Phillies

As of today, Phillies have 4th-best roster in NL East

usa_ap_cano_corbin_acuna_mccutchen_braves_mets_nationals_phillies.jpg
AP Images

As of today, Phillies have 4th-best roster in NL East

Prior to the arrival of new GM Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets largely operated like a mid-market team these last few years. It didn't help the Phillies much in their head-to-head matchup, with the Phillies going 50-82 against the Mets the last seven seasons.

It did, however, make the Mets less of a threat in the division race. The same can't be said now after the Mets added Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano and Wilson Ramos, brought back Jeurys Familia and watched Zack Wheeler transform in the second half of 2018 into a legit top-of-the-rotation starter. 

Suddenly, the Mets can talk themselves into a wild-card spot or perhaps even an NL East title if things break right. There is just a major advantage to having Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Wheeler, two very good late-inning relievers and a deeper lineup.

Wheeler is a major key to this. You know how amazing deGrom is. You know how unhittable Syndergaard is most of the time. Did you know that Wheeler went 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and .195 opponents' batting average in his final 15 starts last season? He was basically Aaron Nola from the midpoint of the season. Sometimes, it all clicks for a pitcher when he figures out how to perfectly spot his fastball. It looks like that has happened for Wheeler.

Philly fans love to hate the Mets, but as of the final days of 2018, it would require some major hometown goggles to call the Phillies a better team than their rivals from New York.

Therein lies the problem. The Mets are better. The Braves are ascending, with the best bat in the division in Freddie Freeman and maybe the best overall player in Ronald Acuña Jr. 

The Nationals will lose Bryce Harper, but Patrick Corbin isn't a bad consolation prize. Between deGrom-Syndergaard-Wheeler and Max Scherzer-Corbin-Stephen Strasburg, the two best rotations in the National League are probably both in the Phillies' division.

As of this exact date, the Phillies have the fourth-best roster in the NL East. They need at least one more upgrade in the lineup, one more upgrade in the rotation and one more upgrade in the bullpen to realistically push for the 90 wins required for a playoff spot. 

If the Phils can add Manny Machado, Zach Britton and a veteran starting pitcher via trade, then they can call themselves the division favorite. But outside of that? It's going to be tough. 

The Phillies' front office likely banked on the Braves adding a difference-maker of Josh Donaldson's caliber and the Nationals finding a way to remain in contention despite losing Harper. It's hard to believe they foresaw the Mets making the impact moves they made.

There were many ways this offseason could have played out in the NL East and many ways it still can play out. If the Phils land one of the two free-agent superstars, it will help to nullify the additions made by their top competitors.

If they can't, then this offseason will have resulted in one of the worst-case scenarios for the Phillies, despite solid pickups like Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen.

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

Eight years later, the one that got away comes back to haunt the Phillies

Eight years later, the one that got away comes back to haunt the Phillies

DENVER – If things had worked out differently eight years ago, lefty Kyle Freeland might have pitched six shutout innings for the Phillies instead of against them on Thursday night.

Freeland’s work on the mound and Ryan McMahon’s work at the plate (five RBIs on a pair of homers) backboned the Colorado Rockies’ 6-2 win over the Phillies at Coors Field (see observations).

Zach Eflin pitched well before an error by shortstop Scott Kingery, a base hit and a three-run homer turned the game in the Rockies’ favor in the sixth inning.

Save for a two-run homer by J.T. Realmuto in the seventh, the Phillies’ bats did little in one of the best places to hit in baseball. Four of the Phils’ five hits were singles and one of those was an infield hit.

The top four hitters in the Phillies’ lineup were 0 for 14.

After the game, manager Gabe Kapler tipped his cap to the Rockies’ starting pitcher.

“I think the story was Freeland,” Kapler said. “He was really good. He really commanded the inside part of the plate. He made it very difficult for us to get anything going. We weren’t able to score any runs. It’s tough to score two runs and win in this ballpark.”

Freeland was one of the game’s breakout pitchers last season. He went 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA in 33 starts and finished fourth in National League Cy Young voting. He’d started against the Phillies once in 2017, but had to come out in the first inning with a groin injury. He entered this start 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA on the new season, but clearly did his homework on the Phillies. He gave up just two hits, walked none and struck out seven.

“I noticed when I started watching video two days ago that they have guys with big leg kicks and they’re trying to get the perfect timing with the pitcher,” he said. “It’s kind of easy to start messing with their timing.”

Freeland did that by varying the interval of the hesitation in his delivery.

