The Phillies arrived at the rather expected record of 3-3 following three games in New York and three games in Cincinnati. They’re still 2.5 games up in a playoff spot and a half game over the Padres in the second Wild Card spot. So why has the last week left a sour taste in some mouths? Well, getting shutout three times over that span will certainly do it.
Suárez pitched arguably the two most impressive starts of his career in one week. First, he outdueled Max Scherzer on the road with 7 IP and one run allowed on 3 hits in a 2-1 win. Then he threw 7 shutout innings in Cincinnati with 3 hits and 8 strikeouts on just 95 pitches. Unfortunately, the latter effort was wasted in a 1-0 loss. Nevertheless, Suárez has proven that he should start Game 3 of any postseason series the Phillies find themselves in. The lefty has a 1.06 ERA in six starts since returning from injury on July 16th with an opponent’s average of .190 and a WHIP of 0.91.
Much like Suárez, Nola too shined in a postseason-like atmosphere in New York. He went toe-to-toe with Jacob deGrom and threw a complete game with 8 IP while allowing one run on 4 hits with 8 K’s. That one run proved the difference in the 1-0 loss however, as the Phillies offense couldn’t solve deGrom or Edwin Díaz. In three starts since a rocky outing against Atlanta where he allowed 5 ER, Nola has thrown 20 innings and allowed a total of just three runs.
Stott was forced into the leadoff spot in the order without Kyle Schwarber in New York. And all he did was make history against Max Scherzer. The 24-year-old became the first player in Scherzer’s career to reach base four times against the future Hall of Famer. Stott is hitting .328 over his last 15 games played with an OBP of .350. He’s dramatically cut his high strikeout rate from early in the season, with his 32.1% mark in April and May compared against his 11.4% mark in 62 games since.
Castellanos continues to show signs of life, as he’s hitting .367 with an OPS of .934 over the last week. The most encouraging number however is his .567 slugging percentage over that time. That includes four extra base hits and a home run. He’s still striking out a ton, as Castellanos has 12 Ks to no walks over the last week. But if Castellanos can continue to rediscover his power stroke, all is not lost for him this season.
The Phillies offense
Any offense would struggle on the road against Scherzer and deGrom. However, the Phillies as a unit have struggled mightily over the last week scoring runs in general, regardless of who’s pitching. That excludes an 11-run outburst in Cincinatti. They’ve been shut out three times in their last two series, four times if you extend it to the Miami series last week. Philadelphia has been particularly brutal with runners in scoring position, as they’ve hit just .194 in such situations over the last week. Their whopping 28 strikeouts with RISP is the worst in baseball over that span.
Having the bases loaded
The numbers are even worse when you consider how many times the Phillies have had the bases loaded over the last week. Their 11 plate appearances over the last 7 games with the bases loaded were the second most across baseball. Yet they went 1-11 with just 3 RBIs. Outs with the bases loaded are not inherently a bad thing. Putting the ball in play is almost a guaranteed run. However, this team struggles at that aspect, as they struck out five times in those 11 PAs. And rather astonishingly, the Phillies still do not have a hit with the bases loaded and no outs in 14 opportunities this season. They’ve struck out in half of those opportunities.
Wheeler went to the mound Sunday with a chance to help the Phillies win a massive series against the Mets in New York. However, he surrendered 6 runs on 9 hits in 6 IP in a 6-0 loss. Wheeler’s defense didn’t help him, but he did not pitch particularly well regardless. He now has a 4.36 ERA in 11 starts this season on the road as opposed to a 1.57 ERA in 11 starts at home. That drastic road split should be a growing concern for a team that will likely play on the road in the first round of the postseason if they make it there.
Vierling had a rough week at the plate despite his game-saving throw in the field. He’s hitting .167 with an OPS of .359 over his last 7 games. In fact, Vierling is hitting .154 with 13 strikeouts in 12 games played in August. He’s getting exposed as he’s been thrust into more playing time due to the injuries to Kyle Schwarber and now Brandon Marsh. The Phillies have claimed Bradley Zimmer off waivers from Toronto to platoon with Vierling until Schwarber and Marsh return. But Zimmer isn’t a strong hitter either as he has a career OPS of .446. Look for Nick Maton to get more reps in left field and possibly in center.