We have mercifully reached the All Star break and the Phils decided to show up with their offense in tow on Sunday. That wasn’t exactly the case the rest of the week though. The week started on a high note with another 7 inning gem from Aaron Nola on Monday. The game was also highlighted by Freddy Galvis’ 1st inning bomb into the upper deck a little more than 12 hours after the birth of his 2nd child. Not a bad birthday present. Things went downhill from there. After the series opening win over the Pirates, the Phils proceeded to lose the next 3 games by a combined 14-5. The offense disappeared for the final 3 games of the series and didn’t do much more when the Padres came to town. The Phils led or were tied late in each of the first 2 games but could not hold on. After battling back to tie it in game 1, Hector Neris quickly blew another one in the 9th. Aaron Nola was pitching another gem on Saturday before conceding 2 runs with 2 outs in the 7th. The all too familiar lack of offense cost Nola another win. The offense finally decided to show up on Sunday when they exploded for 6 HR’s, including 2 bombs from Galvis and the Phils head into the break on a high note despite the mere 29 wins.
Aaron Altherr heads into the break leading the team in hitting at .284 after a week where he hit .400 with a double, triple and HR. Tommy Joseph was not quite as consistent as far as Altherr but made it count when he did make contact with 3 doubles, a triple and a HR (all 6 of his hits). Odubel Herrera also had a good week hitting .333 with 8 hits including a HR. Galvis and Maikel Franco each had 3 HR’s but Galvis 8 HR’s are just too many. The biggest problem this week was a familiar one. Offensively, it was all or nothing. The team had 10 doubles, 2 triples and 11 HR’s but scored just 20 runs (7 of them on Sunday) during the course of the week. The Phils had opportunities in every game but could not put the bat on the ball enough (69 K’s) or get on base (63 hits, 17 BB’s). When your K’s exceed your hits over the course of the week, things are not going your way. Here’s hoping an extended break leads to bigger and better things in the 2nd half.
Aaron Nola had 2 dominant outings but got just 1 win for his effort. Nick Pivetta also had a good start but couldn’t keep the ball in the ballpark against San Diego (3 of his 5 hits conceded left the park). Jerad Eickhoff returned from the DL on Sunday and pitched 5 solid shutout innings. If he can carry that into the 2nd half, things could start looking up (pending offensive help, of course). Joaquin Benoit made his case to be the next veteran to get the ax conceding 5 hits and 3 runs in 2.2 innings. Neris also conceded 2 more runs in 3 innings of work. Beyond those 2, the bullpen was good once again conceding just 2 more runs in 15 innings. The pitching staff has done their job for the most part the last month or so. In order for things to turn around, they will need more help from the offense.
Around the N.L. East
Nationals– The Nats had an opportunity to put the teams chasing them in out of sight but couldn’t get it done. After taking the first 2 games against the Mets, game 3 was postponed and giving them the series sweep. Atlanta then came to town and the teams split the series. The 4-2 week gave them a little breathing room but ultimately, could not put the Braves out of site. After the break, the Nats will head out on the road starting with a 4 game wraparound series in Cincinnati. With a 9.5 game lead, the Nats will look to put the division away as the 2nd half gets underway but despite the expectations, the Braves don’t look like they are going away.
Braves– Similar to the Nats trying to put everyone away, the Braves were looking to make a dent in the standings but they were unable to do that. After being swept in a short series by the Astros, the Braves lost 2 games to the Nats leading into their series. After splitting the series in DC, the Braves are sitting 9.5 games out at the break. Things won’t get any easier starting the 2nd half as Arizona will come into town for 3. The D-backs are chasing the red-hot Dodgers and will be looking to keep the pace as they start the 2nd half.
Marlins– The Fish started the week chasing 3 teams and finished it behind 2. After a 5-2 week, the Marlins passed the Mets, got within a game of the Braves and closed to 10.5 back of the Nats. After splitting a 4 game set in St. Louis, the cross-country trip to San Francisco did the team some good. After sweeping the Giants, the Marlins are now in sight and will look to carry it over to the 2nd half. It won’t be an easy start though as the Dodgers come to town for a 3 game set after the All Star game.
Mets– The only team that had a rougher go than the Phils this week was the Mets. The Nats temporarily put them out of view after sweeping the shortened series. A trip to St. Louis started well but ended with 2 losses by a combined 10-1 score. The Mets limp into the break 12 games out and looking up at everyone that doesn’t wear red pinstripes. With the hot hitting Rockies coming to town for 3 next weekend, things won’t get much easier in the 2nd half.
The Brewers may not be the scariest of the first place teams but they are a first place team and the Phils will start the 2nd half in Milwaukee next weekend after a couple days of rest. Like every other team, they will look to come out like a reinvigorated team after the break. The pitching staff has turned things around, for the most part, in the last month. As the 2nd half gets underway and the trade deadline looms, the biggest question will be who stays and who goes. Pat Neshek will be the most common name but Tommy Joseph may be an intriguing piece as well. Neither will bring a big return but they’ll open spots for the likes of Rhys Hoskins, Jesen Therrien or Pedro Beato who are all earning their stripes. None of those players are currently on the 40 man but that can change quickly if you remove any of the above pieces. Other names who could come up are Howie Kendrick, Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis or even a Maikel Franco. Injuries may limit both trade possibilities as well as quality of return for Kendrick and Hernandez but the Phils need to make room on the roster and will certainly entertain any and all offers. It’s a sad state of affairs but unfortunately, we’ll likely be watching this much more closely than the W-L record over the next few weeks. Enjoy a few days of loss-free baseball everyone!