Phillies

Phillies are tied for 1st on cusp of All-Star break, but how are they doing it?

Phillies are tied for 1st on cusp of All-Star break, but how are they doing it?

As we sit here 10 days into July on the cusp of the All-Star break, the Phillies are tied for first place in the NL East, sporting a 50-39 record. That’s pretty damn impressive considering most viewed them as .500 team. Keep in mind this is a club led by a first-year manager and a roster that is the youngest in baseball and aside from Aaron Nola, does not have a superstar or even an All-Star.

Dive a little deeper and you’ll see a lineup without anyone hitting above .276. A former Cy Young award winner in Jake Arrieta, who signed a three-year, $75 million deal in the offseason, with a 6-6 record and a 3.47 ERA. Not bad, but far from great. A bullpen without a designated closer; last year’s man who got the ball in that spot is residing in Lehigh Valley. The club’s high-priced relief signees, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, have either been out hurt or grossly underachieved. 

So how are they doing this?

Let’s start with the top of the rotation. The aforementioned Nola has been spectacular. A valid argument could be made that he’s the best pitcher in baseball. He’s 12-2 with a 2.27 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. He has been dominant. And he’s only 25.

Zach Eflin, finally healthy, is a different pitcher. His stuff is better now that his knees work, but it’s his approach that has really stood out. He is now an attacker rather than a nibbler. If the reports are true that he was untouchable in a Manny Machado deal, he has come a long way the last few months from fringe rotation guy to must-keep.   

The bullpen, much maligned and deservedly so, has been much better of late. Gabe Kapler’s best arm, Seranthony Dominguez, has been deployed in the highest of leverage situations — against the other team’s best hitters, whether it’s the seventh, eighth or ninth, multiple innings, whatever’s needed. This is partly by design, mostly by necessity. The 'pen needs one or two more arms and Hunter and Neshek need to start earning their money.

Offensively, while the batting averages are far from impressive, this team thrives off of getting on base and walking. There’s no better example than Carlos Santana, who’s hitting .219, but his on-base percentage is .365 and he’s walked 72 times, good for third in baseball. But their team numbers overall at the plate are just OK. They're 18th in runs, 17th in home runs and 15th in RBIs.

But there is something to be said for the clutch gene, and this team appears to have it. It is 19-8 in one-run games and 6-2 in extra-inning contests. Kapler deserves a lot of credit for the start. The clubhouse is loose, he’s made far more right calls than wrong whether it’s analytics or gut. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz has been a major upgrade from Bob McClure last year.

The trade deadline could bring some reinforcements, but the question is, can the Phillies sustain this with some of the obvious shortcomings and statistical anomalies? 

What we do know is they have overachieved thus far and considering the schedule, should head into the All-Star break on a high note.

More on the Phillies

Cole Hamels requests a jersey patch that honors David Montgomery

Cole Hamels requests a jersey patch that honors David Montgomery

CHICAGO – When the City of Philadelphia dedicated a Roxborough ball field in David Montgomery’s honor in November, Cole Hamels was there.

Montgomery’s passing earlier this month hit Hamels hard. Montgomery was Phillies club president when the pitcher was drafted by the club in 2002 and the two rode together down Broad Street after the Phils won the World Series in 2008. Hamels, of course, was MVP of that series.

Hamels still does charitable work in Philadelphia. He has credited Montgomery for igniting that charitable spirit in him. 

The Phillies are wearing a patch with the initials DPM on the right sleeve of their game jerseys in honor of Montgomery.

Though Hamels now pitches for the Chicago Cubs and has not worn a Phillies jersey since July 2015 when he was traded to Texas, a piece of him remains with the club and a piece of Montgomery remains in his heart. That’s why Hamels reached out to Greg Casterioto of the Phillies communications department and asked if he could get one of the patches when the Phillies traveled to Chicago. Chris Ware of the Phillies communications department plans to catch up with Hamels before Thursday's series finale and deliver the patch.

Hamels started against the Phillies on Wednesday night. It was the first time he’d ever pitched against his old club and it came in the same ballpark where he last pitched for the Phils. Who could forget that storybook close to Hamels’ time with the Phillies – a no-hitter against the Cubs on July 25, 2015?

It was just one of the memories that Hamels took from Philadelphia. Others, of course, included the 2008 World Series title and his relationship with David Montgomery. Hamels will soon have a tangible memory of that bond.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Cubs fans are back to hating on Bryce Harper — so no souvenir for you!

Cubs fans are back to hating on Bryce Harper — so no souvenir for you!

CHICAGO — Fans in the right-field bleachers at Wrigley Field gave Bryce Harper the business Tuesday night.

So he gave it right back to them.

After recording the final putout of the sixth inning, he turned to the fans as if he was going to toss them a nice souvenir.

Then he fired the ball over everything and right out of the ballpark.

No souvenir for you!

“Hopefully I didn’t hit a cop or something down below,” Harper said in the clubhouse on Wednesday. “I didn’t even see where it went. I just threw it, acting like we had a third-deck in Philly. It’s all fun.”

Harper hears it everywhere he goes. It comes with the territory when you’re on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old, sign a $330 million contract a decade later and carry yourself with a confident swagger.

Harper can handle it.

“Everyone is usually pretty mean,” he said. “There’s some mean stuff. You have your fans. Some people take it over the line and some people just yell the same stuff. It’s usually the same stuff. No one really comes up with anything that clever.”

What did he hear Tuesday night that made him troll the fans at Wrigley?

“Same old stuff,” he said. “They were really nice last year because they wanted me. You know? They were nice to me, but now they’re back to not.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies