It was a bit of a surprising week for the Phils from a W-L perspective. The 4-3 week doesn’t sound like much until you look at it game by game. When you see that 3 of the 4 wins came against the league-leading Dodgers and 2 of the 3 losses to the Braves, that’s where the surprises pop up. The week started off with Aaron Altherr bombing the first ever grand slam given up by Clayton Kershaw and ended with an RBI double by Altherr to win the series finale against the Braves. In between there was more quality pitching from Aaron Nola and Nick Pivetta getting 2 wins and no HR’s (but more RBI and records) from Rhys Hoskins. After Altherr’s big bomb led to a 4-3 win on Monday, Hoskins took control on Tuesday with 4 RBI off of Yu Darvish and Co. while Nola kept the Dodgers offense in check. Altherr took the spotlight back on Wednesday with his own 4 RBI outing, including a 2-run HR (his 3rd in 3 games). A sweep was a reality for a while until Ricardo Pinto popped his head out and allowed a HR, a triple and a fielder’s choice to turn a lead into a deficit in just 1/3 of an inning resulting in a 5-4 loss to end the series. The results certainly gave a sign of things to come in 2018 especially in the middle of the lineup highlighted by Odubel Herrera, Hoskins, Altherr and Nick Williams. Then the Braves came to town and things didn’t look as promising. Ben Lively conceded 5 runs in the first inning of game 1 before recording an out. He did settle down going 5 innings and allowing just one more run but the damage was done as the offense was held in check resulting in a 7-2 loss. Saturday it was Luis Garcia’s turn to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the 8th inning. After a solid outing from Henderson Alvarez, Garcia appeared in the 8th and gave up 3 runs in 2/3 of an inning turning a 2-1 lead into a 4-2 defeat. Pivetta ended the week the way he started it with a solid outing and a solid outing. Maikel Franco showed up and homered to get the Phils on the board and Altherr closed out the scoring with an RBI double in the 8th and the Phils completed the week with a 2-0 win. With just 1 week left in the season, the Phils need 1 win to avoid the 100 loss mark which a few months ago would have seemed impossible.
It was not a banner week offensively but the Phils lineup did just enough. As a team, the Phils hit just .205 during the week but some timely hitting got the job done. Aaron Altherr picked up the HR slack for Hoskins hitting 3 bombs (and 10 RBI) in the Dodgers series. Williams, Franco and Tommy Joseph each chipped in with a bomb as well. Hoskins added 7 RBI despite the lack of HR’s. Odubel Herrera was benched Sunday while in the throes of an 0-1 slump. This has been a fairly common occurrence for Herrera as he goes from hot to cold and back again so it will be interested to see how he closes out in the final week of the season. Cesar Hernandez was the only everyday player who had an average over .240 this week (.471). It’s unlikely that Hernandez, Franco and Freddy Galvis (and his potential Gold Glove) are all around next year. As the final week of the season rolls through, the Phils hope that all 3 of them can continue to build their resume’s and increase their trade value.
The main reason the Phils managed 4 wins despite the lack of offense was the starting rotation. Excluding Lively’s rough first inning, the Phils starters allowed just 6 runs in 39 innings. The bullpen was not as strong as it has been but was still solid. In 21 innings, they allowed 11 runs, 5 of which were in Garcia and Pinto’s blow ups. Even Hoby Milner showed he was human, finally allowing 2 runs after going more than a month without doing so. The 2nd half of the season was only as strong as it was because of the significant turnaround that the bullpen made. If they can carry this over to 2018 and potentially grab a veteran arm and a real closer to go along with the offense, expect to see the next phase of the turnaround begin in March.
Around the N.L. East
Nationals– Sitting 4.5 half games behind the Dodgers, the Nats will likely stay put in the 2nd spot in the N.L. despite some tense moments for the Dodgers in September. The Nats had the kind of week they needed to have to give themselves a chance but they had fallen too far behind to make it count. After taking 2 of 3 in Atlanta, the Nats went to New York and took 2 of 3 from the Mets. The Dodgers were licking their wounds after leaving Philly but were able to take 2 of 3 from the Giants to keep pace over the weekend and have all but locked up the N.L. so long as they can avoid a total collapse in the final week of the season. The Nats will come to Philly for a 3 game set before finishing the season with a 4 game set at home against the Pirates. Both teams certainly give the Nats the opportunity to win games but they’ll probably need to win at least 6 of the 7 games with the Dodgers flailing (in 6 games with the Padres and Rockies).
Giancarlo Stanton’s– Giancarlo Stanton hit 3 more HR’s to reach 57 on the season as the MGS’s won 4 of 6 against the Mets and D-backs. The MGS’s swept the Mets in Miami, outscoring them 27-7 in the 3 game series before going on the road to Arizona where they lost 2 of 3. The GS’s will finish their road trip with 3 games in Colorado before they head home for a final 4 game series with the Braves. As has been the case for the last month or so, all eyes will be on Giancarlo Stanton as he tries to reach the 60 HR plateau.
Braves– After losing the first 2 in the series with the Nats, the Braves were able to grab the final game of the series. Upon arriving in Philly, they took the first 2 games to break the monotony of repeatedly losing to the Phils. The Phils finished off the season series with one more loss for the Braves on Sunday which meant nothing more than the Phils were able to beat the Braves a lot. The Braves were kind enough to hand the Phils 13 of their 62 wins this season but there is no truth to the rumor that the Phils asked the league to play them 162 times next season as they continue the retooling of the team. Despite riding things out, the Braves won’t get much rest this week as they’ll have to play 8 games over the final week of the season. Things start with a doubleheader on Monday to begin a 4 game set with the Mets in New York before they head to Miami for 4 more to wrap things up.
Mets– After starting the week being swept in Miami, the Mets returned home to hand 2 more wins to the Nats. From a moral victory perspective, the Mets can hang their hats on the fact that 4 of their games (including their 1 win) were 1 run games. On the other side, they lost the other 2 by a combined 22-3. The Mets will start their week at home with the 4 game set with Atlanta before finishing the season with 3 in Philly where, depending on how the week goes for both teams, the Phils COULD potentially bypass the Mets in the standings.
The Phils get to spend their final week of the season in the friendly confines of Citizen’s Bank Park. The Nationals come to town for 3 before the Mets come in to close out the season. It has certainly been an interesting 2nd half for the Phils which has brought the fans back. As the final week rolls through, the youth will have their final chance to shine and make their last pitch before heading off to get ready for 2018.