funk and the coaching staff needs to figure it out.
It was not the staff’s best week but it was a week where they did plenty to win games. Was some of it a product of working too hard knowing they had no offense? Maybe. Velasquez and Aaron Nola were fairly dominant in their 3 starts and got 1 win to show for it. Arrieta was brilliant for 12 of his 13 IP but we now know how that last inning went. Zach Eflin and Nick Pivetta only managed 8 innings combined in their 2 starts however. Seranthony Dominguez continued to solidify his status and may very soon have the closer spot locked up while his predecessor, Neris, is looking more and more like the Phils new mop up guy. The more the offense continues to struggle, the more likely we see the pitchers gripping the ball a little tighter trying to keep things under control and rarely does that end well.
Around the N.L. East
Braves– The Braves played 8 games in 7 days against the division and managed to slightly increase their lead. After splitting a 4 game set against the Mets, the Nats went into Atlanta looking to take over the division most folks thought they’d run away with. Instead, the Braves pitching held them to 9 runs in the 4 game series and took the series, 3-1 increasing their lead to 1.5 games and now 3 games ahead of the Phils. They don’t get much of a break either. After their win Sunday, they were off to the West Coast where they start a series with the Padres without a day off. Then, it’s a trip to LA to face the Dodgers for 3 games. Both teams are currently under .500 and present an opportunity for the Braves to expand that lead even further.
Nationals– The week started well as the Nats stayed hot with a sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore. Things quickly cooled as the Braves took the first 2 games of their series. Washington finally grabbed a game with a 14 inning win on Saturday before Atlanta closed out the series on Sunday. The Nats will have an off day Monday before opening a homestand against 2 more sub-.500 teams. First up is 2 games with the Rays before the Giants come into town. The Giants had lost 6 of 8 before their series against the listless Phils. This week should provide the Nats another chance to get make a run at the Braves.
Mets– After their split with the Braves, the Mets returned home and welcomed the Cubs with open arms. The Cubs weren’t as kind sweeping the 4 games series by a combined 21-6 score. The Mets start the week with 2 games at home against the Orioles which could give them some confidence. Then the Yankees come to town for 3 games and that should likely kill any temporary momentum they might pick up.
Marlins– After being swept by the Nats last weekend, the Fish finally got a win in San Diego in their series opener. Then the Padres won the next 3. Things got even worse in Arizona as the D-backs outscored them 21-4 in a 3 game sweep. The Marlins will stop in St. Louis for 3 games on their way home before a weekend series with the Padres. Sitting 15 games out in their first week of June, it looks like fishing season has officially commenced for most teams who get a crack at the Marlins.
Well, luckily things can’t get much worse for the Phils, right? Well…The Phils head to Chicago for a 3 game set with the Cubs who have won 8 of 10 and battling for the Central division. Zach Eflin will open the series on Tuesday trying to get back on track after 3 straight outings where he hasn’t gotten out of the 5th inning and has allowed 15 runs (12 earned). Aaron Nola will take the hill in game 2 on Wednesday looking to shut the Cubs offense out (he’ll likely have to). Nick Pivetta will close the series on Thursday. Then, the team the Cubs are chasing, the Milwaukee Brewers come to CBP to face Velasquez, Arrieta and Eflin. The Brewers have won 6 of their last 7 series and currently have a 2 game lead over the Cubs although they are coming off a series loss to the 2nd worst team in baseball, the White Sox.
This team has relied all season on pitching and timely hitting. With the latter having virtually disappeared, things are going to get much tougher and could snowball on the former. Kapler and Co. have to find a way to get things turned around. Kapler at least acknowledged Arrieta’s rant and indicated that he’d take his thoughts into consideration regarding the defensive shifts. Will he stick to it or will we continue to see team poking balls to the opposite field when a wide open hole exists? Can anyone on the offensive side of the ball turn things around to get some kind of consistency? Things are going to get real bad, real fast if they they don’t.