After a nearly disastrous series with the Mets, the Marlins came into Citizens Bank Park for 4 games and nearly sent the fans on their way to the nearest bridge.
The Phils closed out a 17 games in 17 days run with 4 games against the bottom feeding Marlins. Coming off a series closing win over the Mets on Wednesday, the offense went back to sleep on Thursday. Sean Rodriguez, filling in for Jean Segura, Scott Kingery and Phil Gosselin, hit a solo homer in the bottom of the 2nd to give the Phils a 1-0 lead and that was pretty much it. Aaron Nola, conceded a run in the very next inning to tie the game at one. After that, the pitching took over for both teams and the game remained tied into the 10th inning at which point Gabe Kapler screwed up again. Despite using his bullpen sparingly in a 6-0 win the night before, Kapler decided to send Hector Neris back out for the 10th inning after working through the 9th inning where Nick Williams saved him from blowing the game by gunning down a runner at home. It looked almost smart in the beginning as he retired the first 2 hitters but as he started nearing the 30-pitch mark, things unraveled. After allowing a 2 out double, Starlin Castro connected for a 2-run homer to left and ultimately, a 3-1 Marlins win.
Jake Arrieta chastised his team earlier in the week after a rain delay resulted in a lack of offense. When Friday’s game started an hour late, things went a little bit differently. J.T. Realmuto homered in the bottom of the first and the Phils never looked back. Maikel Franco homered in the 4th and Bryce Harper plated 2 with a bomb of his own in the 8th for a bit of insurance. Meanwhile, Jerad Eickhoff was cruising along. Eickhoff pitched 7 innings of shutout ball, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 6. The bullpen chipped in 2 shutout innings and the Phils won the game 4-0. With just 6 hits, it wasn’t exactly an offensive explosion but when 3 of your 6 hits leave the yard, it certainly helps.
The offense finally came to life on Saturday. Unfortunately, the pitching staff didn’t take full advantage of the situation. After jumping out to a 10-1 lead after 5 innings, the aforementioned Arrieta convinced Kapler to let his stay in rather than saving a few bullets. Arrieta came out for the 6th inning and proceeded to allow 4 straight hits without recording an out. Jose Alvarez retired the first batter he faced. A sac fly later, Curtis Granderson hit a bases clearing double. things could have been worse as Miguel Rojas singled on the next pitch but Granderson was gunned down at home by Harper. Jorge Alfaro (a Phillie-killer in the early part of his Marlins career) hit a 2 run homer in the 7th. Seranthony Dominguez allowed 2 more in the 8th and all of a sudden, that 10-1 lead was now 10-9. Harper hit a 2 run homer in the 8th to give the Phils a bit of a cushion but the last 3 innings had proven that the game wasn’t over yet. Kapler went to Neris again to close it out. Neris retired the first batter before allowing a single and a walk around another out. Neris was able to strike out Chad Wallach to close things, salvaging a 12-9 win.
The Phils turned to Zach Eflin on Sunday looking to win the series. Eflin has scuffled since starting the season on a hot streak. Eflin allowed just 1 run (thanks to another boneheaded defensive play by Cesar Hernandez) on 7 hits on his way to a complete game. Rhys Hoskins double in a run in the first to get the Phils on the board. In the 3rd, the newest Phillies at the top of the lineup did what they were brought in for. After Andrew McCutchen drew a 1 out walk, Jean Segura tripled down the right field line to score McCutchen. Harper knocked in Segura on a ground out to extend the lead to 3-0. The Marlins got a run back in the 4th as Hernandez cut in front of Segura on a grounder up the middle and had no chance to make a throw to first while running the wrong direction. There is no guarantee Segura gets the runner but with his momentum heading towards first rather than away from it, it’s much more likely. This was just one of multiple errors/blunders that Hernandez has made this week. The Phils added runs in the 5th and 8th on wild pitches. Eflin closed it out in the 9th inning and the Phils took the series with a 5-1 win despite recording just 5 hits.
