The Phillies came into Milwaukee after yet another disappointing performance down in Miami against the Marlins. Miami has given them fits for years now when the games are meaningful for Philadelphia. The Phillies then headed up to Milwaukee for a series with the Brewers, a team who is comfortably sitting in a playoff spot.
The Phillies swept Milwaukee in 4 games back in May, and kept their domination going in Game 1 with a 12-0 victory. The Brewers responded in a big way, however, with a 10-0 win in Game 2 and 4-3 win in Game 3 to take the series. Let’s take a look at some of the players who have contributed to the team over the past few games.
As dominant as Zack Wheeler has been for the majority of the season, he had really struggled in his recent starts coming into Monday afternoon in Milwaukee. In his four starts before that outing, he allowed four, six, five, and six runs. There are legitimate concerns over his workload considering he has only approached this amount of innings once during his big league career. The Phillies utilized a bullpen game to give him an extra day of rest this time around, and it seemed to pay off in a big way.
Wheeler got himself back on track Monday afternoon as he went 6 innings allowing only 5 hits, 0 runs, and 9 K’s. It was the Wheeler we had been seeing all year before this recent rough stretch. It was a very encouraging sign that the Phillies may have figured out a way to keep him fresh down the stretch. If the Phillies want any type of postseason run, they need Wheeler at his best. He will likely be starting Saturday against Colorado for his next outing.
Harper may have only had three hits in the three game series in Milwaukee, but he made them count with two first inning home runs to set the tone early. In the first game of the series, he launched a two run shot to dead center to begin a long day of Phillies homers. Harper started off the final game of the series with a long ball as well. As the leader of this team, he wants to go out and make an early statement and try and get his team some momentum. He is often not given the protection he deserves. However, he still goes out and does what he has to do.
BRYCE HARPER CONTINUES HIS HOME RUN RAMPAGE pic.twitter.com/v1AYtbyKWk— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) September 5, 2021
Harper now has at least a base hit in 14 of the last 15 games he has played in. He is doing everything in his power to will his way into the postseason, regardless of who is around him. He is hitting .301 with a .999 OPS, and 29 HR’s. Whether or not he wins the MVP over Fernando Tatis Jr. really could come down to which of their teams makes the postseason. Bryce is putting together an MVP caliber season whether he wins or not.
Boy, did the Phillies miss Sam Coonrod. After heading to the injured list after an outing on June 23rd vs Washington, Coonrod made his return on August 26th in Arizona. He has been everything that they have needed of late to help them survive. He has been absolutely lighting up the radar gun with velocities up to 101-102, which he wasn’t even doing before he got his injury in the first place.
The Phillies as a whole lack elite level velocity in their bullpen outside of José Alvarado, and Coonrod fills that void very well.
Coonrod has allowed only one run in his last five outings, with ten strikeouts in the process. Ian Kennedy may have the closer job for the time being, but I genuinely think Coonrod would do well in that role. He has been much better when coming in to start an inning as opposed to coming in with inherited runners on base. Regardless of what role he is in officially, he is going to be huge for this team down the stretch. A healthy Coonrod and a dominant Neris make up a very good bridge to Ian Kennedy.
Some very unfortunate news has come out that RHP Zach Eflin will undergo surgery on his patellar tendon, and could potentially miss the start of the 2022 season. Eflin has not pitched in a game since July 17th vs Miami, but recently had been recalled to the Major League roster and was scratched on the day he was set to return. It appeared he suffered a setback, and the Phillies opted to get the surgery and deal with it for good. It is certainly frustrating that Eflin was so close to coming back only to have that idea derailed. Eflin potentially being out for the start of 2022 is a really tough development for the team.
Eflin’s numbers will not usually jump off the page at you, but he is a very solid middle to lower of the rotation guy to have. He’s usually good for six or more inning when he goes out there, and will always keep you in the game. The 2021 Phillies have already been feeling the repercussions of Eflin’s injury. Now, the 2022 Phillies will likely be affected as well.
It is understandable that Aaron Nola has grown to be frustrated with the constant conversation about his rough numbers in the month of September. With that being said, nothing that is being said is anything that isn’t true. If Nola wants to be considered an ace in this league, this is the time of year where he needs to show that. That type of respect isn’t just given out. Nola seems to have been trying to implement his cutter more, which has not worked out too well this season.
On paper, Nola’s start Tuesday evening in Milwaukee wasn’t absolutely horrible. 5 innings pitched, 6 H, 3 ER, 6 K’s. The biggest concern here is the 5 innings pitched. This time of year, especially for this Phillies team, the arms are starting to run low. The Phillies are already utilizing bullpen games, they need all the help they can get from their starters. The bullpen gets a lot of hate and sometimes rightfully so. However, the starters this series outside of Zack Wheeler did not give them much help. He will likely make his next start Sunday afternoon against Colorado.
Ever since Rhys Hoskins was injured, there were questions on who would protect Bryce Harper in the Phillies order. J.T. Realmuto has been frequently the cleanup hitter, and he has not performed up to the expectations. Realmuto had several opportunities in this series to come up with a big hit, and several times he came up small.
Realmuto is being paid the most money any catcher has ever gotten in the history of the league. He has a .785 OPS this year. That is fine for a catcher, but he’s not just any catcher, and we shouldn’t hold him to the standard of other catchers. Signing him comes with the expectation that he will be significantly better than other catchers. While he has performed very well defensively, the team desperately needs his bat to wake up.
Realmuto is far from the biggest problem that the team has, but he can be the biggest solution. Bryce Harper and Jean Segura are on base a lot of the time. Realmuto needs to be able to drive them in and make pitchers pay for working around them. There’s no incentive to pitch to Harper when they don’t fear anyone behind him. If Realmuto continues to hit the way he has been lately, it’s going to be very difficult for the Phillies to find themselves playing in October
Todd Zolecki, who covers the Phillies for MLB.com, decided for some reason to try a cheesesteak in his home state of Wisconsin.
It does not appear that was a wise decision.