It was a tale of 3 seasons in the first half of 2016. From the heart attack wins early, to the ugliness of May and June and finally capped with 7 wins in their last 10 behind an actual offense, the Phils still ended up exceeding any expectations that most had going into 2016. After coming home after their trip out west, the Phils were hoping their offensive output would carry over to Citizens Bank Park, and it did, averaging 7 runs per game while taking 2 of 3 from the defending champion Royals. Unfortunately, despite winning 5 of 6, they actually lost a 1/2 game in the standings. With one week left to the All Star break, can the Phils end the 1st half on a high note?
Once again, I actually have something to write about in this space. Peter Bourjos, with his 12 game hitting streak, is one of the hottest hitters in baseball. Cameron Rupp, not far behind with a 9 game streak of his own, is mashing the ball. Odubel Herrera picked up 9 more hits during the week. Topping things off, the crowd at CBP on Sunday saw all 8 position players pick up a hit. It hasn’t been all sunshine and ponies though. Freddy Galvis and Tommy Joseph can’t seem to buy hits nowadays. Galvis can make up for his lack of offense with his glove but Joseph needs to get back on track. The Phils, by far, have got to have the least production from the 1st base position of any team in the majors. Joseph or Howard have got to start producing something. The most important thing happening at this point is that, thanks to the offensive surge we’ve seen the last few weeks, the majority of the offense now have batting averages that resemble a MLB offense. Should this keep up, the 2nd half of the season should be interesting.
The pitching has come back around as well, although to a lesser extent. Vince Velasquez has looked good in his 2 starts since returning from the DL. Jeremy Hellickson has continued his consistency and has gotten some run support of late to help. Aaron Nola had a “better” outing against KC on Saturday but it was still not what we’ve come to expect. Pete Mackanin has already indicated that he will skip his last start of the 1st half in hopes of letting him clear his head. Will this mini-break help him get back on track? Or has MLB hitting figured him out? I’m looking forward to the 2nd half to find out.
It isn’t exactly rocket science to figure out the Phils have 2 options. Odubel and Jeanmar Gomez are the most likely candidates. Both have been consistent all season and deserve a nod. Most likely, only one gets a shot though.
Around the N.L. East
Nationals– After a stretch of losing 7 straight, the Nats seem to have found their way once again and have given themselves a little cushion in the standings. They started the week with a much needed sweep of the Mets in DC. The Reds were next up on their hit list. Next up were the Reds. The Nats took 3 of 4 but most importantly, saw the return of Stephen Strasburg. After a stint on the DL, Strasburg returned to throw 6 2/3 inning of no-hit ball on Sunday. Showing he hadn’t lost anything during the downtime, Strasburg’s return should provide the extra lift that DC needs to continue their run in the 2nd half. The Nats will be out for a little revenge as the Brewers come in for 3 followed by a 4 game set with the Mets in New York. The Nats would love to open things up in the standings with a big series.
Mets– The Mets had gotten as close as 3 games at the end of last week but DC took care of that in a hurry. After the sweep by the Nats, things weren’t looking good with the Cubs coming into town. Looks can be deceiving. The Mets managed to sweep the Cubbies in convincing fashion, outscoring them 32-11 in the 4 game set. Despite the sweep, the Mets still lost 2 games to the Nats but are certainly still in the hunt. This week brings another opportunity as they remain at home. The Marlins come in for 3 before the Nationals come in for 4 more to close out the 1st half. How this week goes will again have a major impact on the standings.
Marlins– The Marlins had gained some ground as well while the Nats swooned but that changed this week. After getting as close as 3 games last week, the Fish now sit 6.5 back after a rough week. Detroit swept a quick 2 game series before a 2-2 split with the Braves. The Marlins now sit just as close to the Phils as they are to the Nats. 3 games at home with the Mets to start the week could change that. After the Mets leave, the Fish will travel to Cincy for 3 with the Reds before the break. The Reds have lost 14 of 18 so this could be an opportunity for Miami while the Mets and Braves battle each other.
Braves– The Braves managed to catch the Indians at the end of their hot streak and suffered the consequences being swept in a 3 game series. Then the Marlins came in and the teams split the series down the middle. Heading into the break, the Braves will have a interesting week of travel. The week starts with 3 in Philly before heading to Chicago for a makeup game with the Cubs. After the Cubs game, they’ll head across town for a 3 game set with the White Sox. Surprisingly, it’s not the Cubs that are the hottest of those 3 teams. The Phils and Sox are playing good baseball of late while the Cubs had a tough go of it with the Mets. The Braves at 21.5 back are playing out the stretch but haven’t shown any signs of backing away from competition.
The Phils start the week with the Braves at CBP then fly to Colorado for 4. The Rockies have struggled lately losing 5 straight and 11 of 16. The Phil s hope they are getting them and the Braves at the right time and can close out the 1st half on a high note. Heading into the 2nd half, the topic of conversation will most likely turn to the trade market. The Phils have fallen far enough out of contention that they are not likely to be buyers but the question becomes how generous of sellers they decide to be and who gets the call up as a result.
Happy 4th of July!