Coming into the week, most fans would have been happy with a 3-4 week despite knowing what it would do to the standings. Instead, the Phils came out of the week on the winning end of a 4-3 week.
After a surprising 4 game split with the Dodgers, the Phils went into Pittsburgh and despite minimal run support, came away with 2 more wins to cap a winning week.
Things started slowly on Friday night as Jake Arrieta continued to pitch through a bone spur in his elbow. After 5.2 innings, Arrieta had allowed just one run on an RBI single in the 2nd. Adam Haseley tied things up in the 5th with his 2nd career HR (and 2nd in as many days). However, Arrieta got in trouble, loading the bases with 2 outs in the bottom of the 6th. Juan Nicasio came in and shut the door keeping the game tied before the Phils eventually opened the flood gates. Bryce Harper gave the Phils the lead in the 7th with an RBI single and Phils fans held their breath to see if the pen could hold up. After Jose Alvarez shut down the Bucs in the 8th, the Phils scratched out another run on a hustling bases loaded infield single by Jean Segura. Cole Irvin came on in the 8th and shut things down in the 8th before the offense put things away in the 9th thanks to some help from the Pirates hurler. After singles by J.T. Realmuto and Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco got an infield single compounded by a throwing error that allowed Realmuto to score. Hernandez scored on a subsequent wild pitch before Haseley doubled home Franco. Irvin came back out for the 9th and never let a ball out of the infield to seal the deal and give the Phils a series-opening 6-1 win.
Zach Eflin (13.00 ERA in July) was…not good. It didn’t help that his offense managed just 3 hits either as the Pirates killed any Phils momentum handing the Phils a 5-1 loss. After 2 mostly clean innings, Eflin unraveled in the 3rd. Eflin got 2 outs around a double to the Pirates pitcher before allowing 3 straight hits and 3 runs and putting the Phils in a 3-0 hole. After Haseley got the Phils on the board in the 5th on a groundout, Gabe Kapler decided to pinch hit for Eflin in the bottom of the inning after just 57 pitches. Nick Williams did what he does best and K’d. Scott Kingery followed suit and was punched out to end the rally and the Phils offense for the day. The Pirates added single runs in the 6th and 7th (off new scrap heap pickup Mike Morin) while the Phils offense was apparently back in the clubhouse. The loss set up a big Sunday afternoon game for the Phils as they looked for a surprising winning week.
The bad news for the Phils was their offense was still nowhere to be found on Sunday afternoon. The good news was neither was the Pirates’. After the Pirates got to newcomer Drew Smyly for a run in the first, Smyly and the bullpen kep them off the board for the next 10 innings. Smyly scattered 4 hits over 6 innings while striking out 8. Meanwhile, the Phils offense wasn’t exactly lighting up PNC Park either. Hernandez came through in the 4th to get them on the board though. After a leadoff walk by Harper, Hernandez came through with a 2 out single to plate Harper and tie the game up. Both bullpen’s shut things down from that point on until the 11th. After Hector Neris barely escaped a bases loaded jam in the 9th (walked 1 batter- intentionally- and hit 2 others) thanks to a tough play by Franco, Rhys Hoskins came on to play the hero. Hoskins hit a 1 out HR in the 11th that barely cleared the wall down the left field line to give the Phils a 2-1 lead. Ranger Suarez who allowed a leadoff double in the 10th before shutting down the next 3 hitters came back out for the 11th, striking out the final 2 batters to get the win and give the Phils a 2-1 win, a series win and a winning week. The win helped the Phils gain a game in the N.L. East standings.
The Phils scored 5 runs in their 3 losses and 24 in their 4 wins. That’s quite the disparity. Their -17 run differential, much like last year, is surprising when you look at the standings and realize they are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. The good news for the Phils is that Bryce Harper seems to have come alive (.333 with 4 doubles, a home run and 5 BB’s), especially with runners on base. The rest of the offense is still mostly MIA. Hernandez leads the team with just a .280 average. Hoskins, despite his big HR on Sunday, had just 3 hits this past week. Scott Kingery homered twice, as did Haseley, but if the Phils are looking for those 2 to power the offense, they are in trouble. Jean Segura left the game on Sunday with another apparent injury and Jay Bruce left earlier in the week with a rib/oblique injury leading to more AB’s for the likes of Roman Quinn and Nick Williams (1-9 combined with 2 BB’s and 1 run scored) which rarely ends well. While the focus heading towards the trade deadline will be on pitching, a bench bat certainly can’t hurt either. If the starters don’t play to their potential though no one will care about those 1-2 AB’s off the bench each night though.
