How was your weekend? Hopefully better than the three days the Phillies spent in Atlanta. They suffered a heartbreaking loss Friday, rallied Saturday, and then finished the weekend with a blowout loss and a position player on the mound. The Phillies flew Sunday night to Washington and had plenty to think about before opening a four-game series tonight against the Nationals. A brutal weekend is leading into a challenging week.
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Brutal weekend followed by tough series with Nationals
The Phillies hosted Patrick Corbin at Citizens Bank Park this winter and flashed his face onto Phanvision as they flirted with the left-hander before Washington outbid them.
They already know how tough Corbin can be on the mound, so they are well aware of the challenge that awaits them Monday night at Nationals Park. An awful loss Sunday against division-leading Atlanta will be followed by four challenging games against the Nationals, who could be a big week away from thrusting themselves into the thick of the division race.
The four-game series also includes matchups with Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. The Phillies will face Washington’s top-three pitchers, getting no breaks this week in D.C.
Corbin, who signed a $140 million, six-year contract, has been roughed up in three straight starts, but there’s a reason he was the only starting pitcher the Phillies seriously considered adding this winter. Scherzer, who will start Wednesday night, has a 1.06 ERA in his last five starts with 49 strikeouts and just six walks. Thursday will be Strasburg, who struggled in his last start, but his last seven starts against the Phillies have been Nationals wins. Good luck, Phillies.
The Phillies arrived in Washington trailing the Braves by 2 1/2 games. The Phillies had a one-game lead a week ago. The Braves, who have won nine of their last 10, are staying home for three games against the Mets. If the Phillies don’t meet the challenge in Washington, that division lead should be even greater.
“We have a lot of work to do, a lot of discussions to have,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “No question about it, we have to be better and we’ll discuss it more on the flight to Washington, D.C. and get our ducks in a row.”
Bryce Harper put on a show last summer in the Home Run Derby, but he does not have plans to defend his title next month in Cleveland. Harper told Scott Lauber that the event is “just so tiring” and he planned to do it for one year. Rhys Hoskins, who leads the Phillies in homers, said he would be open to competing for a second straight year.
Aaron Nola, after a rough start against the Braves, received some good news that his older brother was headed to the majors. The Mariners promoted Austin Nola, a catcher, from triple A. The Nolas were teammates in high school and college. “I think I was happier last night for him getting called up than I was when I got called up, to be honest with you,” Nola said.
The Phillies played Sunday’s series finale without Jay Bruce and J.T. Realmuto after the two left Saturday’s game with injuries. The Phillies do not expect either player to be placed on the injured list, but it was interesting to see the team promote catcher Nick Matera on Sunday from Class A to triple A. It seemed to be a move to allow the Phillies to grab catcher Deivi Grullon from triple A if Realmuto’s absence is extended.
Tonight: Jake Arrieta faces Patrick Corbin, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Zach Eflin against right-hander Erick Fedde, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Nick Pivetta starts against Max Scherzer, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Aaron Nola pitches the finale against Stephen Strasburg, 7:05 p.m.
Phillies should consider Adonis Medina for Friday
Of all the things to ponder during the team’s flight Sunday night to Washington, it is hard to imagine a more pressing concern than who would start for the Phillies on Friday night.
Kapler said last week that it would be “premature” to bring Adonis Medina up from double A to start Sunday’s series finale in Atlanta. Two days later, Medina turned in his best start of the season, pitching into the eighth inning. And then Kapler watched what happened Sunday in Atlanta.
Medina, a 22-year-old right-hander who is already on the 40-man roster, has a 1.24 ERA in his last five starts at double A. He pairs a mid-90s fastball with a wipeout slider and has 26 strikeouts and just 12 walks in his last 34 innings.
Medina’s next start should be in triple A, but the Phillies should feel desperate enough to at least consider moving him straight to the majors.
They need a starter for Friday night, and their internal options are thin. Starting Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, or Cole Irvin would be a tough sell after what happened Sunday in Atlanta. Enyel De Los Santos is another candidate but appears to be seen by the Phillies as a reliever. Ramon Rosso was strong in his triple-A debut and could be called upon if added to the 40-man roster.
It seems likely that the Phillies will use Medina this season in the majors, and it would be hard to find a more favorable debut than at home against the Marlins. Maybe it would be a premature decision, but a loss like Sunday’s showed just how thin the team’s starting-pitching depth is. A premature decision could not be worse than what happened Sunday.
“Right now, we think the best thing for Medina is to continue to develop in the minor leagues,” Kapler said last week.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Answer: Yes, Sunday was Arrieta’s normal day, but it wasn’t his turn in the rotation. The Phillies could have started Arrieta on normal rest Sunday, but they would then have had to find a fifth starter for Thursday against the Nationals and Strasburg.
Maybe a blowout loss like Sunday’s was enough to let the Phillies know that their pitching strategy — Vince Velasquez as an opener followed by Cole Irvin and Jerad Eickhoff — isn’t going to cut it.