That’s two wins in a row! After being outscored 21-5 in a 3 game sweep by the Marlins, the Phils made the only other team as offensively stagnant as them, the San Francisco Giants, look like the next coming of the ’27 Yankees. On Friday night, the offense was once again, nowhere to be found while the pitching staff “led” by Jared Eickhoff walked 10 (not a typo) batters, including their starting pitcher 3 times. Phils pitchers combined to throw 205 pitches (only 121 strikes) in the game while the offense saw just 112. After Eickhoff was pulled in the 3rd, the bullpen picked up where he left off. After the 10-0 rout, the Phils actually came out swinging on Saturday with some help from an unlikely source. Ben Lively made his major league debut on Saturday and made his case to be the #1 of the staff (tongue firmly in cheek). Lively threw 7 innings of 1 run ball and waited for the offense to finally show up in the 6th and 7th innings. Hector Neris tried to give the 4 run lead back in the 9th but Jeanmar Gomez closed things out and the Phils got a much needed win. Sunday was finally the offense’s chance to shine. The offense hit 4 HR’s and scored in 6 of 8 innings to lock up their first series win and “winning streak” since their 6 game streak ended at the end of April. It is still painful to watch but at least we had a couple days to enjoy some actual baseball.
Let’s just pretend that the first 4 games of the week never happened and focus on the weekend. The Phils racked up 21 hits, including 8 doubles and 5 HR’s on Saturday and Sunday. Most importantly was the source of the majority of those hits. Odubel Herrera had 4 doubles (one could have been a triple without the bat flip and admiration at home plate before realizing it was only a gapper) and a HR. Maikel Franco had 2 doubles and a HR. Freddy Galvis hit HR’s from both sides of the plate on Sunday. All 3 have been in pretty big funks of late. One can only hope that this is a sign that each has found something that will help them get back where they need to be. One added highlight was a monster bomb by Tommy Joseph on Saturday which was measured at 447 feet and nearly took out Harry Kalas in left field. Howie Kendrick came back to the lineup and picked up where he left off. Kendrick had 7 hits in his first week back and his average is at .323. Look for a pretty frequent rotation in the outfield with the inconsistency that we’ve seen.
With the exception of Lively (7 IP, 4 hits, 1 R in his debut), Pat Neshek (3 games, 3 innings, 0 runs, 5 K’s in the last 7 days) and Luis Garcia (3 games, 4.1 IP, 0 runs) there still isn’t a lot to talk about here (at least in a positive tone). Lively and Jeremy Hellickson were the only starters in the past week to even get past the 3rd inning. With that kind of usage, it’s almost commendable that the bullpen still has any arms left. To top things off, Vince Velasquez has found his way to the DL opening the door for Nick Pivetta to get another shot in the rotation this week. The rotations, whomever it may consist of, needs to get some consistency. If the rotation cannot consistently pitch 6 or 7 innings, this team has no chance to progress.
Around the N.L. East
Nationals– Who needs Bryce Harper? With Harper serving his suspension, the Nats still won 5 of 6 on the West Coast. Against the Giants, the Nats scored just 12 runs but held the Giants to just 4 runs in a 3 game sweep. After crossing the bridge to Oakland, the offense opened up scoring 28. The A’s took 1 of the 3 games but the 5 wins opened up their lead to 10.5 games. Harper served his suspension then came back and went 0-2 with 2 K’s on Sunday. I say sit him down again. The Nats will finish their west coast trip in Los Angeles against the Dodgers in a (very early) possible NLCS preview. When they return home, the Orioles will come to town for a makeup before the Rangers come in for 3.
Braves– Yup. They are still here. The Braves trip out west did not go quite as well as the Nats but once they came back east, things brightened up a bit. After losing 2 of 3 to the Angels, they stopped in Cincy before heading home and won 2 games. The Braves have cooled off since their run up the East standings 3 weeks ago but they are still holding strong and may not just be a flash. This week will be a tiring one for the Braves. Thanks to a rescheduled game, the Braves will play 8 games in 7 days at home against the Phils and Mets.
Marlins– The Fish won 6 of 7 against the Phils and D-backs highlighted by a no-hitter pitched by Edinson Volquez on Saturday. After winning 8 of their last 10, are the Marlins finding their way back into the division? Still 11 games out, they’ll need to keep up this pace and hope for the Nats bullpen to blow a few more games. With 2 inconsistent teams (the Cubs and Pirates) on the road this week, they have a shot at continuing their climb.
Mets– After taking the first 2 games from the Brewers, the Mets proceeded to get pounded in 3 of the next 5, losing 4 of them. Things aren’t much better up in New York than they are in Philly these days. The Mets will have an interesting trip as they travel to Texas to face the Rangers for 2 games before coming back to Atlanta for 4. The Braves series could make or break this team if they can’t win the series.
The Phils start a tough road trip this week with 4 games in Atlanta. In what was expected to be a battle of bottom-feeders, the Braves will be looking to finally be the team with a chance to feast on a struggling team. After leaving Atlanta, the team will trek to St. Louis to face another struggling, but still better, team in the Cardinals. Nick Pivetta will return to the rotation after a rough stint his first time up. Even if the offense can keep up the pace they got on over the weekend, the pitching staff HAS to get better. The rotation has been a mess as has much of the bullpen. At this point, slightly below average would be a welcome change. Hey but at least they aren’t the 1989 Indians!