When all of this bamboo nonsense started last week and the Phils came back to life against the Mets, I was looking forward to a weekend of redemption in Miami and going back to writing positively about the team. Well, that went out the window pretty quickly.
Vince Velasquez got got another chance to prove he’s a legit starter. Starting position player maybe? Velasquez couldn’t make it out of the 5th inning after allowing 4 runs on 6 hits through 4 1/3. On a positive VV note, he did hit his first career HR in the 5th inning to get the Phils back within 1 after allowing the first 3 runs. He gave the 4th run back in the bottom of the inning and got the hook. The bullpen didn’t fair much better as Jose Alvarez allowed 2 more runs in the 7th. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball…nothing. The non-VV portion of the lineup recorded just 3 hits and 2 walks on the way to a 6-2 loss, their 4th straight against the bottom of the N.L. Marlins.
Finally, the Phils realized they were playing the Marlins. Zach Eflin came out and threw 6 relatively strong innings (6 IP, 8 H, 3 R) and the offense came out strong. After a J.T. Realmuto RBI single and a Cesar Hernandez sac fly, the Phils were up 2-0 in the 1st. Eflin decided he didn’t like that so he gave one back in the bottom of the inning. Scott Kingery recorded a 2-run double in the 4th to open things up a bit. Rhys Hoskins hit a 2-run HR in the 5th and the Phils were finally cruising with a 6-1 lead. Eflin allowed a 2-run homer of his own in the bottom of the 6th and that lead was cut to 3 runs. Then…the 7th inning happened. Juan Nicasio and Adam Morgan combined to allow 6 runs in the bottom of the 7th as the Marlins jumped out to a 9-6 lead. The Phils offense went stagnant from that point on and the Phils dropped their 5th straight to the Marlins, 9-6. There is no truth to the rumor that there was a fire at a bamboo farm near Philadelphia.
Jake Arrieta showed up at the park to hopefully be what the Phils are paying him $75 million to do…be a veteran presence who can help stop the bleeding in spots like the one they are in. He wasn’t dominant but with a little help from the offense, he got the job done. Arrieta got through 6 innings allowing 4 runs on 8 hits. In some recent games, that would not have been good enough. Bryce Harper had a 4 RBI day despite missing a grand slam by about 2 feet. Harper started things with an RBI single in the first. The Phils got a 2nd run on a botched hit & run/double steal. Rhys Hoskins struck out as Harper took off for 2nd. As Harper got himself caught in a rundown, Kingery raced home from 3rd and the Phils were up 2-0 after 1. After Arrieta allowed a run in the 3rd, Brad Miller hit a bomb into the 2nd level in the 4th and the lead was up to 3-1. It stayed that way until the flood gates opened for the Phils in the 6th. In the 6th, the Phils started the inning with 5 straight singles. Miller started the scoring with an RBI single. Arrieta chipped in with a 2-run single of his own 2 batters later. after a Kingery strikeout and a Jean Segura single loaded the bases, Harper came up and hit a laser to left that just missed clearing the wall but was misplayed by Curtis Granderson. Maikel Franco scored and Arrieta got caught in a rundown. However, Jorge Alfaro stood in the baseline and was called for interference, ad the Phils were awarded the run. A wild pitch scored Segura and Hoskins delivered a sac fly and it was now 10-1. Time to relax, right? Not if you watched on Saturday. Arrieta allowed 3 runs in the 6th and his day was done. J.D. Hammer allowed an RBI triple and a run on a wild pitch and it was 10-6. Harper eased some minds with a 2 run laser to left that cleared the wall this time and the Phils were up 12-6. Tommy Hunter looked good striking out 3 around an infield single in the 8th and Maikel Franco added an insurance run on an RBI single in the 9th and the Phils finally put the Marlins away, 13-6.
I’d say it’s safe to put your bamboo away now, folks.
The April version of Maikel Franco made a return appearance this past week. Franco hit .423 for the week with 3 huge HR’s against the Mets. It’s fairly safe to say the Phils are still in the midst of a losing streak heading into Sunday if it wasn’t for Franco. Jean Segura joined in as well hitting .303 and adding 3 homers of his own. Harper, Hoskins and Miller added 7 more HR’s as the long ball was key to the Phils successes this week. It wasn’t all sunshine and long balls though. Hoskins 3 HR’s were 3 of his 4 hits on the week. Roman Quinn returned to the lineup though you wouldn’t really know it by looking at his stat line. The offense showed out for the majority of the week with the exception of Friday night. With a little help from the bullpen on Saturday, we’re talking about a 6-1 week heading into Atlanta. 5-2 isn’t bad but these are games they need to win. The offense will need to produce the same way in a HUGE matchup with Atlanta this week. Aaron Nola finally gave a Nola-esque start
Arrieta finished the week with 2 wins which sounds great until you look at the 6.75 ERA and just 12 IP in those 2 outings. Zach Eflin didn’t fare much better allowing 9 runs in 11 innings of work in his 2 starts. Nick Pivetta couldn’t get through 6 innings and we already discussed VV’s issues. Aaron Nola finally looked like himself allowing just 1 hit to the Mets in 7 innings of work. The bullpen wasn’t a lot better than the rotation. While Tommy Hunter returned to the team and allowed just 1 hit with 4 K’s in 2 innings of work, that was one of few highlights. Edgar Garcia also pitched well throwing 3.2 innings of near perfect ball (0 hits, 0 BB’s, 5 K’s). Hector Neris had one disastrous inning against the Mets (on his 3rd straight night of usage) but was bailed out by Franco and Segura. Overall, the 5.81 ERA the pitching staff put together this week will not win a lot of games.
