Heading South for the Summer

Things are getting ugly around South Philly as the Philadelphia Phillies are currently the worst team in baseball with just 17 wins through May. Seems like just a few weeks ago that they were at least within shouting distance of the Nats. The Phils completed a 2-5 week being outscored 40-17. After starting the week with 3 straight blowout losses to Charlie Blackmon and the Rockies (and salvaging one win), the Reds came into town and took 2 of 3. Their 5 losses were by an average of 5 runs. Their wins were by an average of 1 run. The Reds held the Phils to 3 hits (1 in the 1st inning and 2 in the 9th) on Friday while Aaron Nola conceded 3 runs in the first 2 innings which was more than enough. Tommy Joseph got his 2nd walkoff hit of the week on Saturday after a back and forth contest. Zach Eflin came out on Sunday instead of earning his first win, earned a bus ticket back to Allentown. The Reds scored runs in 6 of the 9 innings including 5 HR’s. The Phils, powered by Andrew Knapp’s 3-run HR, scored just 4 runs (all in the 2nd) and were held in check the rest of the game. With a lack of offense or pitching, things aren’t likely to get much better in June.

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Offense

I may just need to start calling this section “Aaron Altherr and Tommy Joseph” although extended playing time for Andrew Knapp has started to pay dividends. Altherr now leads the Phils in average (.303), HR’s (tied-8) and OBP (.395) and is just 2 RBI’s (26) behind Maikel Franco. Knapp went 3-10 with 2 HR’s and 2 BB’s getting some extra playing time this week. Maikel Franco (.213) and Odubel Herrera (.217) are dragging down the top of the lineup while Cesar Hernandez is struggling a bit but it still hitting a respectable .287. With a team average of just .245 (20th in the majors), the Phils will probably be spending quite a bit of time at the bottom of the standings and the sell off may start sooner rather than later.

Pitching

Surprisingly, the bullpen (4.23 ERA) has had a bit of a resurgence in the last week. They did have a 22.2 inning scoreless streak before Jeanmar Gomez gave up yet another 2 strike HR on Sunday. The problem is that, for the most part, it didn’t matter by the time they got into the game. The staff currently has a team ERA of 4.83 (29th) and a team BAA of .270 (28th). The starting rotation went from Jeremy Hellickson and a bunch of other guys to a bunch of guys. Despite Hellickson’s 5 wins, his ERA has ballooned to 4.28 after Wednesday’s 5 inning, 7 run outing. Without a turnaround, Hellickson and his 17 million dollar contract may be hanging around CBP a little longer than expected. With a starting rotation ERA of 5.02 (sans Buchholz) and the expectation of warmer weather, things might get worse before they get better.

Around the N.L. East

Nationals– The offense was in full swing for the Nats as they welcomed the Mariners and Padres to D.C. this week. While they only picked up 4 wins against 2 last place teams, the Nats maintained an 8.5 game lead. The highlight of the week was Stephen Strasburg’s 15 K outing on Saturday. Things won’t get much easier this week as the Nats head out west for a Bay Area back-to-back. They will start the week in San Fran before crossing the bridge to Oakland. With both teams near the bottom of their respective divisions, the Nats will have another opportunity to potentially gain ground.

Braves– This is NOT a test! Yes, they are still in 2nd place. This past week was more Braves-esque but did not dent ┬átheir status much. After taking the first 2 against Pittsburgh, the Braves lost the last 2 in convincing fashion. Jet lag didn’t hurt them much after a flight out west where they took the first game against San Fran but a delayed reaction turned into two more losses on the weekend. The Braves will continue their western swing with a series in Anaheim before a stop in Cincy on their way back home.

Marlins– The Fish had a very up and down week. They alternated wins and losses over 5 games with Oakland and the Angels. In their 3 wins, they averaged more than 9 runs. In their 2 losses, just 1.5. The 3 wins were enough to move them into a tie with the Braves with both teams still in view of the Nats. The week will start on a good note with the Phils coming to Miami for 3 games. After that, the D-backs come into town for a 4 game set. The D-backs had won 10 of 11 before losing their last 2 over the weekend. The fish will hope that they’ve cooled off with a trip east.

Mets– The Mets had a similar week as the Marlins averaging 8 runs in 3 wins but only 4 runs in their 3 losses. Injuries and inconsistency have been the key factors in the Mets struggles this season. After running through the Padres in the series opener, the Padres took the next 2. The Mets went on the road to Pittsburgh where they opened again with another convincing win. Sunday’s win could have been a sweep if not for Saturday’s come from ahead loss where they conceded the lead in the 9th and lost it in the 10th. The Mets head right back home this week where they welcome the Brewers for 4 then the Pirates for 3 more. The two teams are the top and bottom of the Central division but are separated by just 4.5 games.

After a 6-19 month, the Phils will be more than happy to see the end of May. They still have 3 games with the Marlins before that happens though. Hellickson, Vince Velasquez and Nola will get the starts in Miami. After the short trip down south, they’ll head back home for a 3 game set with the Giants. Jerad Eickhoff will start the series still looking for his first win while Zach Eflin’s replacement(?) will start game 2 before Hellickson gets another start on Sunday.

It’s been an ugly month all around and June will hopefully be a welcome change. As I’ve said here about 100 times before, balance is going to be the key. The rotation needs to be better. The bullpen needs to stay consistent and the offense needs to consist of more than 2 players. If they can put even 2 of these components together, maybe they can steal a few more wins.

 

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