May 27, 2022
The Phillies got back on track and stayed even with the Braves this week with a 2-2 series split that was a little unusual. A weird walk-off loss, a collapsing bullpen and a dominant performance from a one-time ace characterized a series the Phils hope they can build some momentum off of as a tough stretch on the schedule continues.
• On Tuesday the Phillies used a solid Zach Wheeler outing and some potent offense to cruise to an easy 7-3 win to kick things off.
• In Game 2, four Bryce Harper RBIs were wasted as bullpen mismanagement and an implosion cost the Phillies in a 6-5 setback.
• Philadelphia fell behind early and couldn't climb out of an early deficit, losing Game 3, 8-4
• Aaron Nola was dominant as the Phillies cruised to a no-brainer 4-1 win to end the set.
We'll hand out the most obvious hardware first. Aaron Nola pitched a gem Thursday night, striking out 10 batters and pitching into the ninth inning. He gave up a double and was relieved with two outs to go, the only blemish to his ledger coming when that Brave crossed the plate harmlessly in the final frame.
Nola allowed just five hits spread out over his 109 pitches. If he and Wheeler are able to offer the Phillies' awful bullpen (more on that in a bit) a break every week and make it easier for the offense the Phillies could have the missing piece for a run of success.
The Phillies' top prospect turned a lot of heads in spring training, earning a roster spot in an infield with an opening for a reliable bat and glove. But Bryson Stott has not shown he is a big leaguer this spring and it's been hard to watch. He was 0-for-6 against the Braves in limited opportunities and hasn't had a hit since May 19. He is hitting .119 this season and is making it hard to justify getting at bats over Johan Camargo or Alec Bohm.
MVPs do what MVPs do. Against the Braves, Harper — who still is unable to play in the field due to an elbow injury — went 9-for-17 (.529) against the Braves, including his four hit, four RBI night in Game 2. The full-time DH is hitting .310 with 10 homers and 31 RBI, and is doing it injured and after a three-game layoff due to injury last week.
After starting the year as one of the Phils' better hitters, Castellanos has fallen way off and was basically invisible in Atlanta. The big free-agent acquisition had two hits in 18 at bats (.111) though he did smack an RBI in the series. His batting average before the series started was .265. It is now .249. Castellanos has not had hits in back-to-back games since May 13 and 14 in Los Angeles.
In case you missed our deep dive into how the Phillies bullpen is the team's biggest weakness once again, you can read it here. But it's nothing the eye test can't easily reveal. In 9.2 innings against the Braves, the Phils pen surrendered 17 hits and eight runs (a 7.82 ERA).
In the second game of the series, a timely go-ahead Harper home run in the top of the ninth was made irrelevant when Joe Girardi stuck with James Norwood for the bottom of it, and blew the game late. The next night, the pen was unable to keep it close as the Braves pulled away, following a sub-par start from Ranger Suarez.
The starters can only do so much, and the offense is clearly a streaky and inconsistent unit. The pen needs to be better if the Phillies want any chance of pushing for a playoff spot later in the summer.
It feels like the Phillies are facing the Mets like every single week, and they'll face off for the last time in a while this weekend as Bailey Falter, Zack Eflin and Zach Wheeler take the mound. The Phils are 3-6 against New York this season. All three games will start around 7 p.m. in Queens.
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