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July 04, 2024

Quick hits: Trea Turner, Phillies take Cub series despite sour ending

Several Phillies stepped up for yet another series against a lesser NL opponent out in Chicago.

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Phillies-Trea-Turner-Cubs_070424_USAT Kamil Krzaczynski/USA Today Sports

Trea Turner had an impressive series in Chicago this week.

The Phillies won another series against another lesser opponent this week, besting the Cubs in the first two games of a three-game set before getting pummeled in the third.

Still, the Phils carry an 8.5-game lead in the NL East and boast the best record in baseball overall — and they're doing it extremely short-handed. Things continue to look up for the most impressive team in the sport.

Here are five major takeaways from the series...

Trea bien

How is it possible that Trea Turner is having this kind of season under the radar? Seemingly outshined by fellow All-Star starters Bryce Harper and Alec Bohm, Turner missed some time due to injury back in May, but clearly didn't miss a beat. And against the Cubs, he flexed his MVP chops.

In Game 1 Tuesday, Turner went 3-for-5 with two homers and four runs batted in, matching the Cubs' offensive output all by himself. In Game 2, the shortstop had two more hits and scored two runs in a clutch victory. He also had a hit and a run scored in Thursday's finale.

Turner's defense can be frustrating at times, but when you have a player like that hitting .340 on the season, you take it and run with it.

Catching up

J.T. Realmuto hasn't swung a bat for the Phillies in nearly a month, but against the Cubs, his backups stepped up in a big way. First, Garrett Stubbs hit an early two-run double to get the Phillies ahead for good in the series opener. Then Rafael Marchán hit a solo shot to tie things up in the middle game on Wednesday. 

There was some buzz that the Phils might even look for outside help to fill the gap at catcher until Realmuto's return — likely around the All-Star break — but clearly, the players they have are making the most of their opportunities.

Be like Mike

There were seasons and seasons for the Phillies where they were unable to get any impactful pitching from their farm system. This season, they're basically finding aces everywhere they look. Ranger Suárez and Cristopher Sánchez are among the best pitchers in all of baseball. Both were homegrown. Aaron Nola is one of the highest-paid pitchers in all of baseball — he too was homegrown.

With Spencer Turnbull and Taijuan Walker sidelined, minor-league unknown Michael Mercado was called up and called upon to start against the Cubs this week. The 25-year-old pitched one inning of relief in his MLB debut last week, and went five strong in Chicago, allowing one run in what was likely expected to be more of an "opener" than a "starter" appearance. But it looks like he'll get a few more chances to be a starter after his first-ever win Tuesday.

A sour note

Of course, the Phillies were unable to clinch a sweep, as their pitching faltered in the matinee Thursday, an ugly 10-2 loss. Days after learning he was the NL pitcher of the month, Sánchez struggled with a brutal five-run fourth inning. He allowed seven runs in total and saw his ERA climb close to three (2.96, up from 2.41 following his first career shutout) in by far his worst start of the season.

It's hard for an injury-torn offense to really step up when the starter gives up a lead like Sánchez did, and the Phillies will need to have a short memory — as will their young and upcoming pitcher, who'll face a much tougher lineup the next time he's on the hill.

NL beasts

The Phillies have played the easiest schedule in the National League so far. That will change this weekend. After the Phillies depart Chicago, they'll be facing their biggest rivals — the Braves — for a trio of games in Atlanta, with the Braves eager to close a sizable gap in the NL East standings. 

After that, it's three games against the second-best team in the league, the NL-west leading Dodgers, who are likely to be the Phillies' biggest competition this fall in the chase for a pennant. 

This season the Phils have feasted on sub .500 opponents, and on the NL West. If they can come away from these two series with a winning record — doing it without Harper, Kyle Schwarber and Realmuto (the first two of whom will be eligible to return for the Dodgers series only), it will be quite the statement.

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