June Swoon

After a tough series in Chicago, things got a lot uglier when the Phils came home to CBP. The pitching went int he tank and the offense was already there. I’ve spent a lot of time on here talking about the aspects meeting in the middle. I was kind of hoping it would have gone the other way. After a 2-4 week, the Phils are sitting 3 games back in the East and need to get back on track.

Ryan Braun LOVES hitting in Philly. After his 2 HR, 5 RBI outing in game 1, Braun is hitting over .400 in his career at CBP. Vince Velasquez retired the first 2 batters he faced and thing were off to a good start. Then the old VV reared his ugly head. Velasquez walked the next 2 batters and up came Braun who mashed his first homer to left and the route was on. The Brewers added 2 more in the 2nd to make it 5-0 and it still hadn’t actually gotten “bad”. After more ineptitude at the plate and an actual good inning from VV in the 3rd, the wheels officially fell off in the 4th. Velasquez allowed 3 more singles, 2 doubles and 4 more runs before being lifted for Mark Leiter Jr. Braun welcomed him the same way he welcomed VV in the first…by launching another homer to left making it 11-0. The Phils finally got on the board in the 4th with a double by Scott Kingery and a Carlos Santana sacrifice fly. After trading scoreless innings, the Phils tacked on a few more runs in the 7th behind a Santana homer, a Jesmuel Valentine RBI single and an Andrew Knapp sac fly. Christian Yelich hit a 435 foot bomb to center off Victor Arano in the 8th and that would eventually cap the scoring and close out a 12-4 Brewers win. But hey, things can’t get worse, right.

After Jake Arrieta called out the coaching and his young infielder after his last start, he placed the blame solely on his own shoulders in this one. Arrieta was greeted by Jesus Aguilar in the first with a home run to right that scored Christian Yelich for an early 2-0 lead. Rhys Hoskins made his return to the lineup after fracturing his jaw in a bog way. Hoskins came up in the 3rd with 2 on and drove a ball into the left field seats for a 3R homer and a 3-2 lead. After the first inning blast, it seemed Arrieta had settled down but the Brewers were making him work as far as his pitch count. By the time the 6th inning had rolled around, Arrieta was already nearing 100 pitches. After recording the first out in the 6th, Ryan Braun reached on a catchers interference call. Arrieta walked the next batter and hit former Phillies catcher Erik Kratz for the 2nd time in the game to load the bases. With the bases loaded, Kap had seen enough and brought in Luis Garcia to try and clean things up. Garcia struck out the first batter he faced on 3 pitches and buried pinch hitter (and soon to be not a Brewer- he was traded on Sunday), Ji-Man Choi 0-2. Choi eventually worked his way back to a full count then took a down and away fastball and barely wrapped it around the LF foul pole for a grand slam and the 3-2 lead was now a 6-3 deficit. Adam Morgan allowed 4 more runs in the 7th and Tommy Hunter allowed 2 in the 9th to cap off a disastrous 12-3 loss.

If anyone could turn things around for the Phils, naturally it would be…Zach Eflin? The Phils got on the board in the first thanks to a Rhys Hoskins RBI groundout. After that, a steady, soaking rain played havoc throughout and kept both offenses to a minimum. Eflin was rolling until the 5th. After loading the bases with 1 out, Lorenzo Cain reached on an infield single and Eflin walked Yelich before striking out the last hitter in the inning. Suddenly, the 1-0 lead was now a 2-1 deficit. This time, the Phils offense came back at a more opportune time. In the bottom of the 5th, the Phils loaded the bases up themselves with no outs. Cesar Hernandez walked in a run, Rhys hit a sac fly and Odubel Herrera legged out what could have been an inning-ending DP but managed to get the run in. Suddenly, the Phils were back on top, 4-2. The pitching took over again and both teams were quiet until the 8th. Kapler decided to let Seranthony Dominguez go out for a 2nd inning after shutting the Crew down in the 7th. Dominguez struck out 2 more around a Yelich infield single. With 2 outs and a man on first, Dominguez allowed back to back singles and the lead was now 4-3. He retired the next batter and the Phils would look to hold on for one more inning. Luis Garcia came in to wrap things up in the 9th and made it dicey once again. After retiring the first 2 batters, he allowed a single and a double. Tommy Hunter came in to relieve Garcia and manged to get Yelich to ground into the shift at second for the final out and the Phils got a much needed win to cap off another tough week.

Offense– Odubel is down to .288. Maikel Franco has been virtually benched. Cesar has as many HR’s as Rhys. The current SS-3B tandem of Kingery and J.P. Crawford are hitting a combined .205. As a team, the Phils hit .202 against the Cubs and Brewers. None of this is a recipe for success. Things aren’t getting any easier as June rolls along. The one potential positive came on Sunday when the Phils were a little more aggressive at putting the ball in play. Could this be a change in attitude over the “patient” approach we’ve seen all season? Not likely but it can’t hurt to try at this point.

Pitching– So…Hector Neris pitched a scoreless inning. How’s that for a silver lining? To be fair, Eflin was terrific allowing 3 runs in 13.2 innings and recording both Phils wins this week. In between, everyone else got touched up. Eflin and Aaron Nola were the only starters to get through 6 innings. The bullpen allowed 13 earned runs, including 4 HR’s, 2 of which were a couple of big grand slams that COULD have flipped both series. With the offense seemingly getting worse, could the pitching staff be squeezing a little tighter now trying not to make a mistake? Very possible. The Phils need to hope that they can turn things back around this week while waiting for the day when the offense finally clicks…a day that I find less and less likely to come each week.

Around the N.L. East

Nationals- On a short week with just 5 games, the Nats managed to take over the top spot (only by percentage points) after a 3-2 week. After sweeping a 2 game set against Tampa, they only manged to win one in a 3 game home series with the Giants. They’ll start this week with another inter-league short-set with the Yankees in New York this week. Then it’s off to Toronto to take on the Blue Jays. The Yanks should pose more of a threat than the Rays did or the Jays are likely to. Even a split in New York should help the Nats case of holding on to the top spot.

Braves– Out on the West Coast, things didn’t go as well for the Braves who saw their lead disappear. First, they lost 2 of 3 to the struggling Padres then it was 2 more losses in LA against the Dodgers. They’ll return home this week and start with 2 games against the Mets before the Padres come to town for 4 games. Both series should present an opportunity to jump back on top should the Nats falter.

Mets– The Orioles and Yankees came to town and left with 2 wins each. The Mets scrounged just one win in the Yankees series after the 2 game sweep by the O’s. Despite it all, thanks to the relative mediocrity in the N.L. East, the Mets are still just 7.5 back. As they head to Atlanta for a 2 game set, that could change quickly though. Then, it’s the Mets’ turn to head out west. They’ll start the trip with 4 games in Arizona against the West-leading D-backs.

Marlins– After a surprising series win in St. Louis, the Marlins only manged one win at home against the Padres and sit 14 games back. The Giants fly into Miami for 4 games before the Fish head to Baltimore for 3 games over the weekend.

As I mentioned, things don’t get any easier this week. The Rockies come to town to finish off the current homestand. Nola, Nick Pivetta and Velasquez will take the mound. Then, it’s a trip to Milwaukee for three more against the Brewers where the Phils will hope to get some payback with Arrieta, Eflin and Nola. The Phils have managed to hang around in the East since neither the Braves or Nats has been able to take control. While the Phils were not expected to compete this year, they need to start getting some consistency and take advantage of a somewhat weak division. Maybe after celebrating the ’93 Phils this week, they’ll take a page out of their book and relax, drink some beers, have some fun and win a bunch of games.

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