It was not a banner week for your Fightin’ Phils. After being outscored 22-8 in a 3 game sweep by the Rangers, the Phils went into Pittsburgh for 3. Things started well enough with Jeremy Hellickson taking the mound and looking more like the version of himself we grew accustomed to in April. After conceding 2 runs in the first, Hellickson shut the Buccos down the rest of the way, retiring 16 of the next 17 batters he faced. The bullpen strung together 3 innings of 1 hit ball and the Phils finally got a win. The rest of the weekend, not as promising. Vince Velasquez looked ok for a while before getting roughed up in the 6th while another anemic offensive effort led to another loss. Aaron Nola returned from the DL on Sunday and looked good but 1 errant pitch (and no offense) cost the Phils a possible win. Nola went 7 strong innings but hit a batter with the bases loaded to force in the games only run. Things are getting worse for the Phils and right now, there aren’t a lot of signs of hope on the horizon.
What offense? The 2 brightest spots thus far for the Phils are faltering. Their leading hitter, Cesar Hernandez, is slumping with his average down to .294. Aaron Altherr is in a mini-slump (4-23 in the last week). If there is a bright side, Maikel Franco hit .318 with 2 doubles and a HR last week and may finally be finding himself. When the offense can only string together 18 runs in 6 games (7 of them in 1 game), there won’t be many wins showing up in the standings.
On the other side of things, conceding 31 runs in 6 games will not help you win either, although it should be manageable. There were a few bright spots. Hellickson pitched well on Friday but we’ll need to watch his injury. Aaron Nola also made a quality return from the DL only to watch his offense take the day off. Their were even signs of life from the bullpen. There was also more of what we’ve seen on the negative end. Joely Rodriguez turned a 2 run lead into an 8-4 loss in the course of less than 2 innings on Friday. The themes with the pitching staff remain the same. Inconsistency is about the only consistent thing we’ve seen most of the season thus far.
Around the N.L. East.
Nationals– The Nats are holding strong but it was not a good week and they have a totally different view in the standings. After starting the week with a win in Pittsburgh, the Nats lost 4 straight to the Pirates and Braves (yes, the Braves) before salvaging a win on Sunday. Their lead is still 7 games but those surging Braves are now the team on their tail. With the Mariners and Padres, each least place in their respective divisions, the Nats have a possibility for an easier week to try and expand their lead a bit if they get things straightened out.
Braves– The Braves have won 7 of their last 10 and let the rest of the division fall back. After taking 3 of 4 in a home and home with the Blue Jays they Braves took 2 of 3 from the Nats and are now the closest team looking up at them. 4 games with the Pirates before heading out west for 3 with the Giants could be a tough week but I think I said the same thing last week. Was this week a flash or a sign of a potential turnaround? This week might give us a hint.
Mets– After a 3 game sweep by the D-Backs, the Mets returned home for a little home cooking and it worked for a few days. The Mets took the first 2 games of their series with the Halos but were beat around on Sunday. The Mets are now looking up at the Braves as well as the Nats. The Padres will come into town for 3 before the Mets go on the road for a set in Pittsburgh. The Mets have been as inconsistent as any team in this division so this week could go either way.
Marlins– The Marlins have lost 16 of 20 after salvaging just 1 win in 7 games with the Astros and Dodgers. Most of the games weren’t even close. The Fish will finish their west coast trip with 2 games in Oakland before coming home for 3 with the Angels. Sitting 11 back in the East, the Marlins are falling fast. Luckily for them, the division stinks so there is still a chance…right?
The Phils are back home this week but things don’t get off to an easy start with 4 against the West leading Rockies. The Reds come in next for 3 which could be an easier test but not much has come easy for this club this year. They will need more balance if they hope to hang around but they haven’t shown much of that this season or signs that they even have the ability (or talent) to do so.