So Close(r) to a Sweep

It was a solid week for the Phils if your name isn’t Hector Neris. The Phils ended the week with a 4-1 record and 1 rainout. The Phils last 2 losses have been the result of blown saves by Neris.

After their 4 game sweep of the Giants, the Mets came to town for what ended up as an abbreviated 2 game series. Odubel Herrera opened (and ultimately closed) the scoring with a first inning HR on Friday night. From that point, it was all Jake Arrieta. Arrieta shut down the Mets offense through 7.1 innings allowing just 5 hits. Tommy Hunter closed out the 8th inning and it was Neris Time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t “Good” Neris time. Neris allowed a leadoff single in the 9th followed by back to back HR’s. The 10 lead quickly turned into a 3-1 deficit. The Phils offense couldn’t put any runs on the board in the 9th and for the 2nd time in 6 days, Neris added a blown save and a loss to his stat line.

After a rainout on Saturday, the Phils were looking for a split on Sunday. Things started slowly. After an hour long rain delay, the Mets loaded the bases in the first on Aaron Nola but did not score. The Phils managed to load the bases themselves (with no outs) in the first and forced Mets starter, Jacob deGrom to throw 45 pitches but the middle of the order was unable to knock anyone in. Based on the rain delay and the fact that deGrom was coming off the DL, he did not come back out for the 2nd. Herrera extended his on base streak to 41 games with a first inning walk (he also added a single later), tied for 5th longest in Phils history. However, it was Nick Williams who played the hero on this day. Williams hit a pinch hit 3R homer in the 6th and that would be all Aaron Nola and the bullpen would need. Nola allowed 9 hits and walked 2 in 6 innings but was really never in trouble other than the first inning. 4 pitchers combined to hold the lead over the last 3 innings with Tommy Hunter allowing 1 run. Edubray Ramos, at least for the day, supplanting Neris as the closer, racked up his first save of the season.

Offense

Herrera is currently leading the majors with his .360 average. He hit .571 over the last week with 3 doubles and 3 HR’s. Carlos Santana has finally started to see some balls drop for him and this past week was a big one. Santana had 2 doubles and 3 HR’s, knocking in 13 during the Giants series. Maikel Franco hit .320 during the week with 2 HR and extended  his team leading RBI total to 28. If Rhys Hoskins can get back on track and Santana and Franco can continue their recent turnaround, the Phils 1-6 hitters could be a grouping that opposing pitchers don’t want to see. Hoskins recent slump however makes that a big IF.

Pitching

In the Phils last 7 games, their starters have allowed just 6 runs. Nola lowered his ERA to 1.99 on Sunday and leads the team with 6 wins and 51 K’s. The bullpen continues to be solid. The most interesting story line now will be if Gabe Kapler comes back to Neris or we start seeing a closer by committee approach. Neris is responsible for 3 of the Phils 16 losses so far this season. Seranthony Dominguez made his debut this week and has been lights out. He’s pitched 4 innings thus far and allowed 0 hits and 0 walks with 5 K’s. All in all, the rotation is dealing and the bullpen, Neris excluded, are wrapping things up. As the bats come alive, this is the combination Phils fans have been hoping for.

Around the N.L. East

Braves– The Braves have shown no signs of slowing down or ceding their position at the top of the division ladder. After a 2 game sweep in Tampa, the Braves took 3 of 4 from the Marlins in Miami to keep pace with the Phils and Nats. This week will have an odd start to it. The Braves will start the week with one game in Chicago against the Cubs before heading back to Atlanta to face…the Cubs. Monday’s game is a make up. The odd travel log (FL->IL->GA) in the course of 2 days could be a factor but with a young nucleus, they could work through it. After the Cubs leave town, the Marlins come into Atlanta for 3 more.

Nationals– The streaking Nats started the week with 2 wins in San Diego before losing the series finale. Next up was a trip to Arizona to face the NL-leading D-backs. The Nats showed no signs of backing down and swept the 4 game set with each of the games relying heavily on the pitching staff. They scored just 7 runs in the first 3 games but allowed just one run in each. The offense opened thanks to the long ball in Sunday’s sweep and the pitching held the D-backs down again. They’ll start the week again with a 2 game set against an AL opponent. This week, the Yankees come to town to test the pitching staff. The struggling Dodgers come in for 3 games after that. Another solid week could lead to more movement in the East standings.

Mets– The Mets started the week losing 2 of 3 to one of the worst teams in baseball, the Reds. After torching Hector Neris on Friday, the lost the series finale to the Phils on Sunday for their 9th loss in the last 11. This week, it’s a 2 game set with the Blue Jays in New York before the D-backs come into town. Toronto is struggling to keep up with the Yankees and Red Sox while the D-backs are coming in after a tough series with the Nats. Neither is likely to give the Mets a false sense of hope.

Marlins– The Marlins were absolutely pounded this week. The Cubs swept a 3 game series by a combined 31-9 score. Then it was back home for a 4 game set with the Braves. They managed to get 1 win but were outscored 23-11 in the 3 losses. That’s a combined 54-20 score in 6 losses…in 1 week. This week, the Dodgers come into Miami for 3 before the Fish head to Atlanta for 3 more.

The Phils start the week with 2 games in Baltimore against the Orioles. This is an important series. The Phils can’t give away games against bad teams and they need to start winning on the road. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez will get the starts. Then it’s off to St. Louis for 4 games with the up and down Cards. With the Braves and Nats both hot currently, the Phils need to win to keep pace. If the offense and pitching can keep up what they’ve been doing, they may just be able to do it. If they do, this could be a fun race to watch throughout the summer.

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