The second half of this Phillies season is not going to be about wins and losses. We already know this team is going to lose a bunch of baseball games and will probably finish with the worst record in baseball.
So Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, while yet another soul-draining, time-sucking experience, isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. Sure, the team has lost seven of eight games going back before the All-Star break, and yeah, they’re on pace for 109 losses, which would be two losses shy of the 1941 crew that lost 111.
But at least the powder blues look beautiful. It’s almost a pleasure to watch them lose wearing those things.
If we’re going to maintain our sanity, we should be looking at the performances of certain individuals in the second half of the season. One of those individuals is the person who entered 2017 as the team’s biggest question mark, and he has happily become one of the few things upon which one can rely.
Aaron Nola continued his recent string of outstanding starts by going six innings and giving up just two runs on seven hits with nine strikeouts and two walks against Milwaukee. He threw 97 pitches (61 for strikes) and had hitters looking foolish all night.
Aaron Nola with the "Matrix" Curveball pic.twitter.com/yLIjgbR4VM— Pitcher List (@ThePitcherList) July 16, 2017
In his last five starts, Nola has an ERA of 1.78 and a WHIP of 0.99. On May 31, after his first six starts, he had an ERA of 5.06. It was 4.76 after his start on June 16. Now, on July 15, it’s 3.54.
Nola is once again pitching like the ace of the rotation, and looks like a solid No. 2 starter on a really good baseball team. Just one month ago, it looked like he had regressed.
Another encouraging sign is the play of Odubel Herrera, whose season numbers still look bad (.260 batting average, .712 OPS). But he went 2-for-4 with a double and another home run, the first time in his career he’s hit a homer in three straight games. He’s been hot recently.
Three consecutive games with a home run for Herrera, this a game-tying shot. Entered today hitting .312/.340/.514 since June 1. #Phillies— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) July 16, 2017
And then there’s the outstanding Pat Neshek, who did nothing to hurt his trade value on Saturday night. He entered in the 7th inning and, with the game tied 2-2, struck out Jonathan Villar, Eric Thames and Ryan Braun on 14 pitches. His ERA stands at 1.24 and he has a 39/5 K/BB ratio in 36 1⁄3 innings pitched this year.
Make no mistake, the Brewers are a good team, and there’s no shame in losing a tight, one-run ballgame to a potential playoff team, even if all these one-run losses are getting old pretty quick.
1-run decisions: Brewers 11-11. Phillies 11-24. 15th 1-run Phils loss on the road.— Larry Shenk (@ShenkLarry) July 16, 2017
Joaquin Benoit gave up the go-ahead run on a solo dinger by Travis Shaw in the 8th inning, the 5th home run Benoit has given up this season. Four of those blasts have either given his opponent the lead or tied the game.
And yes, the offense as a whole struggled against a variety of hard Brewers throwers, striking out 12 times on the night and mustering just four hits.
The Phils are now the first team in MLB to reach 60 losses. Only two other teams have more than 50, San Francisco (56) and San Diego (51). But remember, the losses really don’t matter all that much. Look for the positive performances from players who are likely to be here in 2018 and beyond.
Tonight, despite the loss, there was reason for optimism.