As things heated up, people hoped that the same would be the case for the Phillies bats. That has not proven to be the case and worse, the pitching staff is now going the wrong direction. After another tough week facing two of the best teams in the NL, the Phils dropped 5 of 6 and dropped 10 games behind the Nationals in the East. The Cubs and Nationals added an additional 20 runs to the Phils already horrible run differential. At least now, their record is starting to reflect that number.
The only name you’ve seen consistently here (at least on a positive note) is Odubel Herrera. Herrera’s average sits at .312. His 13 XBH’s and 19 RBI’s from the leadoff spot should give him a great opportunity to make the All Star game in his 2nd season. Tommy Joseph has, for the time being, cemented his position at 1st base and in the middle of the lineup. With significantly fewer AB’s that Maikel Franco or Ryan Howard, Joseph is already 3rd on the team in HR’s and about 4 games from moving past Howard, if he keeps up the pace. If he could get a few more men on base in front of him, his RBI totals (currently 12) could go on the rise as well. His .301 average is 2nd to Herrera and also a lot more fragile based on the number of AB’s. As the Phils head into Toronto this week, it will be very interesting to see who Pete Mackanin uses Howard as his DH this week or if he continues to stay in a strictly pinch hitting role.
There is not a lot of positive stuff to write this week. Starters are going down with injuries or getting knocked out early. The back end of the bullpen which was shut down material through the first 2 months is anything but lately. Hector Neris, especially has lost his way. Jeanmar Gomez blew his 2nd save of the season on Sunday but half of that blame can fall on Mackanin. It was another occasion where he stuck with something longer than he should. There are days when it’s clear a guy doesn’t have it and Mackanin likes to let them work through it. I tend to believe that’s ok with a veteran but it’s a double edge sword with younger guys. Sometimes, the team has to come first over letting a guy take his lumps. If Vince Velasquez’ injury is anything more than he seems to indicate and he misses an extended period, the Phils will get an extended look at some of the young arms with a hope that their minor league numbers can carry over to the next level.
Around the N.L. East
Nationals– The Nats 2nd straight sweep of the Phils capped off a 5-1 week. After beating up on the White Sox for the first 2 games of the series in Chicago, the Sox stole game 3. The Phils looked like they might take game 1 after getting an early 4-0 lead over now 10 game winner, Stephen Strasburg. Jeremy Hellickson and Co then proceeded to give up the next 9 runs and the game. Tyler Roark shut them down on Saturday and then despite getting to Papelbon once again, Jason Werth finished the series off in walk-off fashion Sunday. The Nats will take on the Cubs in one of the premier matchups of the first half of the season before a 4 game set in San Diego. A strong showing against Chicago could get the Nats into the conversation as the best in baseball with those same Cubbies.
Mets– The Mets had an opportunity to keep pace with the Nats but after getting swept in a doubleheader to start the week with Pittsburgh, they took game 3 and the first two games against the Brewers. Back to back losses on the weekend their week at 3-4 and now trail by 4.5 games. They’ll get the Pirates again for 3 this week before the Braves come into town. They’ll need to keep pace or we may start to see the Nats start to run away from the field.
Marlins– Minnesota and Arizona both came into Miami and walked away with 2 wins. The Marlins got two of their own but all those 2’s added up to 3…games lost in the standings. Now at 7 back, the Fish are flailing and on the same trajectory as the Phils. San Diego and Colorado could help to remedy that this week. The marlins could gain some ground back as they take on some of the back end of the N.L. West.
Braves- San Diego finished off a 6 game skid before the Braves salvaged game 3 of the series to end the slide. the Cubs then came into Atlanta and must have been jet-lagged as the Braves took game 1. The Cubs then beat up on the Braves by a tune of 21-4 over the 2 games on the weekend. At 20.5 back, surprise wins like they got on Friday are about all they have to look forward to. With 4 against Cincy before heading to New York for 3 with the Mets, the Bravos will simple be hoping they aren’t 25 back at the break and that next year’s #1 draft pick is a little more clear cut than the Phils had it this year.
The Phils will start the week in Toronto for 2 games before coming home for 2 more with the Jays. The home and home will rely on the pitching staff once again, include Zach Elfin’s first MLB start on Tuesday. The Jays like the long ball and Pete and Co. hope that the only bats being flipped belong to Odubel Herrera. After the 4 game set with the Jays, the D-backs will come into town for 4 games. Both series are winnable if things go right. They are both really losable too. When all is said and done, the hope is that they are closer to the Nationals in the standings than they are to the Braves.