Since the All-Star Break, Matt Klentak’s thought process has gotten a lot easier. Winning just 3 of 10 since their respite, the offense is stagnant again and the pitching has not been able to make up for it. The Phils won one game in each of their series with the Mets, Marlins and Pittsburgh but it could have been more. Blown leads, lack of hitting and lack of quality starts all played a role.
Injuries may be starting to take a toll. In the last week and a half we’ve seen Maikel Franco, Cameron Rupp and now Andres Blanco all go down with various injuries of varying levels. On the bright side, some slumps appear to have broken. Odubel Herrera has started hitting again. Cesar Hernandez is on a hot streak earning himself a look at the leadoff spot lately. Even Carlos Ruiz had a big weekend. Tommy Joseph hit two more bombs. The hot weather has helped their power and their averages are getting much closer to just that…average. The biggest question is whether the offense will be able to hold up as we prepare for some likely pitching departures.
With the exception of 1 game and 1 really bad inning on Saturday, each of the last 10 games were winnable. The bullpen coughed up multiple games at different stages. The starters had their ineffective moments as well. The two biggest moments for the pitching staff may just result in the departure of one. Jeremy Hellickson’s performance against the Marlins on Wednesday probably sealed the likelihood that he gets traded before August 1st. Zach Eflin’s complete game (his 2nd since being called up) shutout on Friday was just another sign of the brightness of the future rotation. Unfortunately, with the good must come the bad. Aaron Nola regressed once again on Saturday and could not get to the 5th inning. After a decent start, he then proceeded to give up 5 runs without recording an out in the 5th inning. Coming out of the break, Nola threw 6 shutout innings on Monday and looked like the extra rest got him back on track. His 2nd time out brought that theory into doubt. Among the trade talks, Klentak may want to keep an eye on Nola over his next handful of starts to see if an early shutdown is in order.
Around the N.L. East
Nationals– The Nats didn’t fare much better than the Phils but when you have a lead in the division, you can spare a few games. Which is just what happened as their lead shrunk from 6 at the break to just 4.5. After starting the 2nd half with 2 wins against the Pirates and an 18 inning loss, the Dodgers and Padres each came into the Capitol and took 2 of 3 from the Nats. Now, the Nats go on the road. They’ll start the week with 2 in Cleveland and then head out west for 4 in San Fran. Facing 2 other 1st place teams, the Nats will want to both show that they arein the discussion of the top teams but try to keep pace with a surging Marlins team.
Marlins– The Marlins are 6-4 since coming out of the break. After taking 2 of 3 and 3 of 4 from the Cardinals and Phils, the Mets halted their hot streak by winning 2 over the weekend. Despite the tough weekend, the Marlins picked up a game and a half on the Nationals and are firmly entrenched in a pennant race and now, trade talks to bolster themselves. The Fish will come into CBP to start the week with 3 against the Phils and then head to STL for 4 more against the Cards. With results similar to the last 10 days, they may be pushing the Nats by the end of the week.
Mets– If nothing else, the Mets have been consistent since the break. They’ve alternated wins and losses over the first 9 games of the 2nd half. They took 2 of 3 from the Phils, lost 2 of 3 to the Cubs, and took 2 more from the Marlins. The consistent inconsistency has helped them gain ground on the Nats but they fell a 1/2 game behind the Marlins. With 3 against he Cardinals and 4 against the Rockies this week, the Mets have need to string wins together to keep in the hunt.
Braves– The Braves have started the 2nd half better than they started the first…but not by much. They lost 6 of 7 to the Rockies and 2 of 3 to the Reds. If there is anyone of value remaining on the Braves, they likely won’t be there this time next week as the contending teams will likely come calling. The Braves do have a chance this week. A two game set against the Twins starts things off. Minnesota is not a much better team so the wins are there, if they decide to play for them. Then, The Phils come into Atlanta for a 4 game set. With both teams likely to offload players in th next 7 days, it’s likely you could see different lineups on both sides for any number of those games.
It is an all-divisional week for the Phils. With the roadtrip starting in Miami then heading to Atlanta, it’ll be a hot week. If the bats can follow suit, the Phils can play spoiler for the Marlins and just add to the misery of the Braves. With Jeremy Hellickson scheduled to start twice this week, it will be interesting to see if he makes either or both of those starts. Since the break, the Phils have had Jake Thompson pitching on the same schedule as Hellickson so it’s possible we’ll have yet another debut coming. It may not be an exciting week, but it will most likely be interesting.