Rumor alert: Mickey Moniak was pulled early from the Reading Phightin Phils game on Sunday not due to injury. Rumors have been swirling for some time that the Phils were at the top of the line as far as interest in Madison Bumgarner. Could the former #1 pick be on his way to San Fran?
Around the N.L. East
Braves– The Braves continue to be the Beast of the East. After splitting 4 games with the Cubs in Chicago, they went into New York and took 2 of 3. The 4-3 week, including a series ending loss to the Mets allowed the Phils to pick up a game in the standings but they still hold a 5.5 game lead. heading into the All-Star break, the Braves host the Phils in a gigantic series to start the week. They’ll close out the 1st half of the season with 3 games against the Marlins. The Phils series could potentially cause a huge shift in the dynamics of the N.L. East.
Nationals– Meanwhile in our nations capital, the Nationals are making a run of their own. After sweeping a series in Miami and taking 2 of 3 from the Tigers, the Nats climbed to within 7 games of the Braves and are just 1.5 games behind the Phils. Things won’t get much tougher this week as they’ll close out the 1st half at home against 2 of the worst teams in the Majors. First up is 3 more with the Marlins before the Royals come to town. As the Phils and Braves battle it out, the Nats could position themselves well heading into the 2nd half after most had written them off a month ago.
Mets– At least some things don’t change. The Mets still stink. After their sweep at the hands of the Phils, the Braves took the first 2 of their series (their 7th straight loss) before the Mets finally salvaged a win on Sunday. With 2 games against the Yankees and 3 against the Phils this week, the Mets are falling fast and will likely be fielding a lot of calls from other GM’s and possibly searching for a new manager (and GM?) during the break.
Marlins– If the Marlins played the Phils 162 times, they’d be a perennial playoff team. As it stands, they only get to play them 18 times. After their sweep against the Phils last week, they began the new week being swept by the Nationals. After taking 2 more from the Phils, the Marlins are still buried but they will likely play a big role moving forward. This week, while the Phils and Braves are in Atlanta, the Marlins will be looking for retribution against the Nationals. Then, to close out the first half, they head to Atlanta. If the Fish can’t scrounge up a win or 2 against their division rivals, their could be some fluctuation near the top of the standings.
The Phils won’t likely be getting any help externally so they will need to take care of business this week if they don’t want to find themselves potentially in 3rd place. The Phils have their biggest series of the season as they head to Atlanta for 3 games with the Braves. Nick Pivetta (4-2, 5.63 ERA) opens the series against Dallas Keuchel (1-1, 5.06). Aaron Nola (6-2, 4.22) looks to build on his last outing in game 2 against Bryse Wilson (0-0, 8.31) who hasn’t gotten out of the 5th inning in either of his starts this season. Vince Velasquez (2-5, 4.73) faces Mike Soroka (9-1, 2.13) who has pitched less than 6 innings just 3 times- once due to injury. Anything short of a series win could be disastrous heading into the break.
They’ll close out the first half in New York with 3 against the Mets. Eflin, Arrieta and Pivetta will take the mound against the big 3 of Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard.
This week could make or break the Phils season if they skew heavily in one direction or the other and both series are important in different ways. Anything short of a series win in either series (especially in Atlanta) could potentially drop the Phils below the Nats. The pitching staff needs to do their respective jobs and the offense has to show up. They will not win wither series without all 3 aspects coming together consistently.
If the Moniak/Bumgarner rumors come to fruition, MadBum is a huge upgrade of Velasquez. While he may not be as dominant as a few years back, he has only given up 4 runs or more 4 times since May 1st and has pitched 6 innings or more in all of those starts except 1. If there is any chance to slide him into the rotation this week in place of Velasquez (Bumgarner pitched 7 innings on Saturday and would fit right into VV’s slot on Thursday), that’s a big impact heading into the break. If it turns out to be just a rumor…well, we can all enjoy another 4-5 inning outing from VV.
It’s a big week. Can the Phils play up to their potential and head to the break on a positive note? Can Kapler not get in his own way for a full week? Will Klentak make the aforementioned MadBum (or any deal) to help set up the 2nd half?
Sidenote: Congrats to J.T. Realmuto on his All Star nod.