The Phils are heading into the break on a high note. Coming off a 5-1 week, the Phils completed another 5 win week with a 2nd loss this time around. Before heading out west, the Phils swept 3 from the Braves. With the bats as hot as they were, heading into the open spaces of Coors Field had to look appetizing…maybe too much so. Game 1 of 4 resulted in just 2 runs, but the next 3 games brought the offense back to life, especially Sunday’s 10 run output. During the series, the Phils hit 3 of the longest HR’s in recent team memory. Despite winning 10 of 13 unfortunately, it hasn’t amounted to much ground gained in the standings. Sitting 12 games back heading into the break, they will certainly have to focus heavily on the Month of June where they dropped completely out of the race. Just to make it a bit more tantalizing, they are only 6 games back for the 2nd Wild Card Spot.
7 games and 37 runs. Another week with a 5+ run average shows that the hot weather has finally gotten this offense going. Tommy Joseph busted out of his slump in a big way. Over the course of the week, he went 10-17 with 2 doubles, 3 HR’s (including one monster PH bomb) and 6 RBI’s . Maikel Franco also had a big week to the tune of a .393 average, 2 doubles and 4 HR’s (including a bomb on Sunday that actually dwarfed Joseph’s). Odubel Herrera seems to have fallen into another mini-funk heading into his first All-Star game. The most welcome sight is that the lowest average in the everyday starting lineup is .234 (Freddy Galvis). Considering how many averages were hovering around .200 for a majority of the season, that’s a major accomplishment. The question is whether the AS break is a welcome one, or coming at the wrong time for an offense that’s been on a roll of late.
The pitching has done well too. Despite a few bloated scores in Colorado (never unexpected), the pitching staff has been keeping things close enough for the offense to make the difference. The biggest news of the week is the much expected demotion of Adam Morgan and the return of Daniel “I only use Fish Oil” Stumpf from the banned list after serving his suspension. Will a fresh arm be what the bullpen needs? Hopefully. Zach Eflin got his first 2 wins of the season and did it in pretty dominant fashion. In his 2 outings against the Braves and Rockies, Eflin conceded just 3 runs in 15 innings. After surrendering 8 earned runs in 2.2 innings of his first outing, he’s given up just 8 in the last 5. Jeanmar Gomez goes into the break with 24 saves. Many folks didn’t believe the Phils would have 24 wins. This is an impressive feat considering how many of them were 1 run games when he entered. Will he get some trade interest after the break? The pitching staff was up and down during the first half. Any level of consistency partnered with the currently balanced offense could mean big things in the 2nd half.
Around the N.L. East
Nationals– The week didn’t start well for the Nats losing 2 of 3 to the Brewers. When they headed into NY for four and lost the first game, things had to get tense. After sweeping the next 3 to end the first half, the Nats hold a 6 game edge over the Mets and Marlins at the break. The Nats will start the 2nd half at home against Pittsburgh. If Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and the rest of the Nats can keep up their first half pace along with the pitching, we shouldn’t expect to see much difference in the standings when the 2nd half ends.
Mets– The Mets took 2 of 3 from the Marlins to start the week and both gained ground on Washington as well as created some separation from the Fish. Neither lasted after losing the last 3 to the Nats over the weekend. Going into the break, the Mets sit tied with the Marlins, 6 games behind the Nats. The Mets have at times been close and far. Much like the rest of the division, there has not been a level of consistency that have let them take over. If they intend to make a 2nd half run, they will need to get hot and stay that way while they chase the Nationals. Their biggest problem is injuries to their starters w/ Noah Syndergaard being pulled early from his last start the latest possible set-back. The Mets 2nd half kicks off with 3 against the Phils next weekend. This will be an important series for both teams for standings and trade deadline decisions.
Marlins– The Marlins were just the reverse of the Mets. After two wins in the Mets series and falling behind, they went home and outscored the Reds 14-6 over a 3 game sweep to pull back even with the Mets. The Fish are in the same boat as the Mets as they try to chase down the Nationals. Without a level of consistency on both sides of the ball, the Fish will be looking up the rest of the season. The Marlins kick off the 2nd half in St. Louis. A 3 game set with the Cards will be important with both the Phils and Mets on tap right after that series.
Braves– The Braves looked like they were going to write off the first half after the Phils swept them out of Citizens Bank Park. That was anything but the case as they went into Chicago and took their makeup game with a recently struggling Cubs, then 2 of 3 from the White Sox. They are still out of the mix for anything except next year’s #1 pick but they aren’t playing that way. That may change if any of their players get dealt at the deadline. The 2nd half starts with a 3 game set against the Rockies next weekend.
The Phils will start the 2nd half at home with 7 straight at home against the 2 teams they are currently chasing. First up is the Mets next weekend. The first few weeks after the break will be crucial for decision making. Matt Klentak will be watching closely. Any early missteps could be the deciding factor between the Phils buyer/seller status.
The first half was at times surprising, painful and really fun to watch. What will the 2nd half bring? Let’s keep watching and find out.