Things didn’t go quite as the Phillies had planned while preparing for a tough stretch. After taking 2 of 3 from the Marlins, the day off seemed to take a little extra steam out of an already listless offense. Despite a 3-3 week, the Phils managed to drop a game and a half in the standings. Still only 2 games back though, the coming week will start to show us just how resilient a team this is.
In a season of not brilliant offense, this was a particularly not brilliant week. 6 games and 16 runs including 7-1 and 2-0 losses to the worst team in baseball. The biggest news of the week was Tommy Joseph getting the start on Sunday against a right-hander while Ryan Howard and his .161 average (0 for his last 15) sat and watched. Joseph went 0-4 but is hitting .250 in his first week in the majors. Heading into an American League park this week will likely give him a few more AB’s. Also on the positive side are the production increases of both Tyler Goeddel (up to .267) and, to a lesser extent, Peter Bourjos (up to .203 with 9 XBH’s). The increases leave Howard as the only full time player with an average below (way below) .200. If Howard starts spending more time on the bench, this team will really have to manufacture runs but without an albatross in the middle of the lineup, they may be able to make that happen.
The pitching staff ended the week on a high note with their 2nd surprise of the week. Jerad Eickhoff had his best outing of the season with 7 shutout innings against the Braves to help salvage a win in the series. The series started off with the first surprise which was Aaron Nola getting touched up by the same lowly Braves. While not a terrible outing and not all his fault (2 errors leading to 3 unearned runs), Nola couldn’t hold the Braves down, surrendering 7 hits (2 HR’s) in 7 innings of work. Nola will get a shot at redemption against the Tigers on Wednesday. After Eickhoff lost the opener to the Marlins, Vince Velasquez and Jeremy Hellickson shut them down before the Braves series. It was another banner week for the bullpen. Jeanmar Gomez picked up 2 more saves and helped to finish off Sunday’s shutout (the team’s 7th) against Atlanta.
Around the N.L. East
Nationals– The bats really came out for the Nats this week which should scare the other teams once things start warming up. They won back to back series against the Mets and Marlins while scoring 30 runs (all in the last 5 games). The pitching staff did their job as well only giving up 10 runs in the 6 games. Their 2 losses were 2-0 and 3-2. On any given week, a team would love to outscore their opponents 30-10. With the warm air coming in, these kinds of week may become more commonplace. The Nats will start this week against the Mets once again before heading into St. Louis for 4.
Mets– The Brewers were a welcome change for the Mets after losing 2 of 3 to the Nats. The Mets were able to sweep the Brew Crew to keep pace with the Nats and currently sit just 1.5 games back. After another 3 with the Nats, the Mets will have 3 against the struggling Dodgers. If they can take care of business this time around with the Nats, they could see some movement in the standings when next week rolls around.
Marlins– Things started well with a 5-3 win over the Phils but then they went downhill quickly. The Phils took teh next 2 before the Fish lost the opener with the Nationals. They managed to break the skid with a 3-2 win on Saturday but lost the finale on Sunday, 8-2. The rough week resulted in a 2 game drop in the standings and the Marlins now sit 4.5 back of the Nats. With a 4 game home and home with the Rays and 3 against the Braves, this could be a week for the Marlins to try and gain some of that ground back.
Braves– The Braves lost 3 of 4 to the Pirates, conceding 29 runs before they rode into Philly and took 2 of 3. It was about as big a week as a team like the Braves will have. With a pair of 3 game sets with Milwaukee and Miami on tap, the Braves actually have another shot at a couple wins…maybe.
After a nice homestand, the Phils go on the road for their toughest stretch of the season. They will take on the Tigers and Cubs on the road this week and come back home next week for 3 with the Nats. These nine games could be a true indicator of what this team really is. Anything better than .500 could result in Matt Klentak’s phone starting to heat up. Vince Velasquez (5-1) will get the start in the opener against Mike Pelfrey (0-4). Jeremy Hellickson (4-2) and Aaron Nola (3-3) will take on Justin Verlander (3-4) and Anibal Sanchez (3-5), respectively. The Tigers are only 21-22 but have scored nearly 200 runs. If the Phillies can get to their pitching, the Phils could go into Wrigley on a high note for a really tough series. They will miss Jake Arrieta in their series so that could be a positive. Hopefully, they can play up to the competition and make Klentak’s job a little harder.