Phillies

Most underrated players in the NL East

Most underrated players in the NL East

The Phillies, Nationals, Mets and Braves have had active offseasons.

The Phillies have added J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson.

The Nationals have spent upwards of $183 million in free agency, by far the most of any major-league team.

The Mets added Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, Jed Lowrie, Jeurys Familia, Rajai Davis, Keon Broxton and lefty Justin Wilson.

The Braves signed Josh Donaldson, re-signed Nick Markakis and brought back catcher Brian McCann.

There's a lot of top-end talent in the NL East and you know all about the Freddie Freemans and Jacob deGroms of the world. There are also plenty of under-the-radar players in the division.

In Atlanta, Johan Camargo had a better season than practically anyone gave him credit for in 2018, hitting .272 with 19 homers, 76 RBI and an .806 OPS while starting 114 games at third base for the Braves. He becomes a super-sub with Donaldson in ATL.

In Washington, Anthony Rendon is a beast when healthy, hitting .305/.389/.534 the last two seasons with averages of 42 doubles, 24 homers and 96 RBI. He's not just underrated within the division, he might be the most underrated player in the NL. 

Then there are the Phillies and Mets, who each have a starting pitcher entering the season as a No. 3 but with the potential to be a whole lot more.

Mets — Zack Wheeler

Wheeler could be more instrumental to the Mets' success this season than any of their newcomers. His second-half success in 2018 was overshadowed by rotation-mate deGrom, but after the All-Star break, Wheeler was even better than Aaron Nola (by a lot).

In the second half, Wheeler went 9-1 with a 1.68 ERA in 11 starts, striking out 73 and walking 15 with three homers allowed in 75 innings. His opponents hit .179.

Wheeler's 1.68 ERA was third best in the majors after the All-Star break, behind only Blake Snell and Trevor Williams. His opponents' batting average was also third best, behind only Snell and Walker Buehler.

Once a top prospect, Wheeler has dealt with plenty of injuries throughout his time with the Mets. He did not pitch in the majors at all in 2015 or 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March of '15.

This past season was Wheeler's coming out party, and much of the improvement had to do with increased velocity (96.5 mph average) and excellent fastball command. 

Between deGrom, Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard, the Mets have a formidable 1-2-3 on par with the Nationals' trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin.

Good thing the Phillies have added some offense.

Phillies — Nick Pivetta

With Pivetta, it's more about the potential and the highs we've seen than the overall production in his two big-league seasons.

Pivetta showed what he's capable of in April and May of 2018. In his first 11 starts, he had a 3.26 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 58 innings. He limited the walks (14) and homers (five) and missed a ton of bats. 

The rest of the season, you never knew which Pivetta would show up when his turn came in the rotation. There was a lot of boom and a lot of bust. He had 10 starts allowing one run or none. He had eight starts allowing five or six runs.

Pivetta has a big fastball and a slider/curveball combination that show flashes of being plus pitches. Turning 26 on Valentine's Day and entering his third MLB season, this is the time for Pivetta to take a step forward. He is compared often to Vince Velasquez, but Pivetta's control is undoubtedly better.

This past season, Pivetta struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings and walked 2.8. There were only 11 pitchers in baseball who hit both marks, and Pivetta's ERA (4.77) was a full run higher than anyone on the list. German Marquez was next at 3.77. 

The peripherals foretell improvement for Pivetta and the Phillies badly need it with all of their rotation questions.

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Braves second baseman attempts hilarious illegal play on Jean Segura

Braves second baseman attempts hilarious illegal play on Jean Segura

The Phillies got a badly needed win on Wednesday night against the Atlanta Braves to keep the tiny thread holding their playoff hopes alive together.

Zach Eflin was great and a couple of long balls were just enough to keep Phillies fans happy for at least another day.

But perhaps the funniest moment of the game came when Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies tried something unique to get Jean Segura out at second base: he removed his hand from the bag.

You can't do that!

His effort was for naught anyway because the ump had already called time. I appreciate the effort though.

