If the best path to winning a watered-down National League East is the one with the least resistance, the Phillies should be the favorite.
Yes, you read that right.
The Phillies vaulted into first place 10 days ago only to slip back into second, one game worse than the Atlanta Braves, with a 7-4 loss Sunday to the Cincinnati Reds. But beginning Tuesday night in Arizona, the Phillies will play 20 of 28 games against sub-.500 teams.
That’s hardly a small thing considering it might take only 85 wins to capture the division crown. In fact, the Phillies have the softest remaining schedule of the NL East contenders. Their opponents have a .468 winning percentage, compared to .489 for the Braves’ and .502 for the New York Mets’.
“I don’t really want to hear that,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I don’t want our players to hear that. We have to grind out every game and try to win every game. That’s the bottom line. And if we do that, we’re going to be fine.”
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Aaron Nola threw a dud. Again.
Most people hadn’t heard of Tyler Gilbert before he threw a no-hitter in his first major-league start Saturday night. But as Matt Breen writes in this cool story, several Phillies were pulling for their former teammate.
Zach Eflin took a positive step in his attempt to come back from patellar tendinitis in his right knee, as detailed within this story.
In other injury news, Rhys Hoskins received a cortisone shot to help speed his recovery from a groin strain.
Ian Kennedy pitched the game of his life 10 years ago against the Phillies. After being acquired by them in a trade-deadline deal last month, he’s hoping to create a new memory.
Today: Off-day for the Phillies.
Tomorrow: Kyle Gibson starts the opener in Arizona, 9:40 p.m.
Wednesday: Ranger Suárez faces the Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m.
Thursday: Zack Wheeler takes on Arizona in the finale, 3:40 p.m.
Friday: Phillies begin a three-game series in San Diego, 10:10 p.m.
Stat of the day
Nola had a familiar problem Sunday. He was unable to finish off hitters after getting to two strikes.
In 4 1/3 innings against the Reds, Nola gave up six hits — all in two-strike counts. Jonathan India’s leadoff homer came on an 0-2 pitch. Reds pitcher Sonny Gray singled on a two-strike curveball in the third inning. Shogo Akiyama’s two-run double also came on a two-strike curve.
Through 24 starts, Nola has given up 59 two-strike hits, tied with Texas’ Jordan Lyles for most in the majors. In 2019, the last full season, he gave up 63 two-strike hits. In 2018, he allowed 65.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Question: I enjoy your newsletter. My question is, why do the road uniforms not say ‘Philadelphia’ instead of ‘Phillies?’ All other clubs identify their locales. Thanks. — Mark K., via email
Answer: Thanks, Mark. I usually defer to Matt Breen on all jersey-related matters. He’s our resident expert on such things. But I will try to tackle this.
In researching my book, The Big 50: Phillies, a few years ago, I came across a quote from Al Reach, the team’s first owner, in which he said he chose the Phillies nickname because “it tells you who we are and where we are from.” I believe they briefly had “PHILA” on the road grays in the early 1900s, but unless I’m mistaken, they’ve never in their 139-year history had “Philadelphia” across their chest, apparently agreeing with Reach that it isn’t necessary.