Is balance of power in NL East shifting back to Braves?

Is balance of power in NL East shifting back to Braves?

Is the balance of power in the NL East shifting?

The Phillies' barrage of injuries to Andrew McCutchen and seven key relievers, combined with the Braves' strong recent play and agreement last week with free-agent pitcher Dallas Keuchel, may give the Braves an equal or better chance to win a division that, so far this season, has been handled by the Phils.

Entering Monday night, the Phillies had spent 74 of the season's 75 days in first place, losing their lead for only one night to the Mets.

The Braves had not led the division for even a minute until Monday night, when they tied the Phillies. The teams have not met since the first three games of the season — which the Phillies swept — but face off June 14-16 in Atlanta.

Winning the division carries obvious importance. The Phillies did not spend $403 million on Bryce Harper, McCutchen and David Robertson, plus trade for J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura, just to play in a one-game, do-or-die, wild-card playoff.

But the road to winning the NL East will be tough for the Phillies without their leadoff man, without most of their bullpen and without any guarantees in the starting rotation.

Pitching issues

The starting staff appeared to be one area the Phillies were much better than the Braves. But Aaron Nola has not been the same. He carries a 4.58 ERA into his next start.

Jake Arrieta has, again, underwhelmed. He's allowed four runs or more in six of his last nine starts. Arrieta has a 4.07 ERA in 44 starts with the Phillies and there is no aspect of his game other than groundball rate that has graded out above average these last two seasons.

Right now, there is no Phillies pitcher you can look at as a lock on a given night, or as a stopper during a losing streak. It's an issue and one they know they must rectify before July 31.

Monday night was another example that starting pitching is a necessary addition for this team. The D-backs homered eight times, including five off Jerad Eickhoff, who has been taken deep an unfathomable 16 times in his last 27 innings.

Combine that with the surprising emergence of Braves starting pitcher Mike Soroka (1.38 ERA in 65 innings) and the rotation gap between these teams has diminished.

Braves' offense better?

Offensively, the Braves have been better than the Phillies in almost every way. They've scored 12 more runs, hit 14 points higher, hit 13 more home runs and have an OPS edge of 31 points.

The Phillies have allowed 27 more home runs than they've hit. They are one of only three teams in the majors to be outhomered but over .500 (Rockies, Indians). It is a major concern that has been masked by the Phils' overall solid play to this point. But in such a home run-crazed game, can a team truly contend without matching its opponent's power? The Phillies are on pace to allow 265 home runs. The major-league record is 258.

Atlanta's best hitter, Freddie Freeman, is just more solid and consistent than the Phillies' best hitter, Bryce Harper. Atlanta's second-best hitter, Ronald Acuña Jr., is a better all-around player than anyone the Phillies have. Those sentences may be hard for Phillies fans to read but they're the truth, especially in 2019. 

There are 63 major-leaguers who have more home runs than Harper and 34 major-leaguers who have more home runs than Rhys Hoskins, who leads the Phils.


The back-end of the Braves' bullpen is still a question mark. Luke Jackson is a new and unproven closer and the Braves have shuffled through various setup men. But given all of the Phillies' bullpen injuries, it's hard to say they're better off than the Braves in relief moving forward.

These final 100 games will not be played on paper, but for the Phillies to remain in first place they're going to need to take advantage of these 16 remaining meetings with the Braves. The Braves have, somehow, played only five of their first 66 games against the Phillies and Nationals.

It's going to be a tight and exciting race the rest of the way. With seven of the remaining head-to-head matchups coming between Sept. 9 and Sept. 19, it will likely come down to the wire. Perhaps by then, the Phillies' lineup will have clicked 1 through 8 in a way we saw only during the season's first week.

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Phillies 2, Pirates 1 (11 innings): Drew Smyly, Rhys Hoskins, bullpen deliver series win

Phillies 2, Pirates 1 (11 innings): Drew Smyly, Rhys Hoskins, bullpen deliver series win


PITTSBURGH — Rhys Hoskins smacked his 21st homer — and just his second of the month — with one out in the top of the 11th inning to propel the Phillies to a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Sunday afternoon.

The Phils (52-48) took two of three in the series despite their offense producing just three runs in the final two games — and one of those runs was unearned.

The Phillies had just three hits through eight innings so the pitching had to be good. It was. Newcomer Drew Smyly delivered a strong start and the bullpen pitched shutout ball for five innings — though it was not easy. Hector Neris survived two hit batsmen and a bases-loaded line out to left in the ninth inning.

Rookie Ranger Suarez got the final six outs in racking up his eighth straight scoreless appearance. He showed impressive composure in getting three outs after allowing a leadoff double in the 10th. Suarez struck out the final two batters of the game and earned the win.

Solid debut

The veteran Smyly, who opted out of his minor-league deal with Milwaukee on Thursday, did not sign his contract with the Phillies until three hours before first pitch. Pitching in front of teammates he’d just met, the lefty gave the Phillies six innings of four-hit, one-run ball. He walked two and struck out eight.

