A quiet loss, but a successful weekend in Pittsburgh for the Phillies

A quiet loss, but a successful weekend in Pittsburgh for the Phillies


PITTSBURGH — The Phillies have 28 come-from-behind wins so you could say they had the Pittsburgh Pirates right where they wanted them Sunday afternoon.

Down by three runs, the Phils got the first two runners on base in the top of the sixth inning with the middle of the batting order due up.

The Phils came away with nothing in the inning as Pirates starter Nick Kingham got Carlos Santana to pop up before striking out Nick Williams and Scott Kingery.

And so went the Phillies’ best chance to get something going in what turned out to be a 4-1 loss at PNC Park.

Despite seeing their six-game winning streak come to an end, the Phillies had a pretty successful weekend in Pittsburgh. They won two of three and claimed a share of first place in the NL East as they head to New York for four games with the Mets and a series-opening doubleheader Monday.

Zach Eflin and probable All-Star Aaron Nola will start Monday’s game for the Phillies. On Sunday, the Phillies needed to reach down to Triple A for a starting pitcher. Drew Anderson got the call by virtue of being on the 40-man roster. The 24-year-old right-hander allowed eight hits and four runs over five innings and took a loss in his first major-league start.

Cesar Hernandez was held out of the starting lineup for the second day in a row — he struck out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth — after taking a foul ball off his right foot Friday night.

Manager Gabe Kapler used catcher Andrew Knapp in the leadoff spot. It was the first time in the live-ball era (starting in 1920) that a Phillies catcher batted leadoff.

Knapp went 0 for 4, but that didn’t make him unique. The Phillies had just four hits on the day. They struck out 12 times and went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. Their only run came on a 422-foot solo homer from Nick Williams in the fourth.

Kingham, who had been hit hard in his previous start, a loss in Los Angeles, held the Phillies to four hits and a run over six innings of work. He helped his own cause with a two-out, two-run double against Anderson in the fourth inning.

Roster note

To make room for Anderson on the roster, the Phillies sent reliever Yacksel Rios to Triple A.

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Phillies have lots of work to reach Braves' level in 2019 and beyond

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Phillies have lots of work to reach Braves' level in 2019 and beyond

There are few things Phillies fans enjoy more than making fun of the Mets.

But if you hadn't noticed, the Mets have gained 10½ games in the standings on the Phillies over the last eight weeks.

Since Aug. 6, the Phillies are 13-25 and the Mets are 25-16.

The offensive numbers of the Braves, Phillies and Mets are telling.

The Braves have hit .259/.325/.424 with 711 runs scored.

The Phillies have hit .238/.316/.399 with 641 runs.

The Mets have hit .236/.312/.393 with 644 runs.

Offensively, the gap between the Phils and Braves this season has been substantial. The gap between the Phils and Mets, sadly, has been negligible.

It's a worrisome sign because the Phillies have so much more offensive talent than the Mets. Yoenis Cespedes has played 38 games this season. Jay Bruce has played 82. Michael Conforto started hitting only recently.

And yet the Phils, with a full season of Rhys Hoskins and the addition of Carlos Santana, haven't been able to muster much more offense.

The Mets have an interesting near future. With Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and this new, ace-like version of Zack Wheeler, they have the best 1-2-3 of any National League rotation. A trade for an everyday position player would make a lot of sense. They have many, many questions offensively, mainly because they rarely spend money these days.

The Phillies, meanwhile, must figure out a way before next season to close the gap on the Braves. There is simply no player in the Phils' organization with the skill level of Freddie Freeman or Ronald Acuña Jr. The quickest and most obvious way to close that gap would be by adding Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.

The Phillies entered the week with a 97 percent chance of missing the playoffs, according to Fangraphs. Yet still, these remaining seven games with the Braves have meaning. The Phillies have gone 5-7 against the Braves this season, losing three of the four series. Going 5-2 in these games against Atlanta could have a positive psychological benefit for the Phils, the way their 36-36 finish last season did.

This offense just needs some sort of infusion. The Phillies want to see pitches, see pitches, see pitches, make pitchers work, etc. They entered Monday night with 22 more walks than the Mets and 120 more strikeouts. The Phils just don't have enough players to properly enact that offensive philosophy, aside from Hoskins and Santana.

Harper fits the description. Machado is a more aggressive, freer swinger but is obviously a difference-making star.

In all likelihood, the Phils will finish five to seven games behind the Braves in the NL East this season. There are few players in baseball capable of increasing a team's win total by five to seven, but Harper and Machado are two of them.

Either way, the Phillies are observant enough to realize they can't go into 2019 with this offensive personnel.

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Slow death continues as Phillies blow another chance to gain on Braves

Slow death continues as Phillies blow another chance to gain on Braves


The NL East stinks!

That was the text message that arrived from a longtime major league scout as the Phillies were finishing up a 9-4 loss to the New York Mets on Monday night (see first take).

The guy had a point.

Since Aug. 5, when they were a season-high 15 games over .500, the Phillies have lost 25 of 38 games and yet they are somehow still mathematically alive in the division race. That’s because the Atlanta Braves have been unable to run away and hide. The Braves lost their third game in a row on Monday night. That’s two days in a row that the Phillies have blown a chance to make up ground in the race. They are 6½ games behind with 13 to play. Seven of those 13 games are against the Braves. 

Even after losing Monday night, the Braves’ magic number for clinching the division is down to seven.

“It’s just not going well all the way around,” Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “It’s kind of plain and simple. Yeah, the Braves lose and that’s great, but we have to win some games. We haven’t done that consistently and that’s why we are where we are.”

The little picture

The Phillies have lost seven of their last nine. Not long ago, the club had a division title in its sights. Now, simply finishing .500 is going to be a challenge. The Phils need to go at least 5-8 in their last 13 games to finish .500.

Mets misery

The Phillies are 6-11 against the Mets this season and 25-49 since the start of the 2015 season.

Before Monday night’s game, manager Gabe Kapler said, “We can’t play good baseball anymore. We have to play great baseball down the stretch.”

The Phillies did not come close do doing that. Offensively, they had just five hits and four of them came in one inning, the fifth. The Phils were no-hit by Zach Wheeler over the first four innings, did plenty of damage with four runs in the fifth – J.P. Crawford had a three-run triple — then had just one hit the rest of the way.

Arrieta did not pitch well. He allowed 10 base runners and four runs in just five innings. He gave up five hits and three runs in the fifth inning.

“Too many hittable pitches in the strike zone really is what it boiled down to,” Arrieta said.

The front office did not add starting pitching at the trade deadline because it had faith in what it had. Arrieta was the lone veteran in the starting group and he needed to come up big down the stretch. Instead, he has pitched to a 6.03 ERA in his last seven starts. That’s not what the Phillies expected when they gave him $75 million and a ride on Air Middleton.

Arrieta is 10-9 with a 3.77 ERA in 29 starts.

He was asked to assess his season.

“I would like it to be a little bit better,” he said. “I feel like it could have been better in some areas, but what’s done is done. I’ve got to move forward and just try to be better the next time we go out there.”

Arrieta's next start comes Saturday in Atlanta.

The Phils will need a miracle for that game to even matter.

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