Fading Away

Well, things are mercifully starting to wrap up at Citizens Bank Park but not exactly in a good way. With a week featuring N.L. East opponents, the Phils may have gotten a look at the future…it wasn’t very bright. After Mark Leiter Jr. was lit up on Monday (L, 11-7), Ben Lively came out and single-handedly took out Jacob DeGrom as the Phils went on to a 9-1 win. In addition to allowing just 1 run on 4 hits over 7 innings, Lively also hit his 2nd HR of the season and knocked in 4 runs. The Phils waited a little too long to get things going on Wednesday and lost 6-3 in a game shortened to 6 innings due to rain. After being shut out for 5 innings, the Phils put up 3 runs in the 6th before the rain came…then never got another chance. After leaving New York, the Phils moved on to Washington and while making an effort in each game, walked away with just 1 win in the 4 game set. After jumping to a 3-1 lead on HR’s by Jorge Alfaro and Tommy Joseph, Aaron Nola got in trouble in the 6th with little help from Alfaro’s pitch blocking. After getting chased in the 6th (after throwing a ton of pitches), Nola was replaced by the recently, but not on this night, Adam Morgan. Morgan walked the first hitter he faced, then allowed back to back singles, the latter allowing 2 runs to score. Andres Blanco nearly got the tieing run back the next inning but had a HR pulled back in by Michael A. Taylor. End result, a 4-3 loss. The next night, the defense was the downfall. The night started with the Phils got out to a 3 run lead in the first. Jake Thompson gave back runs in the 1st and 2nd before Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera took over in the 3rd. Cesar Hernandez booted an easy double play just allowing the Nats to eventually load the bases. Herrera misplayed a line drive into an in the park grand slam. Maybe it was only a triple if he got on his horse to actually chase the ball but that’s Odubel (and a slightly moot point). After the Nats put up 3 more in the 6th, the Phils fought back scoring 3 in the 7th and 3 more in the 9th but came up just short in an 11-10 loss. Maikel Franco hit his 20th HR and Rhys Hoskins hit number 14. Hoskins also drew 3 walks (the last one that pushed in the eventual winning run). Leiter allowed 4 runs in 6 innings and the bullpen locked it down the rest of the way as the Phils got the 5-4 win. Stephen Strasburg and Ben Lively had a pitchers duel going through 5 innings but Lively flinched first. Lively pitched 8 solid innings (his first career complete game) allowing 3 runs but the offense was non-existent until the 9th, which proved too late. The Phils plated 2 in the 9th off Ryan Madson but came up just short. Overall, the Phils walked away with a 2-5 record and the Nats officially wrapped up the N.L. East.

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Offense

Like most week, there were highs and lows. Hernandez and Nick Williams were certainly among the highs. Williams had 12 hits (including a double and 2 HR’s) and 10 RBI during the week. Hernandez added 10 hits and 2 BB’s and 5 runs scored. Maikel Franco also had a good week hitting .438 with 2 HR despite losing playing time to J.P. Crawford. Even Hyun Soo Kim had 6 hits this week which I’m pretty sure is more than he had since arriving in town. Hoskins added 2 more HR’s but those were 2 of his just 5 hits this week. Crawford flashed his defense throughout the week but couldn’t put it together at the plate as easily. The lineup showed promise but Pete Mackanin has to figure out who to use and how to use them going forward as the infield is becoming a bit log-jammed. In addition to Crawford getting an extended look at 3rd base, Franco got a look at first base on Sunday. With a lot of players and only 8 spots, management has some decisions to make in the off season.

Pitching

Ben Lively had 2 quality starts but only got 1 win to show for it. Aaron Nola also pitched well but couldn’t get through the 5th inning. The rest of the starters…meh. The bullpen, like the offense, had it’s ups and downs. They allowed 7 runs over 15.2 innings, 3 of which were in one outing by Yacksel Rios. The bullpen has been probably the biggest surprise of the 2nd half and some of the arms are certainly working to solidify spots in 2018.

Around the N.L. East

Nationals– The Nats wrapped up the East with their win on Sunday and thanks to the Dodgers sudden free fall, have now climbed to within 4 games of the National League lead. After sweeping a 3 game set in Miami, the Nats took 3 of 4 from the Phils and finished off a 6-1 week. While Dusty Baker rested the entirety of his lineup on Sunday, their sudden rise in the standings could potentially stop that from happening too many more times as they now have a shot at the #1 seed that no one thought possible just 2 weeks ago. The Nats will welcome the Braves to town to start the week and will look to make up some additional ground because those aforementioned Dodgers will come to town for a 3 game set that will have a lot more impact than anyone anticipated previously. This time next week, the N.L. could have a whole new look.

Giancarlo Stanton’s- After a 1-6 week, the Marlins found themselves in the same boat as the rest of the division…looking up at the Nats from at least 20 games back. After the Nats left town, the GS’s got out of town ahead Hurricane Irma but still got slammed. The Braves took 3 of 4 despite HR #54 by Giancarlo Stanton. With 20 games remaining, Stanton could have a shot at 60+ and a possible record depending on which # you, the reader deems to be the true record. The GS’s will come to Philly for 3 this week and Stanton may just walk out of CBP with #60 at the rate he hits them here. Depending on the status of the city, they will return to Miami on Friday for a weekend series with the Brewers who are just 2 games behind the Cubs in the Central and 3 behind the Rockies for the Wild Card.

Braves– After conceding 20 runs in the first 2 games with the Rangers, the Braves held on to win game 3 after nearly blowing a 5 run lead. After finishing off the GS’s, they’ll have 2 more division foes this week. They’ll start the week with a quick trip to Washington for 3 where they will look to play spoilers before heading back home for 3 with the Mets where it will be for bragging rights only.

Mets–  The Mets took care of business against the Phils before the Reds came to town. The offense and pitching did not let up when the Phils left town. The Mets outscored the Reds 18-4 in the first 3 games before the Reds turned it on in the final game of the series and walked out with a 10-5 win. The Mets start a 9 game road trip in Chicago against the Cubs who are looking to hold on in the Central. After they leave Chicago, they’ll head to Atlanta for a major battle for 4th place potentially at stake (tongue firmly in cheek).

The Phils start a 10 game home stand this week. First up is the Marlins before the A’s come to town for the weekend. With all 3 teams out of everything, there isn’t much at stake in either series except for Stanton trying to hit balls out of CBP.

With just 19 games remaining, the most interesting thing to watch will be the # of lineup and position changes (can Tommy Joseph still catch?) that Pete Mackanin puts together in those games and whether Hoskins can somehow reach 20 HR’s. Other than that, it’s all about a look towards 2018.

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