Wasted Opportunity

After a well played series against the Dodgers where the Phils took 2 of 3, they went into Cincinnati looking to expand their N.L. East lead. That didn’t happen. The Phils bats came alive in game 1 and then disappeared in games 2-4 as they lost the series 3-1 to the lowly (yet much better offensively) Reds.

After the HR Derby that was game 1, the offense struggled to put much together. Couple that with another rough-ish Nick Pivetta outing, things didn’t end well for the Phils. Pivetta did manage to go six innings and even struck out 12 batters but allowed 5 runs. The damage was done with the long ball as the Reds hit 2, including a 3 run shot the ultimately decided the game. In all, the Reds only had 6 hits but 2 walks and a wild pitch added to Pivetta’s troubles. After allowing a 2nd inning solo shot to Eugenio Suarez, Odubel Herrera gave the Phils the lead with a 2 run shot of his own in the 3rd. Pivetta gave that run back in the bottom of the 3rd to tie the game. The Reds started the 4th with a single and a double before Mason Williams took Pivetta deep, opening up a 3 run lead. The Phils got one back in the 5th on an RBI single by Rhys Hoskins. Things stayed quiet until the 8th when Jake Thompson walked the 1st 2 batters he faced and eventually conceded a run expanding the lead back to 3. After a mini-rally in the 9th where the Phils scored a run, Hoskins eventually grounded out to kill the rally and the Reds tied the series with a 6-4 win. OK. Can’t win them all. We’ll get them tomorrow…

…Or not. Vince Velasquez had a game that was part VV version (old Vince) 1.0 and part VV version 2.0 (more recent Vince). Velasquez allowed just 2 runs on 6 hits but he walked 5 and threw 94 pitches in just 5 innings. He left after 5 with the game tied at 2. After the Reds took an early lead in the 2nd, Hoskins blasted another HR (#21)  in the 4th to give the Phils a 2-1 lead. Billy Hamilton knocked in a run in the bottom of the inning to tie it up. Then…Tommy Hunter arrived in the 6th. Hamilton greeted Hunter with a double that glanced off Maikel Franco’s glove into foul territory allowing the speedy outfielder to get to 2nd. Hunter then hit Scooter Gennett before Joey Votto smashed a sharp grounder at Cesar Hernandez who couldn’t play the short hop allowing a run to score. Eugenio Suarez followed that up with a fielder’s choice to knock in another run and the Reds lead was at 4-2. Maybe it’s not all on Hunter but things just seem to go downhill when he shows up. Austin Davis allowed 2 more in the 8th but the damage was done before that and the offense was non-existent. Asdrubel Cabrera opened his Phillies account going 0-4 with a strikeout. The 6-2 loss had to put an end to the offensive woes, right?

Well…Zach Eflin allowed an RBI double and a 2 run Scooter Gennett HR in the 3rd and that was all the Reds would need though they did add a run on a sac fly in the 6th. The Phils did manage 8 hits but 6 came off the bat of 3 players (Herrera, Franco and Nick Williams- 2 each). They K’d 14 times including twice with 2 men on in the 9th. The 4-0 loss ended a dreadful offensive series an broke their streak of 6  series wins in their last 7.

Offense

After Thursday night’s HR derby (where they scored 8 of 9 runs via the long ball), the Phils offense was non-existent. We all know by now this is not a team that will beat you into submission every night but 7 HR’s and 9 runs one night can not be followed up by 6 runs in the next 3 games against a bottom 10 team in baseball. Franco, Williams and Hoskins all kept up their hot streaks. They all hit over .300 for the week and combined for 12 HR’s and 18 RBI. Hoskins and Williams did strike out 8 times each though. Asdrubel Cabrera opened his Phillies account with a Phillies-esque 0-8 and 3 K’s. The Phils struck out a combined 79 times in 7 games (11.3/game). If nothing else, the Phils did  keep alive their MLB-best 101 game streak of at least one extra-base hit (h/t to @brett5355). The franchise record is 129 games back in 1929-1930. To paraphrase the the immortal Carl Spackler…”so, they’ve got that going for them”.

Pitching

It was not the rotations finest week. Jake Arrieta pitched well the day after the 16 inning marathon, though an extra inning or 2 would have helped. Velasquez’s #’s look better than his actual performance but he did what was needed even coming out of the pen in the 1 inning game and earning the win. The rest of the rotation struggled in what was a long tough week. The bullpen was the star this week in what has proven to be an up and down season. The biggest highlight of the week for the pen might be regarding non-usage. Gabe Kapler seems to be giving Seranthony Dominguez a bit of a respite. After a tough outing on Monday where he allowed 2 runs on a hit and 3 BB’s, Kapler used Dominguez just once more during the week (Wednesday- where he walked 2 more), giving him the entire Reds series off. He had walked 6 in 29 appearances before allowing 5 in his 2 games this week. This seems like a smart move on Kap’s part as he has unquestionably been the rock of the bullpen since his call-up but his usage by volume and situation could easily fray a young pitcher. Giving him a break and saving him for potential use in the Boston series could prove to be pivotal move for the rookie’s development. If I haven’t mentioned it before, Tommy Hunter should never enter a game when the lead is anything less than 10 runs.

Around the N.L. East

Braves– Luckily for the Phils, the Braves didn’t play any better against similar competition. After the Braves split 2 games in Miami, the Dodgers went into Atlanta and took 3 of 4, outscoring the Braves 18-8. Miami comes to Atlanta for 3 before the Braves go to New York to face the Mets for 4 games. Either or both teams could be depleted depending what happens at tomorrow’s trade deadline. The lighter schedule could benefit the Braves if they take care of business and the Phils continue with their offensive struggles.

Nationals– After losing the first 2 games in Milwaukee, the Nats won the series finale and then added 2 more wins in Miami to open that series. The Fish capped the series with 2 wins however keeping the struggling Nats 6 games back of the Phils. 2 games against the Mets and 4 against the Reds could be the medicine the Nats offense needs to get back into the race. Anything short of 2 series wins (or more Phils and Braves struggles) could put the Nats on the outside looking in for good.

Marlins– A 3-3 week after splits with the Braves and Nats kept the Fish ahead of the Mets but still out of contention. With 3 games in Atlanta and 4 in Philly, the Fish can either mix things up at the top of the division standings.

Mets– The Mets are sellers, even giving away a player to a division rival. That said, they won more games this week (4) than any of the other teams in the East. They took 2 of 3 from the Padres before going to Pittsburgh and splitting a 4 game series. They’ll play 2 in Washington before the Braves come to town for 4. Much like the Marlins, they’ll have an opportunity to mess with the top of the standings while wallowing at the bottom.

The Phils start he week with 2 nationally televised games in Boston against the Red Sox. Aaron Nola (vs. David Price) and Jake Arrieta (vs. Drew Pomeranz) will take the mound at Fenway. No matter how good they may pitch though, they are likely to get trounced if the offense can’t score. The Marlins come to Philly for 4 games during Alumni Weekend. The 2008 World Series team will be honored. Pat Gillick and Roy Halladay will be honored. Shane Victorino will retire as a Phillie. Here’s hoping that some of the 2008 magic and some of Halladay’s grit rub off on the current roster. The Phils need to beat these lower rung teams in order to remain at the top.

Here’s hoping that the first place Phils can find their own magic and make this a week to celebrate themselves as well as celebrating the past.

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