Phillies

Analyzing the roads ahead for Phillies and Braves

Analyzing the roads ahead for Phillies and Braves

Exactly a month from today, the Phillies and Braves will meet for the first time since May 23.

The Phillies have 27 games between now and then; the Braves have 29.

The Phils missed a golden chance to pick up ground in the NL East race this weekend by losing the final two games of the Mets series while the Braves were swept at home in a four-game series against the Rockies.

As a result, the Phillies are a half-game back in the division with the regular season 75 percent complete. The wild-card picture is crowded, with the Phillies currently tied with the Rockies and Brewers.

What's been going on with the Braves?

Prior to being swept by the Rockies, the Braves had gone nearly three weeks without losing two in a row. They've been carried lately by rookie Ronald Acuña Jr., who on Sunday did not reach base to begin the game. It was notable because he had reached base to lead off nine games in a row, the longest streak in 18 years.

The Braves have some challenging series ahead but will be a threat down to the final days of the season because of their dynamic top-of-the-order and the consistently solid, clutch production from Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis. Whether or not you believe in "clutch," the icy, contained, contact-heavy approach Freeman and Markakis have in pressure situations sets them up for more success than most with runners in scoring position.

In the rotation, lefty Sean Newcomb has allowed five-plus runs in four of his last eight starts. Kevin Gausman has been a valuable addition so far, allowing two runs in six innings, one in eight and three in five since the trade from Baltimore.

The Braves' bullpen has been shaky. With closer Arodys Vizcaino on the DL, second-year lefty A.J. Minter has been closing games. He had an ugly meltdown Saturday night with two outs, nobody on and the Braves ahead 3-0. He's blown two of his last six games.

The upcoming schedules

The Braves have just one off day between Aug. 20 and Sept. 13. 

They begin a seven-game road trip tonight — three in Pittsburgh, four in Miami. 

The Pirates have faded from contention but are a pesky team that makes a lot of contact and has a very good bullpen combination with Felipe Vazquez and Keone Kela. These should be low-scoring games.

The Braves are 7-1 against the Marlins since the All-Star break. Miami can't be relied on for much spoiling at this juncture.

Following that for the Braves is a nine-game homestand against the Rays (2), Cubs (1), Pirates (3) and Red Sox (3).

Hopefully, the Red Sox still care about wins and losses two weeks from now. Their lead is so big. 

After that comes a real test for the Braves, a late-season, seven-game West Coast road trip to Arizona and San Francisco. The Diamondbacks are in the thick of the race and the Giants are on the periphery but still far from a doormat. 

The Phillies, meanwhile, have just one series left all season outside the Eastern Time Zone.

After that West Coast trip, the Braves have three with the Nationals, three with the Cardinals, then come the Phillies.

Just to review, the Braves' schedule leading up to Phillies series:

• 3 at Pirates
• 4 at Marlins
• 2 vs. Rays
• 1 vs. Cubs
• 3 vs. Pirates
• 3 vs. Red Sox
• 4 at Diamondbacks
• 3 at Giants
• 3 vs. Nationals
• 3 vs. Cardinals

And the Phillies' schedule leading up to that point:

• 3 at Nationals
• 3 at Blue Jays
• 3 vs. Nationals
• 3 vs. Cubs
• 3 at Marlins
• 3 at Mets
• 3 vs. Nationals
• 3 vs. Marlins
• 3 vs. Mets

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Gabe Kapler soaks in the sting of elimination, stores it for motivation next season

Gabe Kapler soaks in the sting of elimination, stores it for motivation next season

ATLANTA — Gabe Kapler knows what the Atlanta Braves were feeling as they streamed euphorically out of the dugout Saturday after clinching the National League East with a 5-3 win over the Phillies. As a player, Kapler was a World Series champion with the 2004 Boston Red Sox.

Nonetheless, Kapler lingered on the top step of the dugout and watched the Braves celebrate for several moments after they had eliminated his Phillies from contention (see story).

