After a tough series split with the Cubbies,the Phils moved on to Milwaukee for for 3 games with the Brewers. The series started well but came to a crashing halt ending the week with a 4-3 record, more than serviceable.
Once again the Phils got nothing from their starter but the bullpen was up to the task. When Jerad Eickhoff was yanked after 3 mostly ineffective innings (4 runs on 5 hits including 2 HR). The bullpen and the offense took over from there. 5 pitchers went 6 innings allowing just 3 hits while the Phils put up single runs in 6 of the 9 innings to record the 6-4 win. Vince Velasquez recorded the win out of the pen, striking out 4 over 2 innings and Hector Neris recorded his 9th save. The ball was certainly flying around Miller park as 8 of the 10 runs scored were via extra base hits. This would be a sign of things to come for the weekend.
“Good” Jake Arrieta showed up on Saturday. With a used up bullpen, Arrieta gave the Phils 8 strong innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits with 8 K’s. Andrew McCutchen, Cesar Hernandez, Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto all homered. McCutchen started things with his homer to lead off the game and Hoskins/Realmuto went back to back in the 9th to seal it. The 7-2 win put the Phils a season high 10 games over .500 (temporarily).
After 3 straight wins against 2 good teams, you could feel an eventual letdown coming and boy did the Phils oblige on Sunday. Zach Eflin was worse than the numbers make it look as he went just 3.2 innings and allowing 3 runs (2 HR’s). The stat line doesn’t look bad but the way he got to those numbers did, though Gabe may have been a bit premature with his hook. The bullpen tried to hold things together but Vince Velasquez allowed 4 runs on 5 hits in just 2/3 of an inning. Enyel De Los Santos allowed 2 more runs in the 8th on another HR, the 5th of the day for the Brewers, and the Phils winning ways ended with a 9-1 loss. The ONLY bright spot on the day was a 6th inning HR by Andrew Knapp. The catchers HR was the only baserunner the Phils had on the day and prevented the Brewers from finishing off a perfect game.
For the most part, the offense was fairly productive on the roadtrip. Bryce Harper’s brief hot streak turned back around in a hurry as he hit just over .200 on the trip with 10 more K’s. Maikel Franco is officially back to the Franco we’ve come to expect in years past (though he’s at least making up for it defensively). The lineup put up 9 HR’s and 17 doubles on the trip though. So, here’s hoping the warmer weather brings a little more of the pop. It’s starting to look like time for a change of scenery for Harper. A move to the 5-hole may do him some good while potentially garnering an extra AB per game for a warming J.T. Realmuto.
Let’s just say the pitching staff had its moments. For every Arrieta quality start, there was an Eickhoff dud. For every Velasquez bullpen gem, there was a well, Velasquez bomb. J.D. Hammer made his debut with a perfect inning of work while Pat Neshek begged off and then gave up multiple bombs when he decided he’d pitch. Then he got a mysterious injury and went on the IL. I’m pretty sure I’m done with him at this point. Seranthony Dominguez didn’t allow any runs or hits (though he did walk one) in his 1.1 innings. Hopefully that is the start of a turnaround. Overall it wasn’t a great week but they did enough to get 4 wins.
Around the N.L. East
Braves– The Braves took 3 of 4 from the Giants and 2 of 3 from the Cardinals and closed the gap to just a game and a half. They’ll get a breather this week even if they may not want it right now. They’ll start with a quick 2 game set with the Nats at home before the lowly Tigers come in for 3 games on the weekend. Another good week could see a flip in the top of the standings if the Phils falter.
Mets– The Mets have gotten hot against bad teams. After sweeping a 4 game series with the Nationals and all but making them an afterthought, the Mets took 2 of 3 from the Tigers and are now just 5 back despite a record that’s a game below .500. This week they’ll have a bit tougher competition. First up is a trip to L.A. where they already dropped the opener on Monday and have 3 more games starting Tuesday night. Then, they’ll head to Arizona to take on the D-backs who are right behind those Dodgers in the standings. This week could establish whether the Mets have turned a corner or just had a good schedule last week.
Nationals– After being swept by the Mets, the Nats were able to take 3 of 4 from the Marlins, losing the finale on Memorial Day. Even after the Marlins series, they are still 10 games under .500 and 9.5 out. Maybe after all that posturing, Bryce Harper was a bigger piece than they let on (?). They’ll head to Atlanta for 2 this week before a trip to Wrigley for 3 with the Cubs. As May wraps up, the Nats may already have found themselves to be sellers on the trade market.
Marlins– Well, somebody had to win as the hapless Marlins faced the more hapless Tigers. The Marlins ended up sweeping the 3 game set before heading to D.C. The Nats took 3 of 4 there and the Marlins are 13 games out as we get ready to close out May. They’ll face the Giants at home before travelling to San Diego for 3 with the Padres.
This is an important week for the Phils. They 9 games over .500, are still in first and are now 2nd in the N.L. behind the Dodgers. That said, the Braves aren’t going away. With the Braves schedule this week, they have a prime opportunity to leapfrog the Phils. The only way to avoid that is to win. That won’t be easy this week as they get a quick trip home to face the Cardinals before heading out west to take on the Dodgers. Nick Pivetta makes his return to the rotation on Tuesday facing Adam Wainwright (4-4, 4.82). Aaron Nola goes Wednesday against Genesis Cabrera (MLB debut, 6.35 at AAA) and Jerad Eickhoff closes out the series against Dakota Hudson (3-3, 4.22). With the home crowd behind them and facing a struggling Wainwright and 2 guys named Genesis and Dakota, things better end well. Things won’t be as easy out in L.A. Arrieta will need to repeat his last outing and Eflin needs to do just the opposite of his.
The Phils need more than just “good” weeks if they want to keep some distance between themselves and the Braves until the meet in just over 2 weeks. A series win against the Dodgers is good. Anything short of a sweep of the Redbirds, is not.