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Phillies news and links — It doesn’t get easier

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I wish I had good news for you, but the Phillies face the Cubs next, so.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get philosophical this morning, folks. This weekend was hard, and things aren’t gong to get much easier from here, so let’s sit down in a circle and have a good old fashioned youth group-style rap session. Does someone have a guitar they could lightly strum in the background?

What does this three-game sweep mean?

It means nothing. It hurts, but it means nothing. The winning streak was going to have to end, and even though it ended really, really badly, it doesn’t mean it never happened. The Phillies do have a lot of potential, and that winning streak showed us that they can put it all together.

That the Phillies couldn’t sustain that whole put-it-all-together thing is why they’re still a work in progress, though. Any team can beat any other team at any time, no matter how good anyone is. But the systematic dismantling the Dodgers heaped on the Phillies is why the Dodgers are better.

Okay, but what does it REALLY mean?

It means that the Phillies can and will get beat by good teams. The Dodgers’ record showed them as a struggling team coming into the weekend, but now on the other side, they’re looking more like the team they should be. That’s what happens when a good team (the Dodgers) faces a hot team (the Phillies).

It also means that Pete Mackanin can’t run a bullpen to save his life. It’s starting to become a real problem. He may say things like “we don’t have a closer” but don’t listen to him, because he obviously subscribes to the same outdated bullpen structure that every other manager does. I have no problem with him sending Jeanmar Gomez out there, because how are we supposed to know that he still sucks unless we see it? But beyond that, he’s often acts like he has no other options. Hector Neris was overused last year, and this year he’s essentially on the same pace. Pete is bad at this.

But why does it feel like this?

Well first, it feels like this because the loss on Saturday night was so incredibly demoralizing that it cast a pall on the entire weekend, regardless of how things were going to go on Sunday.

But it feels like this because we were all riding high after straight sweeps and a six-game winning streak. We want to feel like things are getting better for the Phillies. We want to see continued improvement. And it’s not that the Phillies can’t show that kind of improvement, but they’re not quite at the point yet where they can sustain it. They’re not at that point where we can really say “okay, now plow through the Dodgers.” The implosion of the bullpen this weekend should show everyone that the Phillies aren’t ready, and that Pete Mackanin isn’t ready for the Phillies to be that kind of team, either.

A few more things about this weekend of losing

Todd Zolecki wrote about the struggles of Hector Neris, and how these travails might be due to his splitter usage. In that he’s not actually using it. For a guy who baffled so many guys with his splitter, it’s certifiably INSANE that he’s not using it more. Pitching coach Bob McClure doesn’t seem too worried, and considering how early it is in the year, maybe he’s right. But it seems like the Phillies coaching and managerial staff are dealing with some of these nascent issues with more nonchalance than the situations warrant.

Here’s something unpleasant:

And now a few things about the offense.

Woof.

Let’s compare Aaron Nola to another blonde pitcher who shall remain nameless

Aaron Nola is having some back issues, and he suffered a setback over the weekend. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly wrote that Nola is going to try out his back with a Monday bullpen session, and hopes he can pitch on Thursday, but that seems relatively unlikely.

There’s another blonde pitcher out there with flowing locks who has also been encountering some health problems. Some call him “Thor,” but I call him “Young Idiot Who Thinks He’s God And Wants To Risk His Future Career For Literally No Reason.” But if I call him that, I’d have to call his team the “Team That Can’t Get Out Of Their Own Way And Wants To Cause Their Fans Unending Heartbreak Forever.” So it’s just easier if I call that young idiot Noah Syndergaard and his team the Mets.

Aaron Nola told Salisbury that there are currently no plans for an MRI, but when he mentioned that, he didn’t run screaming into the night or claim he knows his body better than anyone else. If the Phillies wanted him to get an MRI, something tells me he’d do it, because he’s not a moron.

What’s next?

The Phillies head to Chicago this week to take on the defending World Series champs, so hold on to your butts. It doesn’t get any easier from here. The Cubs are looking for an opportunity to show everyone they’re just as dominant as they were last year, and the Phillies are the perfect team for them to wail on.

Stay strong, friends. We’ve seen what this team can be, and they will be that again. They may need to get the crap beaten out of them by the Dodgers and Cubs first, but they will be that again.