The final week of the season ended on a high and emotional note as the Phils closed out the 2016 season with a win and a touching celebration of Ryan Howard’s career. The handful of days prior…not so much. The Phils got swept by the Braves to start the week bringing an interesting season nearly full circle. After the Braves started the series looking like a potential 0-162 team and the Phils were actually battling for the top spot in the East through the first half of May, the season ended with the Braves just 3 games behind the Phils in the standings. Once the Braves took care of business, the Phils came home for their final series of the season with hopes of spoiling the Mets playoff chances. That didn’t work very well. The Mets took the first 2 in the series and clinched a wild card spot. Once the Phils finally got a win on Sunday, the attention was squarely on the Big Piece. The Phils did everything right with an emotional pre-game ceremony, a perfect ninth inning exit strategy and a final video montage after the game. The 1-5 week was the culmination of the worst 2nd half in the Majors.
There isn’t a lot to talk about when you score 16 runs in 6 games. That’s not to say there weren’t a few highlights. The biggest moment was Ryan Howard’s final HR as Phillie on Saturday afternoon which brought the crowd to their feet and made his 0-4 on Sunday an afterthought. Maikel Franco capped his season (25 HR and 88 RBI) with a 4-4 showing on Sunday showing signs of what can be if the Phils can get him another bat to hit behind him. Overall, there was not much to get excited about this week or most of the season, for that matter. The Phils know they have work to do with their lineup and that some of their younger players still have some development to do before they can make a legitimate run as a full time major league player. Just about everyone showed flashes of what they can do but there is work to be done. Spring Training 2017 can’t come soon enough to see what the future may look like.
When you lose 5 games in a week and the bullpen takes the loss in 3 of them, it’s never a good sign. Once again, the pen was a major disappointment and has given Matt Klentak a very clear message where the Phils need to spend money in the offseason. Jeanmar Gomez notched his 37th save on September 14th and failed to get another one over the final 16 games. While Gomez was thrown into the role early on and was extremely successful early on, the month of September was not kind and showed why he is not the closer of the future. Hector Neris might be though. He certainly has the stuff and got the opportunity to close out the final game of the season on Sunday for his 2nd save. Jerad Eickhoff pitched well enough to get the win Sunday in the best starting performance of the week but the offense didn’t show up until he stepped aside after the 6th. Eickhoff was probably the highlight of the pitching staff despite his 11-14 record. He led the team in innings (197.1), SO’s (167) and ERA (3.65). If a few more of the young arms can step up in 2017, the Phils could be on the road back to the playoffs.
Around the N.L. East
Nationals– The Nats wrapped up the regular season knowing they were prepping for a playoff run. They mixed a rest of players with prep work resulting in a 4-3 week. Max Scherzer capped the season with his 20th win on Sunday (after getting #19 on Tuesday). After splitting a 4 game set with the D-backs, the Nats closed out the season winning 2 of 3 against the Marlins. The Nats will take a few days off before opening the playoffs against he Dodgers on Friday. Scherzer will go back out for game 1 as the Nats hope to finally get exercise their playoff demons. They may not have been the most consistent team but they are still a 95 win team with a ton of talent.
Mets– Unlike the Nats, the Mets knew they had work to do to secure their playoff spot and they did just that. After losing an emotional series opener to the Marlins on Monday, the Mets won 4 straight against the Marlins and Phils to lock up a wild card spot, giving themselves the opportunity to rest the majority of their starters on Sunday. With the win Saturday, the Mets gave themselves the opportunity to extend their season by at least one more game. Noah Syndergaard will face off against Madison Bumgarner on Wednesday night in New York for the “right” to face the Cubs starting on Friday.
Marlins– The Marlin’s very well could have stopped their season after the first at bat on Monday. When Dee Gordon hit his only HR of the season in the first at bat after Jose Fernandez’ untimely death no one except the Cardinals and Giants would have complained. Unfortunately they played out the week and went on to lose 4 of 6 to the Mets and Nats. The Marlins had an opportunity to spoil the Mets run but were unable to get the job done. The Marlins were up and down all season but injuries ultimately did them in. With a young core, they will likely be back next year with another chance to contend.
Braves– Despite a really rough first half, the Braves showed that they have a bright future. The Braves were arguably one of the hottest teams in the 2nd half of the season (37 wins). The Braves finished the season winning 12 of their last 15 games including a sweep of the Phils. They capped things off winning 2 of 3 against the Tigers. The youth is the core of the team and will make them interesting to watch in 2017.
And so another season comes to an end. As the playoffs begin, it’s hard to comprehend that it’s been 5 years since the Phils were in the playoffs and the core of those teams is now completely gone. John Middleton, Matt Klentak and Pete Mackanin now have their eyes set on the new core and who will make that up. There are a few evident pieces. Spring is just around the corner and we’ll get our first glimpse of the next true era of Phillies baseball.
See you in 2017!