“I can hold that for a whole inning,” he said of the pause on his leg kick.

Freeland, who turns 26 in May, actually has a significant connection to the Phillies. He was selected by the Phils in the 35th round of the 2011 draft as a high school senior out of the Denver area. Freeland opted not to sign. He attended the University of Evansville and in 2014 was drafted in the first round by the Rockies. He was picked eighth overall, one slot behind Aaron Nola, and received a $2.3 million signing bonus from the Rockies.

Had Freeland signed with the Phillies out of high school, he and Nola might now be teammates.

And the Phillies would have a lefty in their rotation.

“The Phillies picked me as a draft-and-follow so I continued to play summer ball that year then they offered at the end of the summer,” Freeland said. “We couldn’t get to the price point that I wanted. It was a tough decision for me. I wanted to go play pro ball. I also had a great offer on the table to go play for Evansville and I think it’s safe to say I made the right choice.”

Freeland would not say how far apart he and the Phillies were back in 2011. But he did mention how much the Phils had on the table.

“You’re 18 years old and you have someone throwing a quarter of a million dollars at you,” he said. “I really didn’t know anyone who had been through the process so it was hard for me to lean on anybody. So it was a decision I had to make on my own and I’ve never had any regrets.

“But at the time it was tough. One thing that was nice is going to college I had three years where I knew I was going to play where as going into pro ball as a 35th rounder, if you don’t pan out in the first season and a half you might get canned.

“I made the right decision.”

It's difficult to argue with that.

Nonetheless, the Phillies sure would like to have had Kyle Freeland on their side Thursday night. What might have been.

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

 

Rockies 6, Phillies 2: Pair of homers doom Phillies in unfriendly Coors Field

Rockies 6, Phillies 2: Pair of homers doom Phillies in unfriendly Coors Field

BOX SCORE

DENVER — Coors Field continues to be an unfriendly place for the Phillies. They were thumped, 6-2, by the Colorado Rockies in the first game of a four-game series Thursday night.

Zach Eflin and Colorado lefty Kyle Freeland hooked up in a nice pitchers' duel through five innings. The Rockies then pull ahead on a pair of homers by Ryan McMahon in the sixth and seventh innings.

Colorado, which started the season slow, has won four in a row to go to 7-12.

The Phils saw their two-game winning streak come to an end. They are 11-7.

The Phils are 4-11 against the Rockies since the start of 2017. They have lost five in a row in Coors Field, dating to last September, and been outscored 45-9 in those games. 

The keys

• It was a scoreless pitchers' duel heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. The Rockies got the lead runner on base when shortstop Scott Kingery made a throwing error. Trevor Story then stroked a base hit up the middle. Eflin then gave up a three-run homer to McMahon on a 1-1 changeup as the Rockies broke the deadlock and took a 3-0 lead.

• Freeland was selected by the Phillies in the 35th round of the 2011 draft but chose to attend the University of Evansville. Three years later, he was a first-round pick of the Rockies, going eighth overall, one slot after of Aaron Nola. Freeland was brilliant in this one. He held the Phils to two hits – a single by Eflin and an infield hit by Cesar Hernandez — over six shutout innings. He walked none and struck out seven. He left the game because of a blister problem.

• Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto gunned down two runners trying to steal second. He also clubbed a two-run homer in the seventh to briefly make it a 3-2 game. The Phils left a runner in scoring position in that inning and McMahon clubbed a two-run homer, this one against Victor Arano, in the bottom of the inning to put the game out of reach.

Eflin’s night

It was good until the sixth inning when he elevated a changeup with two men on base. Eflin allowed just four hits over the first five innings. He walked three and struck out just two.

Eflin is 2-2 with a 3.68 ERA in four starts.

Out-hit

Coors Field is a hitter’s haven, but the Phils were out-hit, 11-5, in this one. Four of the hits were singles and one of those was an infield hit.

Bryce Harper went hitless with a walk in four trips to the plate. He has just two hits in his last 14 at-bats. He has, however, reached base in all 18 games.

Rhys Hoskins went 0 for 3 and was hit by a pitch. He was up 3-0 in the count then struck out against Scott Oberg with two men on base to end the top of the eighth inning. Hoskins is hitless in his last 12 at-bats.

Transaction

Odubel Herrera went on the injured list and Roman Quinn was activated. All the details and what it means here.

Quinn had a tough night with four strikeouts.

Up next 

Vince Velasquez looks to build on Sunday’s strong outing in Miami when he pitches against righty German Marquez on Friday night.

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