Quick, what’s the best thing about any holiday weekend?
That it doesn’t end on Sunday. Duh.
There’s still time, then, for the Phillies to salvage a split of their four-game series against the Mets. They’ve had a rough weekend so far, though, in New York. After a 5-3 victory Friday night, Bryce Harper got ejected from a 5-1 loss Saturday night. Then, the Phillies were blown out by 14-1 on Sunday.
But if Zack Wheeler is able to defeat his former team in his return to Citi Field for a Labor Day matinee, the Phillies will be no worse than three games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves. Not quite a must-win game — there will be plenty of time for that later this month — but it nonetheless feels like a biggie.
You’re signed up to get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday during the Phillies season. If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber. Thank you for reading.
— Scott Lauber (email@example.com)
Phillies will need everyone in demanding stretch run
Matt Klentak almost couldn’t believe the words that were about to spill from his mouth.
“Boy, this is a thing nobody ever wants to say because they don’t want to knock on wood,” the Phillies general manager said, “but we thus far have been fairly healthy.”
That was last Monday, and yes, relative to their division rivals, the Phillies were in good shape. There have been challenges, notably a battered bullpen that required upgrades. But that wasn’t anything that a few trades couldn’t fix.
At least the Phillies had their health. The Atlanta Braves lost young ace Mike Soroka last month to a torn Achilles and second baseman Ozzie Albies for most of the season with a wrist injury. Washington Nationals co-ace Stephen Strasburg had season-ending surgery to relieve carpal tunnel syndrome. The Mets never had injured pitchers Noah Syndergaard or Marcus Stroman.
The Phillies’ recent run of 10 wins in 11 games was as much about manager Joe Girardi’s being able to put his best players on the field as it was about those players’ performing at high levels. In this 60-game sprint season, health was always going to be the biggest competitive advantage.
But in a matter of innings Saturday night, two Phillies outfielders — Jay Bruce and Roman Quinn — went down with injuries at the worst possible time.
Bruce will miss at least 10 days after reinjuring his left quadriceps; Quinn will be sidelined for at least seven days with a concussion. And when the Phillies return home Tuesday for two seven-inning games against the Boston Red Sox, they will be starting a 15-day stretch in which they will play five doubleheaders.
It’s a grueling, even extreme, schedule. All along, it was bound to test every area of the Phillies roster. It’s going to force Vince Velasquez back into the rotation for at least three starts; every member of the 10-man bullpen is going to have to pitch important innings. There will be calls to the alternate training site in Lehigh Valley for reinforcements.
And that would have been the case even before Bruce and Quinn went down. Now, the roster will be stretched even further.
To wit: Left fielder Andrew McCutchen has been used often as the designated hitter to avoid putting too much stress on his surgically repaired knee. But without Bruce available to spell him, McCutchen might have to play almost every day in left field.
“I think it’s dangerous with what he’s coming off of,” Girardi said. “And with so many games in a row, I’m going to have to DH him some and we’re gonna have to figure it out.”
There will be mixing and matching. Neil Walker and Phil Gosselin, natural infielders, likely will see time in left field when McCutchen is the DH. Outfielder Kyle Garlick was called up Sunday. Never mind that utilityman Scott Kingery was batting .127 last week when he went on the injured list with back spasms. He took batting practice over the weekend in Lehigh Valley, and if he’s ready to be reinstated Thursday, he probably will be.
If the Phillies are going to survive these next three weeks and play on into October, they will need everyone, even if they can steer clear of additional injuries.
It’s never easy to win when you’re facing Mets all-world ace Jacob deGrom. It’s even more difficult when you play as poorly as the Phillies did on Sunday, as Bob Brookover writes.
Adam Haseley is about to get more playing time in center field, but things didn’t go so well Sunday, when he made a bad read and got turned around on a fly ball over his head.
What’s it like to get called up to the big leagues but not be able to have your parents attend your debut? Matt Breen tells the story through the perspective of reliever JoJo Romero and his family.
The Mets were interested in trading for J.T. Realmuto before the Phillies did. If Realmuto reaches free agency, it’s easy to envision a fierce bidding war between the NL East rivals.
Ready or not, Vince Velasquez will make a few big starts down the stretch for the Phillies.
Today: Zack Wheeler starts series finale in New York, 1:10 p.m.
Tomorrow: Phillies host doubleheader vs. Red Sox, 4:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Off-day for Phillies.
Thursday: Phillies open seven-game, five-day series in Miami, 6:40 p.m.
Stat of the day
Last Thursday, during the ceremony to retire No. 15 for Dick Allen at Citizens Bank Park, it was mentioned that he batted .378 (31-for-82) with four home runs and a 1.098 OPS down the stretch of the 1964 season, when the Phillies infamously collapsed and lost the pennant.
Another major character in that late-season drama was Lou Brock, the Hall of Fame center fielder who died Sunday at age 81.
Brock hit .348 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964 after coming over in a midseason trade with the Chicago Cubs and was a particular thorn in the Phillies’ side. He went 18-for-51 (.353) in 12 games against them after the trade, including a five-hit game at Connie Mack Stadium on Sept. 9.
In a pivotal three-game series Sept. 28-30, Brock went 4-for-11 and the Cardinals swept the Phillies to move into first place in the National League.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Answer: Hey, @donaldc58. Not a big Vinny Velo fan, are you? In that case, I’m sorry to report that Velasquez is probably going to make three starts in those doubleheaders you referenced.
The Phillies didn’t trade for a starter before last week’s deadline, and Velasquez’s role on the staff is essentially long reliever/spot starter. As it is, the Phillies will need to find another starter for a Sept. 11 doubleheader in Miami. The top internal options are Mauricio Llovera and Cole Irvin.