“I think it's important to feel the blow of that,” Kapler said. “Because up until a couple of days ago, I felt like we had a chance to be the ones having that moment at our ballpark. And I never came off that position because I always thought it to be possible, and I always believed in the players in that room. I think there's some value in just allowing the sting of that to sink in and acknowledge it and use it as motivation for next season.”

The Braves are NL East champs for the first time since 2013. They went 68-93 in 2016 and 72-90 last year, finishing 25 games out of first place. The Braves considered replacing manager Brian Snitker after last season. They stuck with him and now he is a strong candidate for NL manager of the year.

Kapler’s name was being mentioned as a manager of the year candidate when the Phillies were 15 games over .500 and leading the division by 1½ games on Aug. 5. The Phillies are 15-28 since then. There are eight games remaining in the season and the Phils need to win half of them to have their first winning season since 2011. They went 66-96 last season. 

Beyond saying that Aaron Nola would make his scheduled start Sunday, Kapler was not ready to say how he would approach the final eight games of the season.

“This is a really important moment to reflect back to the beginning of the season and even the offseason,” he said. “Yes, we feel disappointment. But if we had said that we were going to be playing a meaningful game on Sept. 22, I think a lot of people would've said that that's not a reasonable thought. On the flip side, this is ultimately a sting. This hurts. But I'm really proud of the guys in that room for putting us in this position and for fighting to be in Atlanta with kind of the season on the line today.”

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Jake Arrieta, Rhys Hoskins take responsibility in wake of Phillies’ elimination

Jake Arrieta, Rhys Hoskins take responsibility in wake of Phillies’ elimination

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — There were no excuses from two of the biggest names in the Phillies clubhouse.

Jake Arrieta didn’t get the job done Saturday and he said as much.

Rhys Hoskins didn’t get the job done down the stretch and he said as much.

The Phillies have breathed their last in the National League East race. Their long, painful collapse became official in a 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday (see first take). The Braves are NL East champions for the first time since 2013. They trailed the Phillies by 1 ½ game on Aug. 5 then went 27-20 to eliminate the Phillies. The Phils are 15-28 since being 15 games over .500 on Aug. 5.

The slow fade culminated with Arrieta lasting just two innings Saturday. He issued a four-pitch walk to three of the first four batters he faced and gave up four hits and four runs in the shortest start of his career. There was no politicking to try to stay in the game.

“If I did, my case wouldn’t have been very good,” Arrieta said. “I didn’t do my job today. You’ve got to tip your cap. They won the division. They really did.

“This wasn’t something that started today, obviously. Individually, the last month or so I haven’t been very good and we didn’t really take care of our business to get the job done. They did. That’s why we have the result we have.

“Defense, pitching and we didn’t swing the bats well. That’s all phases of the game that we weren’t as good and I think that’s pretty obvious.”

In March, the Phillies signed Arrieta to a three-year, $75 million contract — his $30 million salary this season is the largest ever for a Philadelphia athlete — because they believed his talent and veteran experience would be valuable in snapping a long postseason drought.

The 32-year-old right-hander failed to deliver down the stretch. He has a 6.64 ERA over his last eight starts. In 12 starts after the all-star break, his ERA is 5.09.

“This game is humbling,” Arrieta said. “You don’t always have it figured out and when you feel like you do you get kicked in the teeth. I’m not blaming it on anything other than just not being very good.”

With eight games to go, Hoskins is hitting .247 with 32 homers and 93 RBIs in his first full big-league season. At 25, he is a core building block for the future. But like Arrieta, he expected more from himself down the stretch. He is hitting just .204 with a .729 OPS over his last 44 games. He was hitless in 12 at-bats in the series before an RBI single in the eighth inning Saturday.

“It's disappointing,” Hoskins said in the postgame clubhouse. “You probably see that on a lot of our faces.

“I take a lot of responsibility for it. I wasn't me. That's frustrating and disappointing. But all you can do is learn from it.

“The inconsistency is frustrating. That's what makes good players great. I think it comes as a learned skill. All I can do is take what has happened, albeit disappointing, and learn from it and move forward with it.”

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