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.
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.