While things started looking up for the Phils after taking out the Pirates and Tigers, the Braves came to town and showed the Phillies what an actual rebuild looks like. While the Phils went out and traded away assets for the likes of Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto and signed Bryce Harper to a $330 million dollar deal, the Braves slowly pieced together a lineup that totally dismantled the Phillies’ big money lineup over this past weekend. With the exception of a HR-powered win on Sunday afternoon, the rest of the weekend was all Braves, all the time and my fingers don’t have the energy to spell out all 24 runs that the Braves put up on Friday and Saturday…nor do any of you want to relive it.
Sunday’s win kept the Phils 6.5 back of the Braves and a game back of the Nats thanks to their back and forth series last week and their troubles earlier in the week. In reality, they are much farther behind.
Despite their 2 game sweep of the Tigers, the offense was not exactly a juggernaut, scoring just 7 runs in the 2 games. Luckily, Detroit’s was worse. The offense never came alive in Friday’s opener and showed up way too late on Saturday. Sunday’s hot temps helped the ball carry and carry it did, to the tune of 4 HR’s. While chicks may dig the long ball, you can’t rely on it 162 times a year…unless you’re the Yankee maybe. After their off night on Monday, the Phils will face 1 team who is chasing the Wild Card, the Giants and another who is just not real good, the White Sox. My guess is that neither team is particularly afraid of the Phils’ offense though. Cesar Hernandez, (6-20 over the last week) and Adam Haseley (6-19) are the only regulars who are coming in on what some may consider a hot streak. While Segura was 6-12, he found himself leaving Sunday’s game early…again…with an injury. With the trade deadline in 2 days, it’s impossible to know what Matt Klentak is thinking at this point. (Sidenote: as I type this, Klentak agreed on a deal with the Mets for Jason Vargas…I don’t like what Klentak is thinking).
Wow! The pitching staff held up fairly well…at least unless their names were Jake Arrieta or Zach Eflin. Arrieta powered through 4 innings on Friday before getting lit up in the 5th. Eflin allowed 6 runs and 7 hits without getting out of the 3rd inning on Saturday. Aaron Nola threw 12.2 innings of lights out baseball and one inning on Sunday he’d like to have back. Even Vince Velasquez looked good this week (again, keeping the opponent in mind) with 5.2 innings of shutout ball against Detroit. For the most part, the bullpen did it’s job as well, like the rest of the team, except for Friday night. It will be interesting to see where Vargas slides in. Will Arrieta finally go on the shelf? Will Eflin get pushed out, whether to the ‘pen or AAA? Either way, if Vargas is their ‘big’ move, I think the Phils have accepted their place in the Wild Card race.
Around the N.L. East
Braves- With a chance to make a big move towards sealing the division, the Braves faltered against the Royals losing both games at home. Their drubbings on Friday and Saturday at CBP had them on the way to writing the Phils off for good before the Phils stayed alive with Sunday’s win. This week presents another opportunity to make their case for holding onto the East through September. First up is 3 games in D.C. with the Nats who are currently 5.5 back. If the Braves can take the series, it will push the Nats further down and maybe open a door for the Phils (if they hold up their end of the bargain. If the Nats can make up some ground, again, it could open things up for them and the Phils. After the Nats series, the Braves head to Cincy for 4 games with the lowly Reds where they’ll look to give themselves some breathing room regardless of the outcome in D.C.
Nationals– Things were trending up for the Nats early in the week. While they were watching the Royals knock off the Braves, the Nats were taking the first 3 games of a 4 game set with the Rockies. Things turned around quickly however as they lost the finale of the series and followed that up by losing the first 2 games with the Dodgers. They managed to win the last game while the Phils were beating the Braves which allowed them to stay within striking distance. This week starts with the Braves series in D.C. before a trip to Arizona for 3 with the D-Backs.
Mets– The Mets were the one team who took care of business though it didn’t help much in the East Standings. The Mets took 2 of 3 from the Padres before sweeping the Pirates. While they are still 11.5 out in the East, like most other teams in the N.L., they are still alive in the Wild Card race. On top of that, they went out and got one of he best pitchers available in Marcus Stroman. Will it help? Was it a preventive measure to keep him away from a rival? Will they flip him for more pieces? We’ll see. As for this week, the Mets get another easy week. They’ll head out on the road to face the White Sox and Pirates. Stroman will likely make his debut sometime in the Buccos series.
Marlins– The Marlins can win…who knew. The Fish took 2 of 3 from the White Sox and 2 of 3 from the D-backs (game 4 on Monday night). After they close out their wraparound series with the D-Backs, things get tough. First up, the Twins come to Miami for 3 games. Then comes 2 games in Tampa with the Rays. Both series will be struggles for the last place Marlins.
With the Giants and White Sox coming to town, and the Braves and Nats going head to head, the Phils have one of their biggest opportunities since… this past weekend to make a move in the division race. The Giants pose a challenge but they are a team the Phils, if they “play to their potential” can and maybe should beat.
Drew Smyly (0-0, 1.50 ERA with the Phils) will start things off against Tyler Beede (3-4, 4.85) on Tuesday night. Vince Velasquez (3-5, 4.46) takes on Jeff Samardzija (7-8, 3.95) in game 2. Jake Arrieta (8-8, 4.51) and his soon-to-be operated-on elbow will close out the series against Shaun Anderson (3-3, 5.06).
Zach Eflin opens the series with the White Sox on Friday, followed by Nola and Smyly. Jason Vargas pitched for the Mets on Sunday, so he could slot into this series somewhere, maybe even as early as Friday night in place of Eflin.
The Phils have 2 days to make a deal they think can help them win. They have just over 2 months to show they know how. Can/will they do either? Let’s watch and find out.