Smyly threw 96 pitches and got 16 swing and misses, eight on his curveball.

So far, a pretty good pickup for the Phils.

Can't help but think …

That Smyly pitches six shutout innings if third baseman Brad Miller makes a play on Kevin Newman’s leadoff double inside the bag in the first inning. Miller was playing close to the line and the ball, hard hit but probably playable, got past him.

Miller got the start at third over Maikel Franco. Pirates starter Dario Agrazal has a good sinker and manager Gabe Kapler often looks to keep Franco away from tough sinkerballers. The Phils prefer Franco to elevate the ball. His lack of speed does not play well on ground balls.

Demon on the bases

Bryce Harper made a couple of daring base-running plays. He turned what should have been a single into a hustle double in the first inning and in the fourth tagged from first and moved to second on a fly ball to deep left by Hoskins. Harper dived into second base safely as the throw eluded the second baseman. Good thing for the wide throw or Harper may have been out. Harper’s aggressive base-running play set up Cesar Hernandez for a game-tying RBI single with one out.

Big D

Kapler rested starting catcher J.T. Realmuto and gave Andrew Knapp the start behind the plate. Knapp made a huge defensive play when he gunned down Newman trying to steal second for the third out in the bottom of the eighth. The Pirates were looking to steal a run with dangerous Starling Marte at the plate.

Earlier, centerfielder Adam Haseley gunned down Marte trying to stretch a single into a double.

Sights and sounds

The game was delayed by rain for 25 minutes in the fourth inning.

In a bizarre moment in the the top of the sixth inning, a fan casually wandered onto the field and approached home plate with his cell phone outstretched. Security did not pursue the man and home plate umpire Ben May and Phillies hitter Miller backed away from the man, who may have been seeking a handshake. The intruder was apprehended and cuffed by police as he approached the Phillies’ dugout.

(AP Images/Keith Srakocic)

Health check

Shortstop Jean Segura left the game with a sore left heel.

Up next

The Phils are off on Monday. They open a quick, two-game series against the Tigers in Detroit on Tuesday night. Pitching matchups:

Tuesday night — RHP Aaron Nola (8-2, 3.77) vs. RHP Matthew Boyd (6-8, 4.13)

Wednesday afternoon — RHP Vince Velasquez (2-5, 4.87) vs. TBA.

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Brandy Halladay gives beautiful speech for Roy Halladay's Baseball Hall of Fame induction

Brandy Halladay gives beautiful speech for Roy Halladay's Baseball Hall of Fame induction

Shortly after Sunday afternoon's Phillies-Pirates game went into a rain delay, Brandy Halladay took the podium at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, New York.

It was a perfectly timed rain delay, allowing us to all commemorate the late Roy Halladay, who joined Baseball Royalty along with Harold Baines, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera and Lee Smith.

Brandy, Halladay's widow, gave a beautiful speech full of love, gratitude and thanks.

Halladay, who died tragically in a plane crash in November 2017 at the age of 40, was an imposingly dominant pitcher known for his work ethic and dedication to the game. He won the 2003 AL Cy Young Award with the Blue Jays and the 2010 NL Cy Young Award with the Phillies. In Philadelphia, no one will ever forget the perfect game and playoff no-hitter.

For Brandy and her two sons Braden and Ryan, they will never forget the memories and support.

Below are portions of Brandy's touching message — which was broadcast on MLB Network and can be watched in the video above — along with social media reaction from the day.

To both of the teams that we were blessed to be a part of — the Blue Jays and the Phillies. Thank you for allowing us to grow up, to fail over and over and finally learn how to succeed within your organizations. There were some really amazing years but there were some really tough ones, too, and you never gave up on him.

More than anything, he would want both organizations to know that they hold a huge place in our heart and always will. Evidence of their love for us and our love for them, as well, was shown all week as they came together as one to celebrate Roy — and that means the world to me. To both organizations, I can't thank you enough.

I think that Roy would want everyone to know that people are not perfect. We are all imperfect and flawed in one way or another. We all struggle, but with hard work, humility and dedication, imperfect people can still have perfect moments. Roy was blessed in his life and in his career to have some perfect moments, but I believe that they were only possible because of the man he strived to be, the teammate that he was and the people that he was so blessed to be on the field with.

Here is more on Halladay, courtesy of NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury:

Halladay, Phillies rout Nationals in season opener

Revisiting the night of Roy Halladay's perfect game in Miami

Halladay tosses second no-hitter in playoff history

Charlie Manuel keeps his promise to Roy Halladay's son

Through the tears, the Halladay family finds joy in Cooperstown honor

Remembering what mattered most to Roy Halladay

A celebration of life: Thank you, Roy Halladay

Halladay's greatest hits with the Phillies

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