This may be a baseball review but I’m going to quote former NFL coach Dennis Green anyway…”They are who we thought they were!”. After 2 surprising months of well played, although not exciting, baseball, the Phils have certainly come back down to earth. Their offense is still missing (Sunday excluded) and batters are starting to catch up to their already overworked bullpen.
29, 29, 30, 29…those are the Phillies MLB rankings in Runs, BA, OBP and SLG respectively. It does not take a baseball savant or analytics guru to realize that that will not equate to a whole lot of wins in the Majors. Outide of the usual suspects (Herrera, Franco- still a bit too streak-, and whoever the random hot player is) this team just can’t put any kind of consistent offense together. Possibly the best sign for the Phils this week was Tommy Joseph going 7 for 20 since being inserted into the lineup full time in place of Ryan Howard. His average is up to .298 and he already has 4 HR’s. With the week he had, there is little likelihood that this “rest” that Ryan Howard was given this week is likely to end. Outside of a random start here or there to give Joseph a night off, there is no valid reasoning that Mackanin can possibly use to insert him back into the lineup at this point. If newly acquired Jimmy Paredes or returning Cody Asche (his 2-12 start does not bode well) can provide anything from the corner outfield positions, maybe things will heat up with the weather. They’ve got another tough week but they’ve seen most of the pitchers already in the last 10 days so hopefully the 2nd time around produces better results.
This was not the best week for the pitching staff. Neither the starters or bullpen were especially good although they had their moments. Hector Neris who has been mostly untouchable took 2 losses during the week. Aaron Nola is the only starter who is averaging at least 6.5 innings per start. With the sputtering offense, the bullpen can not be expected to shut down offenses for 4-5 inning regularly without eventually fading or teams finding their weakness. Vince Velasquez (5.5), Jeremy Hellickson (5.7) and Jerad Eickhoff (6.0) have got to start going deeper into games to preserve the pen. Outside of Adam Morgan, the entirety of the staff are at least keeping their ERA’s in check. As soon as anyone in Lehigh seems ready, Morgan should likely be on the first bus out of South Philly.
Around the NL. East
Nationals– The slumping Phils were just what the Nationals needed to start the week off on the right foot. After sweeping the Phils, they stumbled in Cincy though. The Reds offense pounded the Nats 13-5 over the first 2 games before the Nats scratched out a 10-9 win on Sunday. After a good start, the Nats blew a good opportunity to really extend their lead. They did gain at least a 1/2 game over each of the other teams but it could have been more. They will finish their road trip with 3 against the White Sox in Chicago before heading home to take on the Phils once again, providing another opportunity to push their lead over at least one of their division foes.
Mets– A 3-3 week is not what the Mets were hoping for but the important thing in their eyes is that they are still in the thick of things in the East. The worrisome part is that any of the 6 games could have gone either way. It was a very Phils-esque week where each of the 6 games were decided by 1 or 2 runs. After a 1-0 win over the White Sox to start the week, they proceeded to lose the next 2. They took the first 2 in Miami before the Fish finished off the Mets week with a bookend 1-0 win. The Mets will stay on the road this week as they go into Pittsburgh for 3 and Milwaukee for 4. They’ll need better than their .500 week in order to stay on the Nats heels.
Marlins– After a tough start in Pittsburgh (a 10-0 rout), the Fish took the next 3 from the Buccos. As mentioned, they dropped the first 2 against the Mets before their Sunday win. The 4-3 week kept them right in the mix with the Nats and Mets. Sitting 4 GB, they are hanging around and with better divisional results, can continue to make more headway. The Marlins start a 9 game roadtrip in Minnesota before heading into Arizona. Both teams provide an opportunity for the Fish to gain some ground.
Braves– The Braves surprisingly split their 4 game set with the Giants but their 2 losses were 2 of 3 shutouts in the week. The 3rd came as part of a sweep by the Dodgers who capped off the Braves week with a 12-6 drubbing. Things are not getting any better for the Braves despite getting to start this week with a struggling Padres team in San Diego. When they return home, their welcome home present is the best team in baseball, the Cubs.
The Phils have a big week ahead for multiple reasons. The good thing is that they don’t have to face the Cubs and Nationals back to back again. Wait…what? They do? OK, well at least the miss Jake Arrieta again. Oh, but they have to face 9-0 Stephen Strasburg? OK, so the good thing is that they have the #1 pick in this draft and the top options are all can’t miss, right? Well, 1 out of 3 ain’t bad. Looks like we’ll have to hang our hat on an Arrieta free week. The latest scuttlebutt has the Phils taking A.J. Puk out of Florida. The hope, is that he or whoever the Phils decide to take is a quick riser to the extent that Aaron Nola was. As it stands in the present, though, the Phils can’t handle another bad week like we’ve seen the last 14 days. If they can’t turn things around this week, I think they will have changed Matt Klentak from a possible buyer to a seller. Here’s to a surprising week!