Well, that wasn’t a very fun weekend for the guys in red pinstripes. After a good showing at home against the Cards, the Phils went out to L.A. and scored 6 runs while being swept by the N.L. leading Dodgers.
“Bad” Jake Arrieta popped back in for a visit in game 1. Arrieta allowed 10 hits and 5 runs in 5 innings of work including 3 HR’s. 2 of the HR’s were hit in the bottom of the 5th, immediately after Arrieta helped himself out with a game-tying RBI single in the top of the 5th. Meanwhile, the offense was held in check, managing just 5 hits. Andrew McCutchen hit his 10th HR of the season which was the lone extra base hit for the Phils. The 6-3 loss was not the way the Phils hoped to start the series.
Game 2 looked better but ended equally as bad, maybe worse. Due to injuries, the Phils had to shuffle their rotation a bit. This gave Gabe Kapler the opportunity to jump on the latest analytics bandwagon. Rather than using the recently recalled Cole Irvin to begin the game, Kapler decided to use an “opener”, most recently made popular in Tampa Bay last season. Kapler used a bullpen arm, Jose Alvarez, to start the game with the intent of working through the left-handed heavy top of the lineup. Alvarez pitched 2 solid innings before Kapler screwed things up. Kap brought Juan Nicasio out to start the 3rd and had him face just 1 batter before bringing in Irvin, A STARTER, with one out in the 3rd. Irvin was greeted with 2 singles and a walk within the first 4 batters he faced and allowed the first run of the game. The Phils got the run back in the 4th on some shotty defense and an RBI single by J.T. Realmuto. Irvin allowed a solo HR to start the 5th putting the Dodgers back on top. Vince Velasquez, did his best impression of himself while allowing another run in the 7th, extending the Dodgers lead to 3-1. Bryce Harper came up with on of his biggest hits thus far as a Phillie when he slugged a game-tying 2R homer in the top of the 8th. Unfortunately this proved to be short lived. As the Phils eyed extra-innings, Kapler made the mistake of bringing Hector Neris into a game at Dodger Stadium which has been a nightmare for him the last few years (3G, 2 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 3 HR). After inducing a groundout to the first batter, Neris served up a HR to rookie Will Smith (his first) and the Dodgers walked off with a 4-3 game 2 win.
Sunday’s series finale can be summed up as such…Nick Pivetta pitched well (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 9K…only 82 pitches), the offense was non-existent (3 H, 0 R) and the bullpen was atrocious (2 IP, 7 H, 7 R-all in the 7th). Kapler could be (and will be by me) 2nd guessed for pulling Pivetta for a pinch hitter in the 7th while still tied and pitching well. The 8-0 loss was the 4th straight for the Phils.
The Phils offense is sputtering badly. Even their top 2 hitters (Jean Segura and Cesar Hernandez) have seen their averages drop to .291 and .290 respectively despite hitting in the .300’s most of the season. Because of the offensive shortage the Phils went out and dealt for Jay Bruce who is currently hitting a whopping .212 and K’d 53 times in just 165 AB’s. His 14 HR’s however immediately make him the team leader but unless that 1 hit every fifth AB (which will likely be a HR) comes with runners on, he’ll be an afterthought. It’s likely he’ll get more playing time in LF while Scott Kingery is likely to spend more time at 3B with Maikel Franco and his .209 average being an albatross in the lineup. Bryce Harper had a hot series against the Cards before cooling off again against the Dodgers. With very little to depend on from the pitching staff on a day-to-day basis, the offense needs to get hot soon before they see their division lead disappear.
In the “Sometimes Numbers Lie” category…Zach Eflin is currently 5-5 despite his 3.02 ERA. Aaron Nola, on the other hand has a spotless 6-0 record…with a 4.18 ERA.
Nick Pivetta pitched 2 solid games (sans 1 inning) during the week and Nola looked like himself against the Cards. Both need to continue to pitch like the “can” to help this team keep on the winning path.
Admit it, we all wanted Vince Velasquez in the bullpen. We couldn’t have been more wrong. He stinks there too…maybe worse. Seranthony Dominguez seems to be figuring things out which couldn’t come at a better time with bullpen arms dropping left and right. If he can keep it up, let’s hope Kapler doesn’t go back to overusing him.
Around the N.L. East
Braves– After being swept by the Nats in a 2 game series and dropping the opener against the Tigers, things didn’t look good for the Braves who had a chance to make a move on the Phils. The managed to take the last 2 games over the Tigers on the weekend and thanks to the Phils struggles out west, the Braves pulled within 1 game of the East lead. After what was expected to be an easy week for the Braves, things don’t get much tougher this week. First up is a trip to Pittsburgh for 3 games with the Pirates and then 3 in Miami.
Mets– The Mets started the week in L.A. by losing 3 of 4 to the Dodgers. On their way home, they stopped off in Arizona for a visit with the D-backs and lost 2 more after winning the series opener. After the 2-5 week, the Mets currently sit 5 games back. This week, the Giants and Rockies each come into NY for 3 games. While the Giants may stink, the Rockies are playing well and chasing the Dodgers in the west.
Nationals– The Nats had a short week and took full advantage. After sweeping their 2 game series with the Braves, they went to Cincinnati and took 2 of 3 there. Coupled with the trouble the rest of the division had, the Nats gained 2.5 games on the Phils and Mets and 2 on the Braves and currently sit just 7 back. If they can keep up this pace, they could find themselves back in the thick of things soon enough. This week, the White Sox come into D.C. for 2 games before the Nats head to San Diego for 4 on the weekend.
Marlins– The Fish had a tough week from a travel perspective but managed to have one of the better weeks in the East. After playing a wraparound series in D.C. last weekend/Monday, they traveled back to Miami for 3 games with the Giants then hopped on a plane out to San Diego for 3 against the Padres. They ended up winning both series and going 5-2 for the week, picking up 2 games on the Phils (though their still 11 back and an afterthought). They’ll make a stop in Milwaukee on the way home for a 3 game sweep before heading back home to face the Braves in a 3 game series over the weekend.
The Phils had a tough week against 2 good teams that started well and ended poorly. This week gets a little easier depending on which team shows up.
With a 3 game set in San Diego, the focus will be on which $300 million dollar man performs better. Both teams know they’ll need more than 1 guy to get the job done though. Aaron Nola (6-0, 4.18) will kick things off on Monday night against Lauer (4-4, 4.45). Jerad Eickhoff (2-3, 4.10) goes in game 2 against Paddak (4-3, 2.40) and Arrieta (5-5, 3.96) closes things out against Lucchesi (4-3, 3.96).
After a much needed day off and a trip back home, the Phils face the Reds for 3 on the weekend. The Reds are struggling but have some fire power. The Phils have not listed a starter for the opener but it’s likely to be Cole Irvin who will be followed by Nola and Pivetta.
The offense needs to produce this week. After 2 long stretches (17 in 17 and 23 in 24) over the last month+, not to mention all the injuries, the bullpen is struggling and they need a break. An actual day off will help but they need to be in fewer “high pressure” situations and that comes as a result of the offense. Getting some longer outings from the rotation can’t hurt either. The rest of the East is making inroads and the Phils can’t rely on the Braves and Co. to just fall off and go away. Here’s hoping a trip to beautiful San Diego warms things up for the offense..