Freefall

After a week off after vacation brain set in, I return as the bearer of bad news. The Phils flat out stink right now. The last time I wrote here, they were a game up on the Braves, 5 up on the Mets and 7 up on the Nats.  After losing 7 in a row, including a sweep at the hands of the Marlins which I won’t bother recapping, and 9 of 10, the Phils have now fallen to 2nd place and are 6.5 games behind the Braves. The Nats are within 2 games and the Mets are just 2.5 behind. This team is flat out awful right now and their manager has no control.

Offense

In 6 games against the Braves and Marlins, they were outscored 28-14 by Max Scherzer and a bunch of other guys no one has heard of. Of the 8 players who recorded double digit AB’s this week, only Cesar Hernandez (10-23 with 2- should have been 3- doubles) hit higher than .263. J.T. Realmuto went 0-16 after recovering from a nut shot while his backup, Andrew Knapp chipped in with an 0-8 of his own. Jean Segura went 5-25 and didn’t run out another hit…with no repercussions (Hernandez also turned a double into a single while admiring a pop up). The 3 man rotation at 3rd base of Sean Rodriguez, Brad Miller and Maikel Franco went a combine 3-19. I could go on and on about the middle of the lineup which is now the top of the lineup after some fruitless changes by Kapler, but to say Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins have disappointed would be an understatement. It really is amazing what an impact Andrew McCutchen had on this lineup and what a blow it was to lose him. The baserunning is also a mess. In addition to the lack of hustle by Segura and Hernandez, Harper has been thrown out way too many times lately trying to take extra bases when they aren’t there for the taking necessarily. It’s a double edge sword, I admit. If you don’t think your team can get you around from 1st, it could be worth the shot but if you don’t make it, you have no chance of plating that run. Is everyone pressing at this point? Probably. When Matt Klentak made the deals he made for Segura, Realmuto and Harper, there was an expectation of what this lineup could do. It was based on both past experience and potential. Neither has show up thus far. In 144 games last year, he hit .304 (his 3rd straight year over .300) and struck out 69 times. He’s hitting .268 and has already K’d 38 times as of June 23rd. Realmuto’s average is a bit below his norm as well but his struggles of late have dropped his season tally significantly. Otherwise, he’s on par, though  not taking any steps towards that new contract we all expected. Harper is not the Harper of his MVP year. I think just about everyone knew that. Most hoped he wasn’t the Harper of 2018 either and thus far, that’s exactly what he’s been. 94 K’s already??? Really??? The hope has to be that he tears it up in the 2nd half like he did last year. Will it be too late by then though? Probably the biggest disappointment among all of this is the power numbers. In a ballpark known for HR’s and in a season where the balls are flying out of parks at a prodigious rate, the Phils have hit just 91 HR’s. Christian Yelich alone has 29 already. I’ll do the match for you. That is one player with 1/3 the # of HR’s as this entire team. Lineup changes haven’t worked. The hitting coach isn’t the problem, according to Gabe…though he sure as hell isn’t helping things. Kapler finally showed some emotion and got tossed the other day. It did nothing. Prior to this recent stretch, it would have been hard to believe that an entire lineup could go into a total funk all at the same time but it certainly appears to be possible.

Pitching

For the most part, your starters finally go their acts together this week. It didn’t help though as the offense couldn’t put any runs on the board. When they did, the bullpen gave it away. This is where the blame falls on Matt Klentak. He was so focused on putting the offense together that can’t score runs, he forgot about putting a staff together that doesn’t give them up. David Robertson aside (can’t help injuries), he brought back Pat “I pitch when I want to pitch” Neshek who despite a solid year last year, showed he has no heart. He brought back Tommy Hunter who again, pitched fairly well but couldn’t stay healthy. What’s left? A bunch of AA and AAA arms who are not ready to be major leaguers. You can’t blame him for Aaron Nola’s decline but you can blame him for the debacle that is the #4/5 spot in the rotation. You can blame him for ditching a well respected pitching coach because he though he was going to lose an assistant. That former coach is now leading your rival and your new “promising” coach can’t make any inroads with your young arms…or your established ones. The fact that they have used an “opener” multiple times already with no success dictates a move needs to be made and there are no rumblings indicating that’s happening. If Klentak waits until the deadline, this team will already be buried.

Around the N.L. East

Braves– After the Braves finished off the Phils last weekend, the Mets came to town and suffered the same fate as the Braves took 2 of 3. Then it was on to Washington for a little more of the same. After a series opening loss, the Braves grabbed the last 2 games of the series to extend their division lead. Things get a little tougher this week with a 4 game set in Chicago vs.the Cubs but this team is starting to look like one of the better teams in the league so that’s not as significant a task as it may have been a month ago. They’ll stop in NY for 3 with Mets on their way back home with intentions of putting more space between themselves and the rest of the division.

Nationals– Like seemingly everyone else the Nats took down the Phillies winning all 3 games in a rain shortened series. After 2 washouts, they swept a doubleheader on Wednesday and took the finale on Thursday. They took that momentum into their series with the Braves, winning the series opener before losing the final 2 of the series. This week, it’s the Marlins and Tigers on tap. Both are beatable teams for this Nats team which may be turning a corner or may just look good thanks to the Phils.

Mets– The Mets were pounded twice by the Braves but did some pounding of their own to salvage a win in the series. Then it was off to Chicago where they split 4 games with the Cubs. This week, teh Mets get their shot at the Phillies as the rest of the division feasted on them last week. After 4 games in Philly, they’ll head home to take on the Braves for 3 more.

Marlins– They still stink but after splitting a four game series with the Cardinals in St. Louis, they came into Philly and swept the Phils right out of their own park. This week, they get some home cooking as they take on the Nats and Phils for 3 games each at home.

After being outscored 28-14 in their back to back sweeps (43-14 if you account for last Sunday’s swoon-starter), the Phils have their work cut out for them even against the bottom of the division. First up is 4 games with the Mets at home. Zach Eflin (6-7, 2.83 …seriously? How does that record go with that ERA?) faces Steven Matz (5-5, 4.28) to start things off. Jake Arrieta (6-6, 4.12) starts game 2 vs. Walker Lockett (0-1, 23.14) who was blasted by the Cubs in his only start of the season last week. Nick Pivetta (4-2, 5.54) goes against Jason Vargas (3-3, 3.75) in game 3 and Aaron Nola (6-2, 4.55) closes the series out against Zack Wheeler (6-5, 4.69).

After hopefully turning things around somewhere during that series, the Phils head to Miami for some retribution. Vince Velasquez, Eflin and Arrieta will take the bump in the series. Maybe a trip back to Miami can kickstart J.T.

With just 13 games remaining before the All Star break (all against the division), this team needs to get their s**t together and soon or they will find themselves completely out of the mix and all of that playoff discussion will have proven to be extremely premature. If they go to the break anywhere below 2nd in this division, a shakeup needs to happen in the dugout, starting at the top. Kapler plays what he has but he doesn’t play them well. If you are going to play Rodriguez, you better have him bunting runners over in the 9th inning rather than trying to move runners along with a hit. If Segura and Hernandez are going to loaf to 1st, they better find their asses on the bench the next day. If you are going to follow the “cool” trends by using an opener, you better have a better arm than Cole Irvin waiting to take the ball in the 3rd/4th inning. Make no mistake, the players are the issue but the manager isn’t doing anything to help the cause.

Good luck boys! It really seems that’s one of the few things that will help turn things around right now.

Go Phils

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