Boy! Those CHAR-LIE chants stopped real quick this weekend, huh? After the offense showed it’s potential in a Cubs sweep (which included a comeback/walkoff for the ages) and a series opening win over the Padres, the offense went back into hiding on the weekend. Let’s be honest, they didn’t do much outside of the 9th inning in the comeback win either. The Phils scored 30 runs in their 4 game winning streak (they still have yet to win 5 in a row this year), they managed just 5 runs in the final 2 games of the Padres series.
On Friday night, Bryce Harper homered for the 3rd straight game and was joined by Roman Quinn and J.T. Realmuto as the Phils powered their way to an 8-4 win in the series opener. Vince Velasquez only made it through 5.1 innings but was effective through the first 5. The 6th inning did him in but the bullpen picked him up from there allowing just 1 run in 3.2 innings. The 8-4 win was their 4th straight and tied their season high. Then, it all fell apart.
The Phils spotted Zach Eflin 3 runs on Saturday and things looked as if they’d continue on the positive path they’d been on. Then Eflin remembered why he was banished from the rotation. Eflin (after helping himself with an RBI single) allowed 3 runs in the 4th inning and was yanked with 2 outs in favor of Nick Pivetta. Pivetta, who had earned Kapler’s trust in high leverage spots was instead put in to close out the 4th, which he did. Then he too imploded in the 5th, allowing 2 more runs. The offense was nowhere to be found the rest of the way and the Padres ended the Phils hot streak handing them a 5-3 loss. The Phils managed just 6 hits in the game.
Sunday was actually worse. After going 1-1 and throwing out a runner at 2nd, Harper had to leave the game early due to dehydration and blurry vision. And yet he is still hitting better than Rhys Hoskins who has, for some Kapler-esque reason, has occupied the leadoff spot for the majority of the last week despite the fact that he has 6 FREAKING HITS in the month of August. Nothing says “rally starter” like a leadoff guy in the worst slump of his career. Jason Vargas pitched well but got no help once again from the offense. His only “mistake” was a line drive 2 run homer that bounced off the top of the wall and went forward rather than backwards. Jean Segura had already given the Phils an early lead in the first with an RBI double by that point. He did it again in the 6th and tied the game up giving the Phils a glimpse of hope…until the Phils latest reclamation project, Jared Hughes, came in and gave the run right back in the 7th. And that, folks, was all she wrote. After their big sweep of the Cubs that put them right back in the Wild Card hunt, they handed it right back with a series loss to the lowly Padres.
I’ve written it before and likely will again, the only thing this team is consistent at is being inconsistent.
The one things most fans have been hoping for finally happened. Multiple starters actually got hot at the same time. Harper, Segura and Realmuto hit .333, .348 and .417 respectively in the last week, combining for 8 HR’s and 21 RBI. Meanwhile, Hoskins managed 1 bloop hit and 7 K’s. 3 pitchers Velasquez, Eflin and Aaron Nola all matched his hit and RBI (1) output. Scott Kingery is also slumping so the offense is without any consistency outside of the 2-5 spots right now. Even Roman Quinn got hot…then SURPRISE…he got hurt again. If any of the current big 3 fall off, it’s likely so will the team as a whole.
Eflin aside, the pitchers all pitched well if not, just not for extended periods. Nola’s 7 inning outing was the only time a starter made it out of the 6th inning. The bullpen was also lights out until the weekend with 3 of their 4 runs allowed coming in the 2 Padres losses. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that it’s easier to pitch when your offense is producing and giving you leads. If the offense goes back into it’s hole, expect the pitching to follow suit.
Around the N.L. East
Braves– The Braves took 2 of 3 from both the Mets and the Dodgers and giving them a bigger cushion in the east and building momentum and confidence as the playoffs near. This week they get the Marlins who actually beat them twice last week before heading to New York for 3 more with the Mets.
Nationals– After sweeping the Reds and taking 2 of 3 from the Brewers, the Nats have won 9 of 12 and have taken the lead in the Wild Card standings. With 4 games in Pittsburgh to start the week, the Nats have a shot to pad that lead and/or make some noise behind the Braves. They’ll close the week with 3 in Chicago with the Cubs who got back on track after a rough start against the Phils this week. They won 2 straight on the weekend and currently sit right behind the Nats in the WC chase.
Mets– The Mets were the hot team in the east before the Braves cooled them off and the Nats took up that title. The Mets dropped 2 of 3 in Atlanta before getting back on track with 2 wins in Kansas City. This week, the Indians come to New York for 3 games before the Braves come into town. This could be a make or break week for the Mets who are tied with the Phils and Brewers at 2 games back in the Wild Card.
Marlins– They’re done.
It’s a short week for the Phils but if they don’t play well, it could be the week that finally writes them off. First up is a quick 2 game set with the Red Sox in Boston. The Sox aren’t the juggernaut they’ve been the last few years but they are still a powerhouse team that is coming in on a 5 game win streak and could batter the Phillies rotation. Aaron Nola (11-3, 3.56) kicks the series off on Tuesday against Brian Johnson (1-1. 6.45). Drew Smyly (2-6, 7.09…though 1-1 in 5 starts with the Phils) caps off the series against Rick Porcello (11-9, 5.49). If the Phils can take advantage of the weak part of the Sox rotation, their “reward” will be 3 games in Miami with the Marlins. Of course, after watching the Padres series, nothing can be taken for granted with this team.
Charlie Manuel has had just under a week to see what’s happening and give some advice. If he can get Hoskins out of his funk, that may be his biggest win. The offseason additions need to stay hot and they need some help. Anything short of a 4-1 week will likely damage their playoff hopes which are already pretty slim based on their remaining schedule. They need to win series like these if they have any hope.