The pitching staff allowed 16 runs in their 4 wins and 28 in their 3 losses though most of those runs were to the potent Dodgers offense. The Phils ace is an ace again as Aaron Nola has turned himself back into Aaron Nola lowering his ERA to 3.77 from a high of 4.89 on 6/15. Jake Arrieta is hit or miss but also pitching on borrowed time. The rest of the rotation (Smyly excepted for the time being) is essentially trash. The bullpen had a few bright spots but was also horrible in spots during the last week, including their de facto close, Hector Neris who is crashing at a really bad time. While there is hope that Seranthony Dominguez and David Robertson may be back in the next month or so, no one knows what versions will return. While Matt Klentak will be working the phone all week, a series with the lowly Tigers and 3 games at home with the Braves on the weekend may determine if he pulls the trigger or not.
Around the N.L. East
Braves– The East-leading Braves started off an important week with a win over the Brewers before dropping the next 2 games. Then, a 4 game set with the Nationals, and a chance to put the division away, got off to a rocky start. After a 13-4 loss (the 2nd time allowing 13 runs during the week), they traded wins over the weekend and split the series 2-2 holding their lead at 6.5 games. This week is more of the same. The lowly Royals come to Atlanta for 2 games before the Braves head north to Philly for a big series with the Phils. The Braves can potentially knock the Phils out of the race or the Phils can vault themselves back into contention.
Nationals– A 3-3 week against the cellar-dwelling Orioles and division leading Braves was not how the Nationals hoped the week would go but that’s what they got. After splitting 2 games in Baltimore, they split their 4 game set and wasted an opportunity to make up ground in the East. Sitting 6.5 back, things aren’t going to get any easier this week. Colorado comes into DC for 4 games having lost 7 of 10 since the break. If the Nats can take advantage there, the 3 games with the Dodgers over the weekend may not be quite as critical. If they have any trouble with the Rockies, the Dodgers could hurt their chances.
Mets– The Mets took care of business sweeping their 2 game set with the A.L. Central-leading Twins. However, a trip out west did not go as well. The Giants managed to win 3 of 4 games, all in extra innings, while the Mets picked up just 1 win. Sitting 14 games back, the Mets are out of contention but the biggest question is who and how much they’ll be selling over the next 9 days.
Marlins– They are still playing! The Fish took 2 of 3 from the Padres at home before getting beat up by the Dodgers out in L.A. On the way home they’ll stop in Chicago for 3 with the White Sox then take on Arizona for 4 games at home. No one will be watching.
What an important week this is for the Phils in so may ways. The week starts off with a quick trip to Detroit for 2 games with the 30-win Tigers. If the Phils can take both games (which they will likely need to with the Braves taking on KC), then everything is set up for a head to head battle with the Braves over the weekend. Anything short of a series win with the Braves likely leads to Matt Klentak hanging up the phone and looking to 2020.
Aaron Nola (8-2, 3.77) kicks things off against Matthew Boyd (6-8, 4.13) on Tuesday night. Vince Velasquez (2-5, 4.87) will face off with Jordan Zimmerman (0-7, 7.51). If he can’t win that battle, just get rid of him as soon as the game ends.
The Braves come to town starting on Friday night and they’ll be greeted by Jake Arrieta (8-7, 4.40, 1 bone spur). He’ll face Mike Soroka (10-2, 2.46) in the opener. The Phils got to him back on July 4th so there is some potential hope despite his numbers. Zach Eflin (7-10, 4.25) will hope to not suck again against Kevin Gausman (3-5, 5.71) on Saturday and newcomer Drew Smyly (1-5, 7.69) will close out the series against Dallas Keuchel (3-3, 3.58) who the Phils beat back on 7/2 despite not a lot of offense.
This week is HUGE for the Phils. A short week should keep them well rested but everything needs to come together. They need to sweep the Tigers and they need to win the Braves series (if not sweep that one as well). Anything short is the beginning of the end of division title hopes. Can they still sneak into the Wild Card? Sure. Will it matter if they lose there or end up facing the Dodgers in a 5 game series? Nope. Matt Klentak picked up a couple of stop-gap pieces to try and get them through the next week or so. If things go badly this week, they may be the last moves he makes other than shuffling players up and down to the minors as has been the case most of this year. They need to hit. They need to pitch. It’s that “simple”. If they do it, they can make the week leading to the trade deadline a must watch week. If not, Eagles training camp will take over the top spot on peoples watch list.
Get it done, boys! Go Phils!