On Episode 205 of “Hittin’ Season,” hosts John Stolnis, Liz Roscher and Justin Klugh discuss the Phils’ frustrating series against New York, why no one in the division seems to want to win it right now, Aaron Nola’s MVP case and the struggles of Odubel Herrera.
So, does anyone in the NL East want to make the playoffs?
After losing three out of five games to the lowly New York Mets this weekend in Philadelphia (and Williamsport), getting outscored 43-20 in the series and falling to 5-8 against them on the season, the Phils still somehow remain just 1⁄2 a game behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
The Phillies missed a golden opportunity to jump into first as the Braves got swept in a four-game series in Atlanta against the red-hot Colorado Rockies, a much better opponent than the Phils faced in the Mets, to be sure. The Washington Nationals, who are still not technically “out of it” thanks to the recent ineptitude of the Braves and Phillies, are still 6 1⁄2 games behind Philadelphia and 7 games behind Atlanta.
They’re not dead yet, although two of their arms as well as a leg have been chopped off and they’re hopping around the forest right now.
One could argue that the entire National League is just kind of waiting around for someone to do something.
Right now, there is a three-way tie for the two NL wild-card spots among Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Colorado, with St. Louis a half-game back and LA 1.5 behind. Add in division-leading Arizona and Atlanta, and there are seven NL teams within two games of each other. Chaos rules.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 20, 2018
That the Phillies are right in the middle of everything in mid-August is exciting, but they’ve missed chance after chance after chance to put the Braves and Nats away over the last month or so. During the month they were in first place, their lead never got bigger than 2 1⁄2 games, thanks to a 15-15 record since the All-Star Break and series losses to second-division clubs like the Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, Miami Marlins and now the Mets.
The Braves haven’t been a whole lot better. They have gone 16-13 since the break, but lost a game on Saturday night in which they held a 3-0 lead in the 9th inning, with 2 outs and 2 strikes. They gave up four consecutive hits to blow that lead, eventually falling 5-3 in 10 innings — a loss worse than any the Phillies have suffered so far this season. But the Braves haven’t lost any series to any losing teams over the last month, either.
As for the Nats, they are re-enacting the 2012 Phillies season almost to the letter. They are 14-15 in the second half, and lost two out of three to the Marlins this weekend (falling in the finale 12-1). They’ve lost series to the Cardinals and Cubs over the last month, two good teams, but also fell to the Mets, too.
At some point, it figures one of these teams will go on a run, and the Phillies are as well-equipped as any of them to do that. On paper, they have a deep lineup, and the starting pitching has been solid all season. Sure, there are the occasional hiccups from Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez, but they’ve been solid more often than not. Prolonged slumps by Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana are killing the offense right now, and the mental and physical lapses on defense are hard to take.
The only thing the Phils can do is wipe the slate clean, and focus on beating the Nationals in Washington this week. If they sweep Washington they can bury them, but the hope is the team can win two out of three and ask that the Braves’ slide continues this week in Pittsburgh against the Pirates.
Eventually, someone is going to win the NL East, even if no one seems to want to right now.