Ups and Downs

Once again, things started out well as the Phils offense came out and mashed the Reds into submission for 2 straight games on Monday (7-1) and Tuesday (6-2). Then they only did enough to put the bullpen in charge and everything went downhill. Oddly enough, Aaron Nola started the downward trend getting torched for 5 runs in just 4 innings on Wednesday. The Phils battled their way back into the game thanks to a pair of pinch hit HR’s from Logan Morrison and Jay Bruce. After Bruce tied the game up in the 7th Jose Alvarez proceeded to give the lead right back in the bottom half of the inning. Blake Parker gave up a 2 run homer to the opposing pitcher (**though Michael Lorenzen is not your average reliever) and the Reds squashed any thoughts of a sweep with the 8-5 win. On getaway day, Gabe put the bullpen to use by using 8 relievers to record 14 outs…and a loss. After a decent start by Jason Vargas (2 runs in 5.1 innings) Kapler over-managed as only he can. The offense scored just 3 times including an 8th inning J.T. Realmuto HR that tied the game but Nick Vincent threw just 2 pitches in the 11th, the 2nd of which was deposited into the right-center seats for a walk-off 4-3 Reds win and a series split.

The Phils traveled to New York to see if either they or the Mets could officially knock the other out of the race. After Zach Eflin held the Mets down for a 2nd straight outing (2 runs in 5 innings), the bullpen got another workout. The first 2 arms got the job done throwing 2 shutout innings while the Phils battled back to tie the game. The next 2 arms coughed up 2 runs in the 8th before Realmuto tied the game back up with a 2-run homer in the 9th. Mike Morin got 2 easy outs in the 9th before allowing back to back hits. Then, Kap decided to go back to the prior days goat and things didn’t work out any better. Vincent came in and hit one batter (on an 0-2 count, no less) to load the bases before walking home the game winner and the Mets literally walked off with a 5-4 win. Adding injury to insult was the loss of Bryce Harper after being hit on the hand by a pitch. X-rays were negative -and he’d show up as a pinch hitter on Sunday- but any extended stretch without his bat in the order will likely not end well.

Drew Smyly pitched his best outing as a Phillie on Saturday throwing 7 innings of shutout ball. Meanwhile, Cesar Hernandez led off the game with a HR and he, Realmuto and Corey Dickerson combined to tack on 3 more runs in the 4th. The bullpen held on for the final 6 outs and the Phils got back in the win column with a 5-0 victory.

Sunday’s game was anything but pretty but it did end with a Phillies 10-7 win (SPOILER). The Phils got HR’s from Maikel Franco, Scott Kingery and Adam Haseley. After another sub-par outing from Vince Velasquez (see ya in the pen next year, Vinnie!) the Phils and Mets slugged back and forth until the Phils finally opened things up a bit in the 7th and hung on for the win.

After all the ups and downs, the Phils are still just 2 games out of the Wild Card but they are chasing 3 teams now (Cubs, D-backs and Brewers) rather than the one they had been chasing. I still don’t hold much hope based on their remaining schedule but anything is possible and I’ll gladly eat my words if they manage to find a way into the 2nd WC spot.

Offense

The Phils scored at least 4 runs in 6 of their 7 games this week. They won 4 of those 6 games and not surprisingly, also lost the game where they didn’t. If Harper is relegated to a PH role for an extended period, that will leave a huge void. The interesting part of the 4-3 week was the fact that they were carried by Realmuto, Dickerson and a lot of HR’s (14). Beyond that, they hit just .251 as a team (actually elevated thanks to a few low AB averages). It was not a great week but they (thanks to some help from the other teams) kept their heads above water. With the bullpen being what it is, they will need to continue to mash the ball the way they have. Can they do that against better competition? We’ll find out this week.

Pitching

Smyly and Eflin each pitched well twice. Beyond that, it wasn’t a banner week. There were a handful of 0.00 ERA’s for theĀ  week but not many of them were as clean as that would appear (Ranger Suarez- 3.1 IP, 1 hit- being the exception). While it’s a double edged sword, if Kapler continues to use the bullpen the way he has- even with expanded rosters- he’s going to expose them and things are going to go downhill fast.

Around the N.L. East

Braves– Despite their loss on Sunday, the Braves have won 17 of 20 and run away with the division and are 3.5 behind the Dodgers in the N.L. This week, they head to Philly for 4 against the Phils, with visions of ending the Phils hopes. If they play the Phils the way they have everyone else over the last month, the nails will be hammered into the Phils playoff coffin. They’ll finish the week in D.C. with the Wild-Card leading Nats.

Nationals– The Nats are currently 3 games up in the Wild Card race. This past week did not help them though. After losing 2 of 3 to the Mets, they went to Atlanta and needed a Sunday to avoid the 4 game sweep. Luckily for them, none of the other WC contenders are playing like juggernauts either (though the D-backs and Brewers are moving up).

Mets– After winning 5 of 7 against the Phils and Nats, they lost the final 2 over this past weekend and are currently sitting 4 games out in the WC. They have a lot of work to get back into things but they are pretty much done. This week should put a dent in any hopes they have. With 4 games against the surging D-backs (winners of 11 of 13) and then 3 against the N.L.- leading Dodgers, it’s a safe assumption they will be done after this week.

Marlins– Believe it or not, they are still playing.

The Phils have 20 games left. All but 5 of those (Red Sox and Marlins) are against teams that are making a run at the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, 11 of those 20 are on the road where they are currently 4 games under .500 for the year (compared to 10 over at home). Things get underway at home this week though and they will need to take care of business. The problem with that is that they start off with 4 games against the red-hot Braves. Anything short of a series win puts an end to the playoff speculation and places a bulls-eye directly on Matt Klentak and Gabe Kapler for the next 5 months or until one or both of them get fired…whichever comes first. Is it possible that they can get through the Braves and then take 2 more from the Red Sox after their sweep in Boston a few weeks ago? Aaron Nola will kick things off on Monday and will be looked at to set the tone. Vargas, Eflin and Smyly will finish the Braves series. Nola is scheduled to pitch game one against Boston on Saturday (switching spots with Velasquez) but if the Braves series doesn’t go well, they may change that up with not much to play for.

This season has not gone as planned thanks, mostly to injuries. That does not get Kapler or Klentak off the hook. Klentak put this roster together and did nothing to improve the pitching staff (no…Smyly and Vargas do not count) and Kapler has mismanaged everything from the bullpen to the in-game decisions.There will be a post-mortem coming. Will it be at the end of the season or as early as this week? Will there be excuses or repercussions? Let’s hope, as fans, that we don’t have to find out in the next week.

Go Phils!

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