Ronald Acuna

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

ap_ronald_acuna_vince_velasquez_phillies_braves.jpg
AP Images

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.

More on the Phillies

Vince Velasquez struggles again as Phillies drop series

Vince Velasquez struggles again as Phillies drop series

BOX SCORE

A homestand that began with a rousing four-game sweep ended with a whimper as the Phillies were pounded by the Atlanta Braves, 10-1, at Citizens Bank Park on a forgettable and chilly Sunday afternoon.

The Phillies have lost two in a row for the first time since April 3-4 against the Mets. 

The Braves mugged starter Vince Velasquez for six runs in the first three innings and never looked back. The Phils and Braves have played three three-game series against each other in the early part of this season and the Braves have won two of three in each. 

The Phillies finished their 10-game homestand at 6-4. They opened the homestand with a four-game sweep of Pittsburgh then won just two games the rest of the way in a pair of three-game series against Arizona and Atlanta.

The Phillies are 16-11.

Starting pitching has been a strength for the Phillies in the early part of this season, but it showed some cracks in this homestand as Ben Lively, Nick Pivetta and Velasquez all struggled in their most recent starts.

Velasquez allowed a leadoff homer to Ozzie Albies Sunday afternoon and then was tagged for five runs in the third, three on a homer by Johan Camargo on a first-pitch changeup.

Velasquez has given up four home runs and a total of 11 runs in 8 2/3 innings over his last two starts. His ERA in six starts is up to 5.70.

Since the start of the 2016 season, 105 pitchers have made 45 or more starts in the majors. Velasquez ranks last among that group with 233 innings pitched.

Brandon McCarthy pitched 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball for his third win of the season in as many starts against the Phillies.

The Phillies’ offense produced just five hits and racked up 13 strikeouts. The team has reached double-digits in strikeouts 18 times in 27 games.

Notes:

• Odubel Herrera walked in the first inning to extend his on-base streak to 29 straight games, dating to last season.

• Carlos Santana went 0 for 3 with a walk. He is hitting .160 (15 for 94). Despite not hitting, Santana has walked 14 times in last 15 games for a .354 OBP in that span.

• The Phillies placed shortstop J.P. Crawford on the disabled list and recalled Jesmuel Valentin fro Triple A. Scott Kingery will get the bulk of the time at shortstop (see story).

• The Phils begin a six-game road trip to Miami and Washington Monday night. Jake Arrieta (3-0, 1.82) pitches Monday night against Miami’s Dan Straily (season debut). Following Sunday's game, the Phillies optioned Jake Thompson to Triple A. Zach Eflin will come up from Lehigh Valley to pitch on Tuesday.