It could always be worse. The Phillies were shut out on Thursday night, they lost for the eighth time in 13 games, they lost possession of the National League’s second wild-card spot, and they continued to look listless. But they avoided being no-hit. Instead, they were one-hit ... and it was a pinch-hit single. That’s about the only silver-lining we can find. The season seems to be slipping away.
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— Matt Breen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When the Phillies flew home from spring training in late March, it was tempting to start thinking about October. They signed Bryce Harper three weeks earlier to finish an offseason that brought in five former All-Stars. Yes, their starting pitching was thin. But their lineup, it was expected, would score enough to cover the blemishes.
The Phillies, according to projections by FanGraphs, started the season with a 49.6 percent chance to reach the playoffs. Baseball Prospectus, which runs a similar projection model, gave the Phillies a 58.5 percent chance to be in the postseason. FanGraphs had the Phillies as the NL East’s second-best team while Baseball Prospectus saw them as the favorite. The seven-year playoff drought was nearly broken. All the Phillies had to do was play the games.
And now how much has changed. After Thursday night’s loss, the Phillies have just a 12.3 percent chance at the playoffs, according to FanGraphs. The Braves are at 98.7, the Nationals are 80.7, and the Mets — who tied the Phillies on Thursday — have a 42.5 percent chance. A day earlier, the Phillies had a 15 percent chance. Every loss is hurting their odds.
The projection model is “forward looking,” as it uses two different player projections and a team’s current depth chart to calculate the winning percentage of each game left this season. It also does not help the Phillies’ chances that FanGraphs rates their remaining strength-of-schedule as the second-toughest in the National League. They play the Cubs next week, face the Red Sox four times, and their final road trip takes them to Atlanta, Cleveland, and Washington for 11 games in 10 days.
It’s been a long time since spring training ended. Division titles are not won by projection models. Playing the games proved to be a bit more challenging than expected. And the odds are no longer in the Phillies’ favor.
Another day, another surprising roster move by the Phillies. They optioned Adam Haseley to triple A before Thursday’s game and welcomed Jay Bruce from the injured list. Only one Phillies player, Scott Lauber writes, had more hits over the last 12 games than Haseley. But a team that’s desperate for offense still sent him to the minors. “It’s for Haseley’s development. Adam Haseley really needs to play. He needs to continue his development,” Gabe Kapler said.
The Phillies have scored 23 runs in their last seven games as they fell for the third-straight time on Thursday night. Lauber wrote “the chill coming off San Francisco Bay was nothing compared to the icicles hanging from their bats.”
A cool story from Bob Brookover, who caught up with my old neighbor and now big-leaguer Brian O’Grady before he made his major-league debut on Thursday night with the Reds. O’Grady, who lived in Northeast Philly before moving to Bucks County and attending Archbishop Wood, faced off in the finals of a home-run derby when he was 11 years old against none other than Bryce Harper.
Tonight: The Phillies turn to Drew Smyly against Giants righthander Tyler Beede, 10:15 p.m.
Tomorrow: Jeff Samaradzija, who dominated the Phils on July 31, starts against Vince Velasquez, 4:05 p.m.
Sunday: Jake Arrieta starts the series finale on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, 7:05 p.m.
Monday: The Phillies are off before opening a three-game series with the Cubs.
Madison Bumgarner did not just shut down the Phillies for seven innings on Thursday night, but he reached base just as often as the entire Phillies lineup. The Giants’ starting pitcher had a single and two walks to reach base three times. The Phillies sent 29 batters to the plate on Thursday and just three — two by walks and one with a hit — reaching base. The last Phillies pitcher to reach base three times? Kyle Kendrick on Sept. 24, 2014, who went 3 for 3 with an RBI double.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Questions: Harper and Hoskins. Why are these two struggling with men on base? — Robert M., via email.
Do you think it would help if Hoskins/Harper did not bat after each other? Perhaps have a hitter or two batting in between them? They can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results! — Bill B., via email.
Answers: Thanks for all the questions — and the venting — this morning after another loss. We’re all ears at Extra Innings.
For Robert’s question about why Hoskins and Harper are struggling with men on base: The Phillies wish they knew, but they better figure it out soon. The two hitters are batting just .231 since July 1 with runners on base and 0 for 9 with the bases loaded. The Phillies can’t win if their best two hitters are not producing.