Things didn’t start well in San Diego before the offense showed up in the final 2 games. The Phils hoped some home cooking would help keep things rolling. Through 2 2/3 games, it did…then Gabe Kapler happened again.
The Reds came to town for the weekend and the Jay Bruce train kept rolling. Zach Eflin got off to a tough start giving up a Joey Votto homer in the first.Bruce turned things around with a 2-run homer to left center in the fifth. After Scott Kingery scored on an error later in the inning, the Phils led 3-1 and Eflin kept rolling. The Reds tightened things up with a run in the 6th but the bullpen kept things where they were and Jean Segura scored an insurance run in the 8th to give the Phils their 3rd straight win, 4-2.
Nick Pivetta got himself in the only trouble he’d see on the day in the first inning. Pivetta allowed his only run while recording a double play. From that point on, Pivetta rolled and the Reds barely saw anything other than their dugout. Jay Bruce stayed in the yard on the day but put the Phils ahead for good in the bottom of the first with a 2-run single. J.T. Realmuto homered in the 4th and Jean Segura scored Bryce Harper on a triple in the 5th for a 4-1 lead. It would prove to be all Pivetta needed. Pivetta ended up with his first career complete game allowing 6 hits and just the one first inning run. He struck out 6 and didn’t walk anyone. The 4-1 win was their 4th straight after losing 5 in a row.
The Phils would go for the sweep on Sunday with their ace, Aaron Nola on the mound. The Reds jumped out on top once again on a sacrifice groundout in the 2nd before Nola settled in. The Phils took the lead on a 2 run infield popup (yup, I typed that) by Rhys Hoskins. Jean Segura hit a sac fly in the fifth to extend the lead to 3-1. Nola got in a little trouble in the 7th, allowing a 2 out infield single and a walk. With Nick Senzel on deck and Votto (0-13 against Nola) behind him, the Phils hoped Nola could escape damage. Kapler had other thoughts as he went to the ‘pen to get the final out of the 7th. Jose Alvarez allowed another infield single to Senzel and then Votto singled home 2 to tie the game. Vince Velasquez came in to clean up the mess but instead gave up the go-ahead run. The Phils bats went cold for the final 3 innings and the Reds salvaged the finale, 4-3.
Bruce made a huge impact in his first week with the team with 4 homers and 11 RBI (no other Phillie had more than 3). Realmuto also got things going raising his average to .274 and added 2 homers of his own. Cesar Hernandez moved back to the leadoff spot with the loss of Andrew McCutchen and things have not gone well as he hit just .130 for the week. Hoskins continues to struggle as well as he got his only 2 RBI of the week on a defensive miscue by the Reds. The injuries continue to add up making things tougher. The Phils gave Adam Haseley a shot in CF with the loss of McCutchen. After getting his first career hit to give the Phils a win, he followed McCutchen and half of the roster onto the IL. The offense has yet to find any kind of balance and injuries won’t help that. It’s unlikely that Bruce will be the last offensive piece the Phils bring on before the trade deadline.
Is Zach Eflin the new Aaron Nola? His 2.88 ERA is nearly 2 runs better than Nola. He’s also the only starter with an ERA under 4.14. That kind of production will not get this team into the playoffs. Hector Neris has essentially become the closer though Kap will never admit it. However, they rotation will need to buy more innings. With Seranthony Dominguez the latest bullpen arm to hit the IL, Neris will need some help soon as the ‘pen has lost a ton of experience. With names like J.D. Hammer eating big innings, this team needs the bullpen to get healthy soon, especially if the starters continue to falter.
Around the N.L. East
Braves– The Braves went to Pittsburgh to start the week and after winning the opener, dropped the final 2 games of the series. Things picked up when they made a trip to Miami. After a blowout in game 1, games 2 and 3 were tighter affairs but the result was the same as the Braves left Miami with a sweep and closed to within 1 game of the Phils. They’ll start this week at home with 4 against the Pirates. The Phils will hope the Buccos can come out on top again as the weekend brings the Phils into Atlanta for the most important series of the season for both teams as the winner will likely leave as the division leader.
Mets– The Mets welcomed the Giants and Rockies to New York and sent them both home with a pair of losses after losing both openers. The Mets start the week 5 games back as they head across town for a 2 game set with the Yankees. Then, it’s back home for 4 games with the Cardinals.
Nationals– The Nats swept a 2-game series against the White Sox at home before heading out west. After losing the first 2 games to the Padres in San Diego, the Nats capped the week with 2 wins on the weekend. Sitting 7 back, things get reversed this week. First up is 2 games against the White Sox in Chicago on the way home. Then, it’s a 4 game set with the D-Backs in D.C.
Marlins– The Marlins started off in a non-Marlins-esque manner taking 2 of 3 from the Brewers in Milwaukee. After losing the finale, the Braves came to town and swept them out. The Cards and Pirates come to town this week for 3 games each.
The Phils get one more series at home before heading on the road. First up is the D-Backs at CBP. The D-Backs are currently 2nd in the West behind the Dodgers. Jerad Eickhoff (3-3, 4.14) opens things up against Taylor Clarke (1-2, 4.43). Arrieta (5-5, 4.29) goes in game 2 against Jon Duplantier (1-0, 3.27). The finale has Eflin back on the mound against Merrill Kelly (6-6, 4.12). The Phils will miss out on Robbie Ray and Zach Greinke and need to take full advantage with a trip to Atlanta looming. With 1st place potentially on the line, the Phils send Pivetta (4-1, 4.93), Nola (6-1, 4.58) and Eickhoff to the mound to face off with the Max Fried (7-3, 3.75), Kevin Gausman (2-5, 6.15) and Mike Foltynewicz (1-5, 5.89). They Phils face 2 tough teams but do get a break with the matchups they’ll face and they need to capitalize. Anything short of 2 series wins or a sweep of Atlanta should see the Phils looking up at the Braves this time next week.
Here we are in the early stages of summer and the Phils have hung onto first place through most of the season. With a little less than 1 month until the All-Star break, the D-Backs series is their last non-division series until then. The Atlanta series will be the first of 7 straight N.L. East battles (23 games). This will be their opportunity to put the Mets, Nats and Marlins away for good and potentially put some space between themselves and the Braves. Or…well, you know the other option.