It wasn’t a great week but the Phils did manage to finish the week with a 3-2 record. It could have an maybe should have been 5-0 but, wasted opportunities prevented that. After a split with a BAD Tigers team, the Nats came to town for the last N.L. East series the Phils will play until mid-June.
In game 1 of the series, the first 5 innings were mostly uneventful. Jean Segura homered in the first to give the Phils a 1-0 lead. Jerad Eickhoff walked the pitcher to leadoff the 3rd. He then proceeded to strike out 3 of the next 5 hitters. The 2 singles in between those K’s were the problem though as the Nats tied it up along the way. Kurt Suzuki, suddenly a Phillie killer, homered off of Seranthony Dominguez in the 6th to put the Nats ahead 2-1. The top of the Phils order came alive in the bottom half of the inning however. After an infield single by Segura and a walk by Harper, the Nats decided to pitch to Rhys Hoskins. Oops! Hoskins hit the ball 400 feet to left and the Phils had a 2 run lead. The bullpen would do the rest from there as they shut down the Nats for the final 3 innings to seal the 4-2 win with Hector Neris recording his 5th save.
Both teams traded runs through the first 5 innings on Saturday night heading into the 6th ties at 3 apiece. After a scoreless 6th, both teams bats came to life. After the Nats plated 2 in the top of the 7th, the Phils looked to replicate the 6th inning from Friday. After Segura hit an infield single and Harper walked, Hoskins “settled” for an RBI double. J.T. Realmuto followed that up with a double of his own. After a Maikel Franco groundout, Sean Rodriguez added himself to the doubles list to plate Realmuto. Not wanting to be left out, Phil Gosselin doubled next to score Rodriguez and suddenly, the Phils were up 8-5. Pat Neshek recorded 2 outs around 2 singles in the top of the 8th. Gabe Kapler, because he’s Gabe Kapler, decided to go with his best weapon out of the pen, Adam Morgan to record the final out. It didn’t work. Morgan who had begun the season not allowing a run or an inherited runner to score promptly broke both streaks. On the 2nd pitch he threw, Suzuki greeted him with a 3 run homer to tie the game. Victor Robles, gave the Nats the lead 2 pitches later by depositing his own souvenir into the seats in right. After Sergio Ramos allowed an insurance run in the 9th, the Phils put 2 of their first 3 hitters on base in the bottom of the 9th before Andrew Knapp and Odubel Herrera, both pinch hit and both popped out to end the ballgame with a 10-8 loss.
The Nats staked the Phils to an early 2 run lead in the first thanks to some shotty defense. After that Suzuki guy homered again (that’s 3 in 3 games for those keeping score) in the 4th to make it a 1 run game, the Phils offense finally came to life in the 6th. Zach Eflin, already pitching another gem, got an RBI on a safety squeeze (see Gabe, you don’t have to rely on metrics all the time…old school baseball can work). Segura beat out a grounder to avoid a double play to knock in another run and keep the line rolling. Harper followed that with an RBI single and Hoskins capped the scoring with a 2-run double. By the time the 6th inning was over, the Phils were up 7-1 and it was in the hands of the pitching staff. Eflin worked a scoreless 7th. Enyel De Los Santos struck out 4 in 2 innings of work (before being sent back down to Lehigh post-game) to close things out and secure the 7-1 win and another series win.
After recently completing a stretch of 17 games in 17 days, the Phils now embark on a 23 games in 24 day stretch. With a so-far, not totally reliable bullpen (that’s being nice), that could be interesting. Expect to see lots of shuffling of players between Lehigh and CBP.
