Pitching Woes Emerge

Well, apparently baseball isn’t as easy as the Phils made it seem early on. After losing their first series of the year against the Nats, the Phils were lucky to walk out of Miami with 2 wins.

Jake Arrieta won the 100th game of his career on Friday night as the Phils temporarily rebounded from back to back blowout losses to the Nats. The Phils loaded the bases in the 1st but came up empty as J.T. Realmuto was doubled up to end the threat. They rebounded however, in the 3rd by putting up a 5-spot. Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, Realmuto and Odubel Herrera had 4 consecutive RBI hits to stake Arrieta to a 5 run lead he would never come close to relinquishing. Cesar Hernandez knocked in a run in the 5th. After the Marlins scored on an sac fly in the 7th, Andrew McCutchen hit a 3-run bomb to center to cap the scoring. The 9-1 win would be a short-lived cause for celebration however.

Zach Eflin’s dominant start to the season came to a crashing halt on Saturday night. Eflin allowed 6 runs on 10 hits in just 4 innings and the offense was held scoreless until the 9th inning. The bullpen didn’t help as Juan Nicasio was rocked for the 2nd straight outing. Nicasio allowed 4 runs on 6 hits in 3 innings after allowing 2 runs in 2 innings against D.C. earlier in the week. The 10-3 loss was the 3rd game of the week where the rotation allowed double digit runs.

After a pair of offensive outbursts, Sunday afternoon turned into a 14 inning pitcher’s duel. Vince Velasquez allowed just 1 run on 2 hits in 6 innings of work, taking a no-hitter into that 6th inning. After Cesar Hernandez hit a solo homer in the 4th to give Velasquez the lead. Brian Anderson ended the no-hit bid in the 6th with a solo shot of his own. After that, the bullpens took over. The Phils bullpen shut the Marlins down for 8 innings, striking out 14 in the process. The Marlins ‘pen matched the Phils for 6 innings of shutout ball as well…until the 14th. After Aaron Altherr struck out to lead off the 14th, McCutchen ripped a triple to center. Jean Segura, inspired by Tiger Woods’ win at the Masters, went down and golfed a pitch into the crowd in left-center for his first homer in a Phils uniform to give the Phils a 2 run lead. After Victor Arano struck out the side in the 12th and 13th innings, Jose Alvarez, after being touched up by the Nats for 5 runs in 2 games earlier in the week came in to close things out. After allowing a lead-off single, he was able to coax a near double play ball (thanks to an excellent play by Hernandez, diving up the middle). The next batter up sealed the deal with a high chopper up the middle that Segura grabbed right near the 2nd base bag and was able to turn the double play to seal the win.

It wasn’t the dominating series the Phils had hoped for, but it was a series win which kept them in first place heading into New York.

Offense

It wasn’t the best week from the new-look lineup. Most of the lineup struggled against the Nats and Fish. How much was a result of the stress of trying to come back from big deficits can be debated. The Phils’ run differential dropped from a +20 last week to +6  after 3 blowout losses. The highlight of the week may have been Scott Kingery who went 8 for 12 with 3 doubles. With Hernandez struggling (.200 average through Sunday), expect Kingery to get an extra start or 2 this week. As the at-bats start to build, the majority of the lineup is starting to balance out to around career averages with the exception of Hernandez and Realmuto (.234). Segura (.317) currently leads the team.

Pitching

There’s not a whole lot of good stuff to write about here. Arrieta appears to have found some of his former glory through the first few weeks. With 2 wins and a 2.25 ERA, Arrieta is currently tied for the lead in the rotation in both categories. While Aaron Nola is struggling early, his career thus far indicates that he’ll turn things around. The bullpen may be another story. While bullpen ERA’s can be inflated this early in the season, the Phils currently have just 4 pitchers with an ERA below 6.00. It’s likely that much of this will work itself out but you have to believe the front office is keeping their eyes open.

Around the N.L. East

Mets (9-6)- The Mets split a 2 game series with the Twins to start the week. A trip to Atlanta started well after taking the first 2 games of the series but they dropped both games on the weekend to finish the week 3-3. They’ll start this week with 3 games in Philly looking to overtake the Phils for first in the East before heading to St. Louis for 3 over the weekend.

Braves (9-6)- After taking the first 2 games in Colorado, game 3 of the series was postponed due to weather. A trip back home began with 2 losses to the Mets before they evened things up on the weekend. The D-backs come into Atlanta for 3 to start the week before the Braves head to Cleveland for 3 on the weekend.

Nationals (7-7)- After handing the Phils their first series loss of the season, the Pirates came to D.C. and took 2 of 3. The Giants come into the Capital for 3 games before the Nats head to Miami for 3 against the Fish.

Marlins (4-12)- The Marlins were swept by the Reds as part of a 5-game losing skid before they finally exploded against the Phils on Saturday. With the Cubs and Nats coming to Miami this week, despite both struggling in the early part of the season, things aren’t likely to get any better.

The Phils have played just 3 games outside of the division through the first 3 weeks. That continues to begin the week as the Mets come into CBP for 3 games. Aaron Nola starts things off against Noah Syndergaard on Monday. Neither has started their season the way most fans are used to so something likely has to give for one or the other. Nick Pivetta looks to get back on track against Steven Matz on Tuesday and Arrieta faces Zack Wheeler on Wednesday. It’s still early but this is a huge series for both teams as they try to take control of the East. The Phils head make their first trip outside of the East Coast for 4 games in Colorado starting on Thursday. Eflin, Velasquez, Nola and Pivetta will toe the mound in the Rockies.

The Mets series is an important test for the Phils. After struggling against them last season, the Phils have to show that they have moved the needle this year with their upgrades. Most importantly could very well be Nola getting himself back on track. If he struggles again, the Unrest Meter in Philly may spike. The offense may be looking forward to 4 games in the thin-air and open expanses of Colorado. Regardless how the week goes, it’s still early and not time to prepare the parade route or jump off the bandwagon just yet.

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