Can the Phillies turn things around? Oddsmakers have their say

Can the Phillies turn things around? Oddsmakers have their say

The Phillies will exit the All-Star break on Friday in third place in the NL East with a record of 47-43 after 90 games. Where do they go from here? Well, oddsmakers at Caesars Entertainment have their opinion, and it’s not promising.

First, let’s take a look at where we started. Here’s what the Vegas win totals looked like after the Phillies signed Bryce Harper in March.

Phillies: 89.5

Nationals: 88.5

Braves: 86.5

Now, just past the midway point, here are the current win totals you can wager over or under on.

Braves: 92.5

Nationals: 88.5

Phillies: 82.5


Let’s figure out what happened here.

Atlanta Braves

Flat out, the Braves are much better than Vegas thought they would be. I think everyone expected the lineup to be good, but perhaps not this good. Josh Donaldson has been crushing the ball after a slow start, Austin Riley is having a tremendous rookie season and everyone else has continued the success they displayed last season.

What has been surprising, however, is the way the Braves have been pitching. While Mike Soroka was expected to be good, no one had him in the All-Star Game in his first year. Julio Teheran has been a workhorse, Max Fried has been more than serviceable and Luke Jackson has been a tremendous closer. The team also went out and signed Dallas Keuchel, who could prove to be a very strong addition in the second half.

A team that has been relatively healthy all season long projects to continue their strong first half and win the NL East.

Washington Nationals 

The Nationals lost Harper and Daniel Murphy from their Opening Day lineup last year but still have quite a formidable stable of hitters.  Juan Soto is proving to be one of the best young bats in the league, Anthony Rendon is putting up the kind of numbers to get himself a massive payday and even former Phillie Howie Kendrick has been really good this year. The Nationals absorbed a tremendous amount of injuries early on to be one of the hottest teams in baseball at the break.

The Nationals also have one of the best rotations in the NL. Max Scherzer is displaying more Cy Young stuff, Stephen Strasburg has been consistently good and offseason acquisition Patrick Corbin has been as advertised. If the middle of the bullpen can improve, the Nationals could fight the Braves for the division.

Philadelphia Phillies 

After making a number of additions to help the offense, the Phillies hoped they’d be able to outslug their opponents in 2019. That hasn’t happened. Nearly everyon except Scott Kingery and Rhys Hoskins has underperformed and the loss of Andrew McCutchen has left a gaping hole at the top of the order. 

The Phillies' arms have been decimated by injury, too. Guys like David Robertson, Pat Neshek and Seranthony Dominguez were expected to anchor the bullpen. Starters Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez have severely underperformed. The Phillies have regressed and it’s beginning to look a lot like 2018.

Last season, the Phillies entered the All-Star break at 53-42 and went 27-40 the rest of the way. Are you sure that can’t happen this season, too?

For the Phillies to hit the over, the offense will have to heat up, which it certainly could, and the arms will have to stabilize. As Corey Seidman pointed out (see story), it might not make too much sense to give up prospects to get better this season. The Phillies are in it for the long haul, and the other teams in the NL might be more aggressive at the deadline.

So, is 82.5 as harsh as it looks? Probably not. It feels right. If the Phillies continue on the path they’re on, they’ll go under. If the bats heat up and the arms stabilize and get healthy, they could smash the over by mid-September.

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Drew Smyly's outstanding debut, fearless Ranger Suarez help Phillies beat Pirates

Drew Smyly's outstanding debut, fearless Ranger Suarez help Phillies beat Pirates

PITTSBURGH — Despite a second straight day of little offense, the Phillies were able to escape PNC Park on Sunday with a series win. The Phillies had just three hits through eight innings and just six for the day. Ultimately, they got the game’s biggest hit — a solo homer from Rhys Hoskins with one out in the 11th — and that was enough to secure a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates heading into an off day Monday and a two-game set with the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.

This is what happens when you get outstanding pitching. You can do little at the plate and still win a ballgame with one swing of the bat.

Make no mistake: The Phillies won this game because of their pitching. Even Hoskins admitted that.

“It was pretty incredible,” he said.

The Pirates scored a run in the first inning and nothing after that.

That first-inning run came against Drew Smyly, the veteran lefty who opted out of his minor-league contract with the Brewers on Thursday after the Phillies had reached out with a chance to be a starter in the big leagues. Smyly spent several days in roster limbo and did not get to join his new teammates in the clubhouse until Sunday morning. He signed his contract before the game then proceeded to pitch six innings of one-run ball. He scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight. He got 16 swing and misses, eight on a curveball that catcher Andrew Knapp said was like no other he’d ever caught because it had screwball action.

“It's definitely a great one to start off on,” Smiley said. “Just try to build off of it. It was a lot of fun being out there with a new group of guys, a fresh start. I'm very grateful to the Phillies for this opportunity and just going to try to roll with it.”

Smyly, 30, missed 2017 and 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was released by Texas in late June after recording a 8.42 ERA in 51 1/3 innings.

“I feel like once Texas designated me and then I went and signed with the Brewers, I really started to figure out some things about myself and kind of a new game plan, a new approach on how to attack hitters,” Smyly said. “I instantly saw results and I only think it's going to get better. I just feel like I'm a different pitcher than I was with Texas right now.”

Smyly would not offer specifics about the changes he made after Texas.

“I don't want to give away my secrets,” he said with a laugh. “Still have a lot of games to play. But it's just the way I'm attacking and the way I feel like I'm mixing it up. I was pretty predictable in Texas. I wasn't good. I didn't perform well. I know what I'm capable of. I've had a lot of good seasons in the past before my Tommy John surgery. So I just need to get back. The game has changed a little bit in the last two years and I just have to get back to attacking hitters and keeping them off balance. I think I have a good idea of how to do that now.”

After Smyly departed, the Phils got five shutout innings from the bullpen. Most impressive was rookie Ranger Suarez’ two scoreless innings after Hector Neris hit two batters and got a bases-loaded line out to left to survive a ninth-inning scare.

The lefty Suarez survived a leadoff double in the 10th and a hit in the 11th. He struck out the final two batters of the game. Eight of his last nine appearances have been scoreless. Not bad for a guy working out of the bullpen regularly for the first time.

Manager Gabe Kapler called Suarez’ work “gutsy” and “courageous.” The 23-year-old from Venezuela does pitch with a fearless swagger.

“I don’t need any fear,” Suarez said through translator Diego Ettedgui. “I need outs. And I was able to get them."

And the Phillies, still hoping to snap a seven-year playoff drought, were able to clinch a series win on a day when they scored just two runs.

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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. He has allowed just one run in his last nine outings. 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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