Thus far, Hoskins has been everything folks had hoped for. He currently leads the team (among those with qualifying AB’s in average (.291), HR’s (10), RBI (31) and OBP (.424) as well as most other stats. Harper…not as much. It’s widely known that he’s a streaky hitter. Right now he’s in one of those really downward streaks. He needs to flip that switch soon if the Phils hope to compete in the coming weeks with a tough schedule. A “great” stat courtesy of Jason Stark from The Athletic, Harper is hitting just .239 against fastballs. Not good! Segura returned to the lineup after a hammy strain and has picked right back up where he left off getting on base and setting the table. Since it’s likely the last time we’ll see his name here, we’ve likely seen the last of Aaron Altherr in a Phillies uniform. Let’s just say, I’m OK with that. This offense needs to start clicking. The teams they’ll face over the next few weeks (mostly on the road) will not roll over like some of the teams we’ve faced so far. 1 or 2 innings of scoring isn’t going to get it done. They need to put up some more consistent output to remain where they are in the standings and show they can compete outside of the East.
If you told me before the season started that Aaron Nola would have a 5.06 ERA in early May and the rest of the rotation would be at or below 3.40, I’d have recommended changing your current occupation or asked for the Power Ball numbers. While it may not always look like it to the naked eye, the rotation is getting the job done, especially since Nick Pivetta was replaced by Eickhoff. Vince Velasquez has a 2.73 ERA but has only pitched 25.1 innings in his 5 starts. In his most recent start, he never made it out of the 4th, after throwing 99 pitches, but only allowed 3 runs. The rotation needs to eat more innings to save some of the bullets in the pen. Eflin has 3 starts where he’s gone 7+ but when he doesn’t, it’s usually been because he was really bad.
As far as the ‘pen goes, it’s anyone’s guess who shows up from night to night. If they continue to get overworked, things can get ugly. After first hearing encouraging news about David Robertson, it was later reported that he had a setback. He won’t be seen for a while and there is still no sign of Tommy Hunter who was recently moved to the 60 man injured list (sidenote: What the hell happened to the DL? Is it not PC to say disable list anymore?) Dominguez is a mess and they just keep shuffling guys in hoping to piecemeal the final 4-5 innings every night. The rotation needs to be better to save the ‘pen. It’s as simple as that.
Around the N.L. East
Braves- The Braves had a good week. They only managed to pick up 1 game on the Phils but they did leapfrog the Mets into 2nd. After splitting 4 games with the Padres, they swept the Marlins but remain 2.5 games back. This week will not be an easy one to make up more ground though with 7 games out west. First up is 3 games with the Dodgers followed by 4 in Arizona.
Mets– The Mets split a 4 game set with the Reds before being swept by the Brewers by a combined 4 runs, including an 18 inning game on Saturday. This week they travel to San Diego for 3 then return back home for 3 with the Marlins who they already swept in their only series so far this season. Combined with the Phillies short week, they had an opportunity to make up some ground but instead dropped 2 games and fell to 3rd place.
Nationals– The Nats are heading in the wrong direction. Injuries are mounting and wins are getting harder to come by. After losing 3 of 4 to St. Louis, the Nats came in and lost 2 of 3 to the Phils. In the process, they fell from 3 back to 5 back. Much like the Braves, it won’t be easy this week to get back into the race. They head to Milwaukee for 3 before heading to Los Angeles for 4. Their pitching was expected to carry them and it hasn’t done so thus far. With their full rotation back together this week, we’ll see if that changes anything.
Marlins– Yup, they are still playing. They had a nice short 5 game week…and lost 4 of them. This week they get 4 in Wrigley and 3 in New York against the Mets. They are not good.
The Phils head out on the road to start a tough stretch of baseball with little rest. We thought 17 in 17 was bad before. 23 in 24 is no better. The Phils start off in St. Louis for 3 games with the Cards (2nd in the Central). VV, Nola and Eickhoff will toe the rubber against the Redbirds. After their only day off for 3 weeks on Thursday, they face a struggling Royals squad for 3 on the weekend. Much like the Detroit series was important (we saw how that went), the Phils need to beat up on this team. They are a much better team at home but they now need to prove they can win on the road as well. That will require the offense and pitching staff to finally get on the same page. The rest of May doesn’t get any easier so they need to get things started on the right foot this week.