The Phillies have officially played half their season, and to call it disappointing would be a major understatement. They are 39-42 after Sunday’s 11-1 home loss to the San Diego Padres.
As colleague Matt Breen pointed out, before the weekend series with the Padres, the Phillies had just a 7.2% chance of earning a postseason berth, according to FanGraphs. They are 8½ games out of a wild-card spot.
Yet there is one bit of saving grace: The Phillies compete in the National League East, which in March was talked up as one of, if not the, best divisions in MLB, but has fallen way, way short of that projection.
You’re signed up to get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday during the 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 @matt_breen. Thank you for reading.
— Marc Narducci (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Phillies still in the hunt
We know, you might be choking on your cereal reading that the Phillies have a chance for the playoffs, but that is more a by-product of their division than their own play.
The only team in the NL East with a winning record is the New York Mets (43-37). The Mets’ .537 winning percentage is the lowest, by far, of any division leader in MLB. The division leader with the fewest wins after the Mets is the Chicago White Sox (49-34, .590).
So despite all the Phillies’ warts, and they have been numerous, they stand 4½ games out of first place with half a season to go.
Of course, the Phillies are just as close to last-place Miami as they are to the first-place Mets. Still, after Sunday’s loss, Phillies manager Joe Girardi was asked if there is any consolation in the fact that, despite their frustrating first half, they are still in the race.
“It gives us an opportunity. That is the great part about it, that nobody is running away with it,” Girardi said.
Then Girardi allowed himself a positive thought after Sunday’s sour defeat.
“You could have a good 10-game stretch and be in first place. That’s the bottom line, so we need to put a good stretch together,” he said.
The Phillies face two teams going in opposite directions this week. They begin a four-game series on Monday in Chicago against a slumping Cubs team that has lost nine in a row and is 42-42. Then the Phillies play three at Boston before the All-Star break. The Red Sox (53-32) are 9-1 in their last 10 games after Sunday’s 1-0 win at Oakland behind seven shutout innings by former Phils righthander Nick Pivetta.
“We’re going on the road to play the Cubs and Red Sox and we’ve got to try to put something together,” Girardi said.
While the deficit is manageable, the Phillies must cure several ills, including an undependable bullpen, a shaky defense, and an inconsistent offense.
It’s not like the Phillies need to make a few minor fixes. They need an about-face in order to even consider contenting during the second half of their schedule.
With that much wrong, the Phillies should be much further behind first place. Whether they can take advantage of the struggles of the rest of the NL East is the big question in the final 81 games.
Manny Machado smacked two homers as the Phils failed to complete a sweep of the Padres on Sunday.
Scott Lauber writes that two Phillies have been selected to the All-Star team, marking the first time since 2013 they have had multiple selections.
Matt Breen writes that Andrew McCutchen should be playing for a contender this summer; it just might not be the Phillies.
Phillies president Dave Dombrowski is in an almost similar situation to what Pat Gillick faced during his first season as the Phils’ GM 15 years ago, Bob Brookover writes.
Lauber recaps Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Padres in which Ranger Suárez earned his first career save.
Monday: Phillies at Chicago Cubs, 8:05 p.m. LHP Matt Moore (0-1, 5.79 ERA) vs Cubs RHP Zach Davies (5-5, 4.32 ERA).
Tuesday: Phillies at Cubs, 8:05 p.m. RHP Aaron Nola (5-5, 4.44 ERA) vs RHP Jake Arrieta (5-8, 5.57 ERA).
Wednesday: Phillies at Cubs, 8:05 p.m., RHP Zack Wheeler (6-4, 2.05 ERA) vs RHP Alec Mills (3-2, 4.85 ERA)
Thursday: Phillies at Cubs, 8:05 p.m. RHP Zach Eflin (3-6, 4.13 ERA) vs RHP Albert Alzolay (4-8, 4.48 ERA)
Stat of the day
With Sunday’s loss, the Phillies are now 105-105 on the Fourth of July, but it would be a losing record had the Phillies not won the first game they ever played on that day by forfeit.
According to the Phillies’ pregame notes, they won their first-ever July 4 game because the Providence Grays, who were winning by 11-9 in the seventh inning, had to catch a train to play another game that afternoon in New York. The official score was 9-0. (If only the Padres would have had a plane to catch after the fourth inning on Sunday.)
The Phillies went 17-81-1 that season, so we figure they gladly took that forfeit win.
This was in 1883, and there is no truth to the rumor I was assigned to cover the game, but refused to work the holiday.
From the mailbag
Question: “Why is Neris still on this team???” — Chuck Bailer from Facebook
Answer: Thanks for the question, Chuck. It is getting increasingly difficult to defend Héctor Neris, especially after he allowed six earned runs in two-thirds of an inning in Sunday’s loss to the Padres. He has a 14.29 ERA in his past seven games. The problem is that the Phillies’ bullpen has been so poor that they are hoping Neris can snap out of his latest slump and help in the second half. If the Phillies had viable options, maybe they would think about letting Neris go. As crazy as this sounds, if he is offered to teams at the trade deadline, my guess is that several would be interested, thinking a change of scenery could help turn him around. That said, I wouldn’t put him in a high-leverage situation until he shows he can pitch at least a few shutout innings.