Is Pete Mackanin stuck with a minor league team or part of the issue? (Credit: Yong Kim)

Is Pete Mackanin stuck with a minor league team or part of the issue? (Credit: Yong Kim)

They’re Back…to Being Bad!

After ending last week on a high note with 2 wins over the Giants, the Phils took the first 2 against the Braves to start a new week. It all went downhill from there. After the four game win streak, things came crashing down in a hurry with the Braves stomping the Phils 14-1 on Wednesday as the offense began what would end up being the start of another hibernation. After the blowout, the Phils would go on to score three runs in the next three games (1, 2, 0) before finally putting up a 5 spot (in another loss) on Sunday. When all was said and done, after a 4 game win streak, the Phightins’ have proceeded to lose 5 straight. In the process, they also lost one of their most productive players as Cesar Hernandez was put on the DL with an oblique strain. Initially, he’s only on the 10-day DL but that could change.

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Offense– Things were looking pretty good in the beginning of the week with 9-7 and 11-4 wins over the Giants and Braves. Things came back down to Earth on Tuesday in a 3-1 win and then plummeted somewhere south of Earth with 9 runs over the next 5 games. Odubel Herrera and Howie Kendrick continue to rake, with both hitting over .400 in the last week. Herrera continues to hit for extra bases with 7 doubles and a HR in the last week with 7 runs scored. Hernandez was in a 3-21 slump before his injury so it may be a welcome break. Tommy Joseph is still hitting as well. Brock Stassi’s fairy tale spring came to an end as he was sent back down to make room on the roster as the pitching rotation continues to cycle. Even with the positives, the team can’t seem to string hits together to put runs on the board. Maikel Franco (.208), Michael Saunders (.203) and Cameron Rupp (.212) continue to be a drain on the offense and all hopes of trading Saunders at the deadline have gone out the window.

Pitching– While the offense became anemic once again, the pitching was not as bad as a 5 game losing streak might make you think. With a few exceptions, the pitching was not that bad this week. As if Pete Mackanin did not have enough pitchers with ridiculous ERA’s, in the midst of their 14-1 drubbing, he believed it would be a good idea to use Andres Blanco rather than use another bullpen arm to get 1 out (yes, just 1 out). While he did record that out, the batter before that (Matt Adams) took him deep for a 2 run bomb. Blanco’s ERA now sits at 27.00 for his career. Jerad Eickhoff took the loss in the 14-1 dismantling but only conceded 3 ER in his 5 innings of work before the bullpen fell apart. Adam Morgan and Luis Garcia proceeded to give up the next nine runs before Blanco took the bump. There is still a very “chicken or the egg” feel to the pitching staff. If they Phils rotation could put together a few more quality starts, would that take some pressure off the bullpen? Or does the bullpen just stink and the rotation tries too hard to be perfect (aka the Cole Hamels theory). Either way, it’s not resulting in win (especially when the offense disappears) and something has to give .

Around the N.L. East

Nationals– After finishing up their West Coast trip winning 2 of 3 from the Dodgers, the Nats came home to make up a game with the Orioles and subsequently open up an interesting argument between Buck Showalter and Nats GM Mike Rizzo. After the Nats won the makeup game 6-1, Showalter (later told to “quit whining” by Rizzo) complained about squeezing in the game.  The win and verbal barb were the last victories for the Nats as the Rangers came to town and swept a three game series. Atlanta will come into town for 3 games before the Braves head to New York for four games with the surging Mets.

Mets– After splitting a quick 2 game set in Arlington with the Rangers, the Mets headed to Atlanta and proceeded to shove the Braves right out of second place. The pitching staff conceded just 6 runs in the the 4 game set with the Braves and gave a sliver of hope that they may be on track to be where they expected when the season began. The Mets will head back home for 3 games the Cubs who are still struggling to stay at .500 after a 6-10 stretch the last few weeks. The Nats will then come into New York for what could be a pivotal first half 4-game series. Currently 9.5 back, the Mets have an opportunity to get themselves back within shouting distance or write themselves off.

Braves– Things started slowly as the Braves lost the first 2 games against the Phils before their offense erupted on Wednesday. After 2 more wins against he Phils and Mets, the Mets took control and swept the weekend bumping the Braves into 3rd place. Outside of their 14 run explosion, the Braves offense scored 3 runs or fewer in 5 of the remaining 6 games. Sitting 11 games back, the Braves are starting to move in the direction more people expected. The Braves will head to Washington for a 3 game set to start the week which could make things harder to start a push to move back up. They’ll return home to face the Marlins for 3 over the weekend.

Marlins– It was a roller coaster kind of week for the Fish as they lost 4 of 7 against the Cubs and Pirates. After losing the first 2 games in Chicago, they left on a high note with a win. That roll continued in Pittsburgh as they took the first 2 games of a 4 game set. The Pirates took the last 2 games over the weekend keeping the fish “floundering” near the bottom of the standings. After splitting a 2 game set in Oakland a few weeks back, the A’s will come into Miami this week for 2 more before the Marlins head to Atlanta for 3.

The Phils will start the week with a 4 game home and home with the Red Sox who have been up and down all season. With the exception of a 6 game win streak a few weeks ago, they’ve played .500 ball the rest of the season. The series will start out in Boston before heading to Citizens Bank Park to finish up with 2 more. Once Boston leaves, the Diamondbacks will come to town for 3. The D-backs are just 2 games out in the West and will look to take advantage of a Phils team who can’t seem to put anything together consistently. There is currently no truth to the rumor that Andres Blanco will join the bullpen full time but…would anyone really notice a difference? If the rotation can put together a few more fairly consistent outings (and eat some innings for a change), who knows how the week will play out. I can say with some certainty though, it’s a safe bet they’ll still be looking up at the rest of the division this time next week.