Ultimately the Phils went 4-3 and gave themselves a bit of a cushion in the division that they didn’t have after the Mets series.
With the exception of Saturday night’s 12 run output, the offense struggled once again this week. Cesar Hernandez is lucky that he hit the ball this week because his defense was horrendous. Hernandez went 8-26 with 2 doubles and 2 walks. Much of the rest of the offense struggled badly but the team as a whole hit 9 homers (Hoskins with 3 of those). The team as a whole hit just .207 for the week. Hoskins 3 homers were in addition to 2 doubles and his first career triple. Segura returned over the weekend going 3-5. The Phils hope his return will add some consistency back to the top of the lineup.
The starters, with the exception of Arrieta’s 6th inning on Saturday, pitched well. They recorded 4 quality starts and the team’s first complete game in 2 years in their 7 outings. The bullpen was not quite as solid allowing 11 earned runs in 19.1 innings. Some of the patchwork pieces are understandable but Seranthony’s struggles are getting more and more worrisome. As the Phils move out of their N.L. East-heavy portion of their schedule, the hope is that some unfamiliar hitters may not seemingly know what’s coming with each pitch.
Around the N.L. East
Mets– After taking 2 of 3 from the Phils and moving into a tie for first, the Brewers came to New York and took 2 of 3 while the Phillies were sneaking by the Fish. The Mets dropped 1.5 games behind the Phils. The Mets are looking a lot like the 2018 Phils at this point in the season. They are hanging around in the division despite having a -19 run differential. Things get a bit easier this week as the 11-16 Reds come to town for 4 games. Things move on to Milwaukee over the weekend as the Mets look for revenge for this weekend’s series loss.
Braves– Much like the rest of the division, the Braves are struggling against non-division teams. The Braves went into Cincy for 3 games to start the week and proceeded to lose 2 of 3. After returning home, the Rockies came in and won the first 2 games before the Braves finally closed out the week with a win thanks to an 8th inning comeback. The new-look Padres come to Atlanta for 4 games to begin the week before the Braves travel to Miami for 3 games. The Braves are 2.5 behind the Phils and just a half game ahead of the Nats, who they have yet to play and won’t until the end of May, for 4th place.
Nationals– The Nats started the week with a trip out to Colorado for 3 games (an odd road trip that other East teams have made already this season) where they dropped 2 of 3 to the Rockies. A return home didn’t change their fortunes very much as the Padres came to D.C. and took 2 of 3 from the Nats as well. The Nats complete their home stand with 4 against the Cardinals before a trip to Philly for 3 against the Phils. As tight as the division is, the currently 4th place Nats could potentially be looking to take over 1st place depending how things play out with the rest of the division.
Marlins– After a 2 game split with the Indians and their 3-1 series loss to the Phils, the Marlins are 8 games out in the East as April nears an end. With only 1 game left in April, they will avoid a double digit deficit after 1 month.. This week starts the same as last as the Indians come into Miami for 2 more games. The Braves come in for 3 games on the weekend
The Phils get their 2nd taste of the A.L. Central as the Tigers come to town for 2 games starting on Tuesday. Yes, that means the Phils actually have a day off on Monday. Vince Velasquez will start game 1 against Spencer Turnbull. Aaron Nola, looking to build on his last start, will start game 2 against Tyson Ross. After a 2nd day off on Thursday, the Nats come to town for 3 games as the Phils finish up a 10 game home stand. Game 1 will feature Eikhoff vs. Jeremy Hellickson. Arrieta faces off with Patrick Corbin in game 2 and Zach Eflin closes out the series against Anibal Sanchez. After the series, the Phils won’t face the East until the middle of June.
After watching the first month of the season, it’s very likely there won’t be a team that runs away with the division. Every team has it’s own flaws. Health will be one factor. Will a team jump the trade deadline gun and make a move to sure up a weakness? I wouldn’t be surprised. This team will be exciting some nights, frustrating on others and maybe both in the same game on occasion (see Saturday night). Either way, this summer is going to be a lot more entertaining than last.