By Peter Gleason
It’s easy to criticize the Phillies, who have more resembled a minor league team than a pennant contender in the past three and a half weeks as they have wasted a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL East and now trail the Braves by 6 1/2.
But let’s put things into perspective.
The injury list has had a big effect on their play:
Relievers Tommy Hunter (who has yet to pitch this season), free agent newcomer David Robertson (out since April 15), Pat Neshek (now back on the injured list for the second time), Victor Arano (out for the season following elbow surgery), Adam Morgan and Seranthony Dominguez have gone down.
And the starting rotation has underachieved. Aaron Nola, who finished third in the Cy Young voting last year, then was rewarded with a four-year $45 million extension, has a 4.55 ERA, which belies his 6-2 record.
Jake Arrieta (above), in the second year of a three-year $75 million deal, is 6-6, 4.12. After that it’s been hit and miss between Zach Eflin (6-7, 2.87), Nick Pivetta (4- 5.54), Vince Velasquez (2-4, 4.40) and Jerad Eickhoff.(3-4, 5.71).
Yet with an obvious need for a quality starter–particularly a lefthander –the Phils chose to remain on the sidelines and watch the now first place Braves sign Dallas Keuchel to a pro-rated $13 million, one-year deal. Now if general manager Matt Klentak wants to make a move he’ll probably have to overpay both in terms of talent surrendered and the amount of salary he has to take on.
That goes for the beleaguered offense as well, which has a weak bench and has been without centerfielder and one-time all-star Odubel Herrera, placed on administrative leave after being arrested in a domestic violence incident in Atlantic City on May 27. If—or when—he returns it’s uncertain where Herrera, hitting only .22 with one homer and 16 RBIs at the time, fits in the picture.
But for now Kapler will have to rely on the cast at hand; a cast which besides failing to produce offensively, has shown poor base-running instincts. Harper alone has been thrown out seven times trying to take an extra base and he’s not the only one.
Of course, while the $330 million man has said all the right things, he really hasn’t produced to expectations, hitting just .248 with 13 homers, 52 RBIs and a whopping 94 strikeouts. Neither has Realmuto, who’s in the midst of a 0-for-17 skid which has dropped his average to .260 to go with a modest 10 homers and 36 RBIs.
“I’m trying to do too much at the plate and not necessarily taking what the pitcher’s giving me,” said Realmuto who then went on to explain the rash of long balls Phillies’ pitchers are giving up. “And we’re just getting in bad counts and not making good pitches when we get there.
“When you’re leaving balls over the heart of the plate in hitter’s counts major league hitters are going to do damage. So we’ve just got to better staying in good counts, getting ahead of guys. And when we do get behind in the count making better pitches and hitting our spots.
“I know we’re not playing our best baseball right now . But I know the talent we have in this clubhouse, what kind of team we can be. Teams go through these stretches. You’ve just got to right the ship. Get some wins in our belt and get our momentum back.
“But it’s a long year.”