…and it could have been six-straight. The Philadelphia Phillies head west after sweeping the Miami Marlins in a four-game weekend series. The Phils are looking red-hot and now have a 1.5 game on the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
First, let’s cover the good news. The Phillies are 10-6 since the All-Star Break and they’ve won three of the five series in span, including taking two of three from the Dodgers two weeks ago. Picking up Asdrubal Cabrera is starting to look like a win for the Phils as he’s starting to regain the power he had with the Mets and has homered in the last two games. The bullpen has been electric posting a fantastic July which has carried over so far into August. Pat Neshek’s return has been a great catalyst for the bullpen’s revitalization, but other key pieces such as Seranthony Dominguez have been clutch as well. Tommy Hunter draws a collective hold-your-breath-moment amongst all fans, but even he has looked rather sharp for most of his appearances. The starting pitching, for the most part, has continued to be excellent with Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta leading the way.
Now for the criticism. While the Phillies pitching has been great, the offense still lags at times. When the bats are hot, they are scorching. However, when the bats cool down, it’s seemingly sub-zero.
While the power-surge has been nice, the home run dependency epitomizes a lot of plagued the Phillies in the first half of the season as well as in Cincinnati a couple weeks ago. The team struggles to string together hits and manufacture runs from it. The Phils are 26th in the majors in batting average and 16th in on-base percentage. Drawing walks are great but it’s incredibly frustrating when the walks aren’t capitalized on which is a lot of what made yesterday’s win so satisfying. After loading the bases up with one out, Cabrera fouled out and it seemed the Phils would miss on a key opportunity to take the lead in a scoreless game. Odubel Herrera drove in two runs in the next at-bat and Maikel Franco brought in the third runner to capitalize on all three walks–more on their positioning in the lineup later.
If the Phillies can continue to capitalize with consistency, we’ll see their offensive ranking climb. The good news is that other teams in the NL pennant race have similar numbers. The Brewers have only scored 13 more runs and are eight points better in batting average but are five points worse in on-base percentage. The Arizona Diamondbacks, the Phillies’ next opponent, have scored 19 more runs have a worse batting average and on-base percentage. When talking about Arizona, you need to mention their pitching staff. The D-Backs’ starters have also been excellent, some of the best in the Bigs, but they’ve also had their struggles in the bullpen. The Phillies will face Arizona’s top three starters in Zack Godley (12-6), Zack Greinke (12-6), and Patrick Corbin (8-4). If the Phils want to improve their 25-30 road record, they will need to be consistent at the plate.
- This weekend was Alumni Weekend at Citizens Bank Park. Third-and-Girl and I were there both Friday for Shane Victorino’s retirement and Sunday for the 10th Anniversary celebration of the 2008 World Series team. Friday was very sentimental to see how much the Phillies meant to Victorino, one of the final members of the ’08 team to retire. Sunday was the biggest day, both in comradery and attendance, and the Phillies knocked it out of the park. The only ones to not return made sure to have a video so they could send their love to the fans–Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, and Matt Stairs. Brad Lidge, Jimmy Rollins, and Charlie Manuel all spoke before the game, each to louder and louder applause. Just an awesome experience for Phillies fans and you could tell the players loved being back.
- Saturday was the Hall of Fame induction for both the late Roy Halladay and 2008 GM Pat Gillick. It’s been said a million times before but Halladay will be greatly missed. He electrified the city during his incredible 2010 season that saw him toss a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter. Gillick’s contributions to the team are obvious, he helped to construct and add the final pieces to the 2008 World Series Champions. Both are staples of my memories of the Phillies teams from when I first really started watching baseball through the seasons I watched while I was in college, some of my favorite memories watching Phillies baseball.
- I mentioned Herrera and Franco’s positioning in the lineup with the two of them batting sixth and seventh on Sunday afternoon. Nick Williams had batted third in Saturday night’s massive win while Herrera was getting the night off. Williams has been one of the hottest hitters on the team since June so it makes sense to keep him towards the top of the lineup against a righty starter, especially with Herrera’s streakiness. Franco has been moved all through the lineup despite the tears he goes on almost as if Gabe Kapler tries to market-time his stock’s up-and-down ticks. It paid off big time yesterday as mentioned above and if Santana and Cabrera get hot, I am all for this lineup against righties. The Phillies are showing incredible amounts of depth post-trade deadline and they didn’t have to sell the farm for it. The pennant race is going to be fun.