Segura took it in stride and had some fun right back.

via [Cut4]

Phillies still need a miracle, but 2 wins over Braves, with Aaron Nola up next, is a good place to start

Phillies still need a miracle, but 2 wins over Braves, with Aaron Nola up next, is a good place to start

ATLANTA — The Phillies departed on this 11-game road trip needing to win just about all of them to have a shot at making the postseason. There are still two more cities to visit and miles upon miles to go on this trip, but …

Do you believe in miracles?

“I don’t think there’s anything we can’t do in this clubhouse,” Zach Eflin said after backboning a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.

The Phils have opened the road trip with two straight wins against the soon-to-be NL East champs and they will look for a sweep behind Aaron Nola on Thursday. A sweep is almost a must if the Phillies want to stay in the NL wild-card chase. There are 12 games remaining and they are three back.

The Phillies have used the long ball in beating the Braves on back-to-back nights. They have hit four homers in the two games and three of them have been two-run shots. Bryce Harper keyed the offense Wednesday night with a two-run bomb in the fourth inning. Cesar Hernandez also homered and the Phils scored their third run on a bases-loaded walk.

The Phils had just four hits in the game and they struck out 12 times. They also committed three errors in the field. All of this made it imperative that they get a good performance from their pitchers and they did.

Eflin was brilliant for seven innings and the bullpen tandem of Jose Alvarez and Hector Neris got the final six outs in speedy fashion.

After the game, manager Gabe Kapler gushed about Eflin.

“That was the toughest, from a mental standpoint, start from a pitcher that we've gotten all season long,” he said. “Quite simply, we didn't make plays behind him early on. He continued to get ground ball after ground ball. Calls were not going his way. And that was true when he was at that plate, as well. He just kind of had a resiliency about him throughout this game. He wasn't going to get beat mentally. He just continued to induce ground balls and got weak contact throughout the game. That was why we won that game.

“I think that there were a lot of people who were inspired — myself and the coaching staff and many of the players in the dugout — by the start that Zach just made. “

Eflin had struggled mightily in three previous starts against the Braves this season, including one last week. In just 9 1/3 innings, he was tagged for 17 hits and 20 runs (eight were unearned). He walked nine and struck out nine.

The 25-year-old righty rebounded impressively in this one. Relying heavily on his favorite pitch, a sinking, two-seam fastball, he held the Braves to five hits and one unearned run. He walked two and struck out four. He threw 99 pitches and 57 were sinkers. He got 12 outs on the ground, including a big double play against Brian McCann to end the sixth inning.

“The part that makes it especially mentally tough is the fact that he just faced the Braves,” Kapler said. “It's an incredibly tough lineup to go through several times, but even more so that he's coming off a start against them. 

“We've talked about this time of year being when we're going to fight and scratch and claw. That was fight. That was tough from Zach Eflin.”

Over his last five starts, Eflin has allowed just five earned runs in 28 2/3 innings for a 1.57 ERA.  

After some mid-season struggles, he has found himself again. It has all coincided with his re-dedication to throwing his favorite pitch, the sinker.

“At the end of the day, I’m going out and attacking guys and if it’s my sinker that day that’s working I’m going to use my sinker, if it’s my change-up I’m going to use my change-up,” he said. “We figure out what we have going early in the bullpen before the game. Today was the sinker. It’s been working these last couple outings so if it’s there next outing you’ll probably see it again.”

The Phillies still have stops in Cleveland (three games) and Washington (five) on this trip.

They face the longest of odds in making the postseason, but they’re not dead.

“We come in every single day mentally and physically ready to play and win,” Eflin said. “We have the guys in the clubhouse to do it and get there and make a postseason run, so to be able to do that and play good baseball at the same time is really good for us. We’re looking forward to riding this momentum the next couple of days and into the next series that we have coming and really doing everything we can to make it.”

On paper, you have to like the Phillies' chances with their ace, Nola, on the mound in Thursday’s series finale. However, the Phils are 0-5 in his last five starts.

Can he turn things around and keep the Phillies’ momentum going?

“I think it's really important that we focus on just one game,” Kapler said. “More specifically, just one pitch. The first pitch of the game for Aaron Nola, the first pitch of the game for our leadoff batter tomorrow is what we're focused on.”



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