All in all, a 3-3 week is pretty good for this squad. After completing their wraparound series with the D-backs by getting rocked, the Phils headed into Seattle for a quick 2 game set and things looked good for a couple days. Aaron Nola started things off with a fairly dominant performance in securing an 8-2 win. The Phils swept the series behind some excellent bullpen work. After Mark Leiter coughed up 3 HR’s in 2 innings, Ricardo Pinto was called on and shut down the Mariner’s for 3 solid innings before Neris came in for the save. On the way back home, the Phils made a stop in New York and the Mets did what they do to Phils these days, beat them up and took 2 of 3. Ben Lively had another fine start but receive no offensive help in a 2-1 loss. Then, on the eve of All-Star selections, Pat Neshek, the Phils lone All-Star, picked a rough time to double his ERA. With the Phils leading by 2, Neshek entered for Jeremy Hellickson and was hit around for 3 runs and turning a win into a loss. Nick Pivetta came out on Sunday and stopped the bleeding pitching 7 innings of 1 hit ball before the bullpen closed things out for a 7-1 win.
It was an up and down week offensively. In the teams 3 wins, they put 20 runs on the board. In their 3 losses, just 8 (including 6 in one of them). The inconsistency is what has this team sitting 20 games out as we near the break. With Howie Kendrick’s injury, Daniel Nava has seen additional playing time and has made it count. Nava hit .444 over the last week with 4 RBI. Nick Williams made his big league debut and has not disappointed thus far. Williams went 4-11 and even walked once (a major flaw in the minors). Andrew Knapp saw extended work this week starting 4 of the 6 games over Cameron Rupp. Knapp went 5-13 with a triple and a major hustle play scoring from 2nd on a wild pitch. Rupp’s .209 average and decreased power (just 5 HR’s this year) may mean more time for Knapp in the 2nd half. All in all, this was a week like most others. A couple players hit well while the majority of the lineup went silent. With a week of games left, maybe a break will do everyone some good.
Nick Pivetta had 2 starts that couldn’t have been much different. After being rocked for 7 runs in 2.2 innings in Arizona, Pivetta stormed back against the Mets and pitched 7 strong innings allowing just one hit (a solo HR). Hellickson and Leiter were plagued by the long ball turning otherwise solid outings into losses. With the exception of Neshek’s (hopefully) anomaly outing, the bullpen was perfect this week..even Adam Morgan who itched 4 innings. If the starters can start to chalk up more quality starts like they have as of late, that may help the bullpen in the long run. Then they just need the offense to do their part.
Around the N.L. East
Nationals– The Nats may just be hearing a few footsteps for the first time in a while. After a 3-4 week, their lead is down to just 7.5 games. They started the week splitting a 4 game series with the Cubs at home before heading to St. Louis. The Cards took the first 2 with the Nats putting up just 1 run in each game before the Nats were able to put some offense together and take the series finale on Sunday. This will be a crucial week for the Nats heading into the break. First, the Mets (3rd place, 9.5 back) come to town for 3 then the Braves (2nd place, 7.5 back) come in. Both teams will have an opportunity to gain some ground before starting the 2nd half. Alternatively, the Nats have an opportunity to put some space between themselves and their 2 closest competitors.
Braves– The Braves took advantage of a “lull” in their schedule facing 2 bottom tier teams. Things didn’t start as well as they had hoped losing 2 of 3 to the Padres but a trip to Oakland was just what they needed. The Braves swept the 3 game set and closed the gap with the Nats. Things get a lot tougher this week. First up is the best team in baseball, the Houston Astros. Fortunately for the Braves, it’s only a 2 game set. The 2nd half of the week is huge however as the Braves head into D.C. to close out the first half with a four game tilt against the team they are chasing. The series could make the start of the 2nd half very interesting or open things up.
Mets– The Mets 4-2 week was important in multiple ways. First, they were able to put a little distance between themselves and the Marlins who they had been neck and neck with. They also gained a bit of ground on the Nats but they still have work to do. After taking 2 of 3 from the Marlins in Miami, the Mets got the Phils for 3 and while it may have been more of a struggle than expected, they did walk away with 2 more wins. Sitting 9.5 out, their 3 game set with the Nats this week is going to be huge for them. After that, they will head to St. Louis for 3 to close out the 1st half of the season. Anything short of a .500 week will put a dent into any ground they’ve gained lately.
Marlins– Things started and ended well this week for the Marlins but everything in between was a mess. After taking the opener with the Mets, they proceeded to lose the next 2. They headed into Milwaukee after that and things didn’t get any better. The fish lost the first 2, making it 4 in a row before finally getting a win on Sunday. It was a rough week as far as the standings go as they lost ground to all 3 teams ahead of them. The Fish will finish the first half on the road. Things start with a 4 game set in St. Louis before heading to San Fran for 3. Both series will provide an opportunity for wins but the Marlins will need to stay consistent to get them.
The Phils get a home stand to close out the first half. First up is Pittsburgh for 4 games. The Pirates are coming off a series where they were swept by the red-hot Giants. If the Phils pitching can continue their positive trending, this series could be an opportunity. Speaking of the red-hot Giants, they come into town for a 3 game set to lead into the break. The Giants have won 6 straight but are still near the bottom of the majors along with the Phils. A series win could make one team or the other feel pretty good before a quick vacation. If the Phils can gain just a little momentum heading into the All Star break and the trade deadline, it may just give a glimmer of hope for the future as the youth movement is expected to continue in the 2nd half.