Phils Head to the Break

With the Phils heading into the break with one of the easiest stretches of the season (theoretically), things started off well enough but did not end on a high note. The Phils split a 4 game series with the Mets and capped off their sweep of the O’s with a makeup win in Baltimore. Then…

…the offense disappeared again. Jake Arrieta looked like the $25 million dollar man the Phils thought they were getting on Friday night. Arrieta pitched 7 innings, allowing 3 hits and no runs. However, Aaron Altherr went home with player of the game honors. Altherr got the Phils on the board with an RBI double in the 2nd, scoring Scott Kingery. It was all Arrieta from that point on until the 6th inning. Gabe Kapler moved Altherr, who started in center, to right field and brought in Odubel Herrera for defense in center. Derek Dietrich pinch hit in the top of the 6th with a man on first and drove a ball to right that missed clearing the fence by inches. Altherr, knowing he had no chance to make the catch lined himself up perfectly to play the carom off the wall and threw a perfect one hop cut-off to Kingery. Kingery wheeled and threw a dart to Jorge Alfaro who stepped out in front of the plate and made a lunging sweep tag that caught the back of Cameron Maybin’s leg just before touching home and preserving the one run lead. Arrieta finished up the 6th and 7th before giving way to Victor Arano in the 8th. Pat Neshek came on in the 9th to get the save after Maikel Franco added an insurance run in the top of he inning with his 13th HR. Not many thought the 2-0 win would be the last of the 1st half for the Phils but…

…heading into his first All Star game appearance, Aaron Nola did not look like himself in the first inning. Nola allowed 2 first inning runs, equaling his last 3 starts combined. After throwing 31 pitches in the first, Nola settled in and allowed just 2 more baserunners over the next five innings. Unfortunately, the offense was nowhere to be found. The Phils had runners in scoring position twice with just one out and came away empty. They also got a pair of 2 out hits in the 9th before Jesmuel Valentin (yup, they used him to PH again) fouled out to end the rally and the game. The 2-0 shutout was the 2nd of the week for the Phils.

Enyel De Los Santos started his career on a high note earlier this week. His 2nd outing is not one he’ll be writing home about. DLS pitched well through 4 innings and the Phils gave him a cushion in the 4th. After RBI singles by Franco and Kingery, Cesar Hernandez cleared the bases with a triple and put the Phils up 5-0. That would be enough to let the rookie settle in…or maybe not. After working a 1-2-3 4th inning, things got ugly in the 5th. After getting the first batter out, DLS allowed 5 straight runners to reach base (4 hits and a HBP). 2 of the hits were HR’s and plated 4 runs. Kapler had seen enough and went to the pen. Edubray Ramos entered and proceeded to allow 3 more singles and a walk while recording just one out and allowing 2 runs to score. Enter Adam Morgan…single…2 more runs. The Phils started the inning up 5-0 and finished it down  8-5. The combination of Victor Arano and Andrew Knapp (passed ball) combined to allow 2 more runs in the 8th while the offense was shut down after the 4th. The offense recorded just 4 hits (all in the 4th inning) and struck out 10 times. And so, the Phils head to the break on the heels of a 10-5 drubbing against one of the worst teams in baseball. A little rest just might do the trick.

Offense

With 8 games in 7 days, the Phils managed just 65 hits compared to 69 strikeouts and scored just 25 runs. The break might be coming at just the right time. The Phils got most of their offense from behind the plate this week. Alfaro and Knapp combined to hit .369 with 3 doubles and a HR. When you are shut out twice and score as little as the Phils did this week, you have to look at the middle of the lineup. The Phils 2-4 spots in the order (Hoskins, Herrera, Santana, hit a combined .179 with 2 XBH’s (a double and HR by Herrera), 3 RBI and 24 strikeouts!!! If the heart of the order can’t produce runs, it will be extremely difficult to keep up in the East.

There were signs all over the place as to why the Phils need to get Manny Machado. Whether it was his 2-4, 1 RBI game against us. Or if it was as simple as watching our current cleanup hitter go 3-29. It may even be the filth that they are sending to the plate to pinch hit in critical situations (Valentin, Altherr, Trevor Plouffe, Dylan Cozens). I’ll take Kingery or Franco coming off the bench over any of those guys.

Soapbox alert: While it is (kind of) an honor to compete in the Home Run Derby, I’m not sure why Rhys Hoskins was invited (he doesn’t even lead his own team in HR’s) nor do I think it’s a great idea for a guy who is hitting .232 in July with 16 K’s…oh…and hasn’t hit a HR in the month of July. We’ve seen too many guys mess up their swing during the derby and have to find their regular stroke again. Since he doesn’t seem to have his right now anyway, while Kapler may disagree, I don’t think it’s a good idea.

Pitching

Take away De Los Santos’ 5th inning on Sunday and it was a pretty good week from the starting rotation. The bullpen left a little more to be desired though. The starters allowed just 16 ER in 8 games including the 5 runs allowed by DLS in the 5th on Sunday. 3 starters left their respective games having not allowed any runs (Nola 1st start, Arrieta and Vince Velasquez). Velasquez, unfortunately didn’t even earn a win as the offense was non-existent before the Mets walked off with a 10 inning win. The bullpen did not have it’s finest week however. The pen allowed 11 runs on 17 hits and 7 walks in 22.1 innings of work and took 3 of the Phils 4 losses.

Similar to my Machado rant, the Phils need to get an arm or 2 that they can trust more than some of the not-ready-for- prime time arms they are currently rolling out of the bullpen. With a little more structure in the pen, the Phils will hopefully keep things moving.

Around the N.L. East

Braves– The Braves split 2 against Toronto before losing 2 of 3 to the D-backs heading to the break. They did however gain some ground on the Phils and take a rest trailing by just a half game. They’ll open the 2nd half with a 3 game set in D.C.

Nationals– Wow! That’s about all you can say about the first half of the season the Nats had. The 1st half came to a merciful end for the Nats without much fanfare. After losing 2 of 3 in Pittsburgh, the Nats went into New York and split 4 games with the Mets. They finish the first half 5.5 games back of the Phils and 5 games out of a Wild Card spot. Starting the 2nd half against the Braves could make things even rougher depending on the outcome.

Marlins– The Marlins won 2 straight series over 2 of the better teams in the N.L. After taking 2 of 3 from the Brewers and Phillies, the Marlins are still completely out of it but they can take comfort in the fact that they jumped the Mets in the standings. They’ll open the 2nd half in Tampa with 3 games next weekend which could provide a few more wins if they keep playing at their current pace.

Mets– The Mets completed the first half by splitting a pair of 4 game series with the Phils and Nats. It didn’t help them in the standings as they fell into last place by percentage points however. With a 3 game series in the Bronx to open the 2nd half, things aren’t looking to get much better in the 2nd half.

The Phils continue the “easy” stretch of their schedule as the Padres come to CBP for 3 games after the break. Is it possible that there will be a new face or 2 on the roster when that rolls around? Will it be a big name that Phils fans are hoping for? Or just a piece to add to the puzzle? All great questions. The answer however is…let’s just enjoy first place for a few days and watch our guys perform on Monday and Tuesday night while Matt Klentak keeps himself busy on the phone. Go Phils!

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