The Phils concluded a 4-2 week against the NL West after a 3 game sweep of the Rockies. In doing so, they’ve somehow put themselves into the Wild Card race. With 43 games to go, the Phils sit 6 games out. Any chance they have of making a run however, will be totally dependent on remaining healthy the rest of the way. After losing the first 2 games (and Zach Eflin) in the series to the Dodgers, the Phils came home and their bats were as hot as the weather at Citizens Bank Park. The sweep of the Rockies didn’t do anything for their division chances but put them firmly into the thick of the Wild Card hunt.
Offense– The beginning of the week didn’t look too good but over the last 4, the Phils have averaged more than 7 runs per game. Home Runs were flying out of Citizens Bank park as they tend to do this time of year. Ryan Howard had the most prodigious blast of the week on Saturday night depositing a grand slam into the visitors bullpen. Howard has been on a tear of late hitting for both power and average. He seems to have adjusted to his part time role and, if nothing else, may be earning himself a look at a DH role next year when the Phils buy him out. Throughout the year, Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis have been playing to see who will keep their job when J.P. Crawford makes his way up. Hernandez has taken a stranglehold on that race since the All Star break. Despite Galvis’ superior defense and extra pop, his .230 season and .238 career averages may not be enough to keep him around as an everyday starter. The biggest key lately has been added consistency. While no one is lighting it up, there has been a lot more balance and production from all levels of the lineup. Even Jimmy Paredes came up big on Sunday going 3-4, a triple shy of the cycle and 3 RBI. When they get consistency, they win ballgames. If they can keep it up, who knows.
Pitching– This is the area that will likely cause more trouble. With pitchers dropping like flies lately, their minor league depth is going to be tested. After Eflin went on the DL this week (following Charlie Morton and Aaron Nola), his replacement, Adam Morgan, took a line drive off the forearm on Sunday. No word on his status, as of yet. The bullpen will continue to be tested as the rotation gets younger. Speaking of younger, Jake Thompson got his first major league win against the Rockies on Friday. It was not a dominant outing but it was significantly better than his first. Conceding just 2 hits and 3 runs in 5 innings, he showed signs of his potential. If he can continue to build on that outing, things will continue to look more promising for the future.
Around the N.L. East
Nationals– The Nats had a short week and did not fully take advantage. They started the week splitting a 2 game set with the Indians before Atlanta came to town and took the series opener. The next 2 nights did not play out as well though for the Braves as the Nats scored 16 runs over the next 2 games to take both games. The 2 biggest wins of the week for the Nats however were the return of Bryce Harper and the exit of Jonathan Papelbon. Harper brings a little extra offense to the mix as they make the stretch run and Paps stops blowing leads. Win/win. The Nats kick off a road trip this week with a trip out to Colorado for 3 then all the way back to Atlanta for 4. Both should present opportunities to build on their lead.
Marlins– Speaking of the Nats building their lead, the Marlins announced that Giancarlo Stanton would miss the rest of the season. Taking the heart out of the middle of the order could be a vicious blow to their playoff run. In addition to the bad news about Stanton, their 2-4 week didn’t help them. During their 6 game home stand, they lost 2 of 3 to both the Giants and White Sox. Sitting 8.5 games back, they certainly have their work cutout for them. With the upcoming week leading them into Cincy for 4 and Pittsburgh (1 game behind then in the WC race) for 3, they’ll have their chances but any slip ups in conjunction with an easy week for the Nats could punch their ticket out of the race.
Mets– The Mets followed suit with the Marlins in giving up ground. After Arizona came into town and swept their 3 game series, the Padres were no kinder in the first meeting before the Mets took the weekend. Sitting 2 games behind the Marlins and Cards for the 2nd wild card spot, many more 2-4 weeks won’t get the job done. The Mets will head to the West Coast for the week facing Arizona once again for 3 then into San Fran for 4. The Mets will need to play better and hope for some of the other teams surrounding them to drop off. As we near the final 40 games, the standings could fluctuate significantly. The team(s) that can play the most consistent baseball will likely get the opportunity at a 1 game playoff and a chance at a longer run.
Braves– Another week, and 4 more losses. After splitting a 4 game set in Milwaukee, the Braves managed to take 1 of 3 from the Nationals. As the season draws closer to a (merciful) end, the Braves don’t have much to look forward to except potentially playing spoiler, especially to the East teams they’ll face repeatedly down the stretch. The Braves will welcome Minnesota to town for a quick 2 game set before the Nats come back in for 4 more.
The Phils will finish off their 15 game stretch against the N.L. West when the Dodgers come to town for 3. St. Louis will follow them into the Bank for 3 after that. They’ll have to hope for a better Dodger series than what they had this past week. The Dodgers currently lead the wild card race and the Cards are tied for the 2nd spot. The Phils will hope to gain ground on both teams. With just over 40 games left and the September call-ups looming, the next few weeks could determine just how many of the minor leaguers will get a chance to showcase their talents at the major league level this season. Te longer they stay in the race, the less likely we’ll see too many shakeups in the lineup. Matt Klentak will certainly have one eye on on the big guys and the other on the minors as we roll toward September 1.