The Phillies made it through mid-season in the playoff position, which is of course better than the alternative.
They fought their way into the competition despite a slow start that convinced Chief of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski to fire manager Joe Girardi and injuries that cost base player Bryce Harper and second baseman Jan Segura big time.
The Phillies embarked on a nine-game, three-city, two-country road trip on Friday that will take them to their All-Star Break and enter Friday’s percentage points ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals in the final playoff berth. The seven closing rounds of Zach Wheeler and Sri Alec Bohm at home gave the Phillies a lead in one game.
There’s a lot of baseball to be played, and as the Phillies have proven in the past several years being at the center of the playoffs in July – or even August or late September – doesn’t mean much.
Let’s take a look at nine events in the second half as Velez tries to break an 11-year drought.
Harper and Segura return
Segura and Harper met with the media this week. Segura – who has played balls – is hoping to beat the 10- to 12-week schedule when he fractured his finger on May 31. Harper declined to give a timeline for his return, but it is highly likely that Segura will be back in the lineup early-to mid-August while Harper is back by late August or early September. Whether or not Velez’s side add on the trade deadline, the addition of these two players should be a huge boost to the club in the long run if they can only walk in the water. The Phillies have done remarkably well in the absence of two of their outstanding players.
The Bulls were cornered for the first few months of the season. Corey Nebel lost his job, and there were other meltdowns of late—Nick Nelson’s Atlanta disaster may have topped the list—that tuned victory over defeat. But Bullpen has arguably been the team’s strength in the past few weeks as every bowler except for Jeurys Familia has been out of the spotlight recently. Back end Nibel, Seranthony Dominguez, Brad Hand and Andrew Belati With competent work from Nelson and Jose Alvarado at times, new Phillies coach Rob Thompson feels good when the game reaches the late innings with a difference. The thinners allowed only two earned rounds to be made in 25 2/3 rounds this month.
Odubel Herrera missed a fly ball in a two-round double that Velez lost Wednesday’s game. On Saturday, he hit three pitches in dirt for the final. These are the only two matches that Velez have lost in their last seven matches. The Feliz know what they have in the mysterious Herrera and that’s not enough. That should mean a long hiatus for Miki Mumiak – the spring training star who was injured in the last exhibition game – and who has yet to establish himself at the major league level – and Matt Ferling. Both are capable defenders.
So there are good and question marks. Zack Wheeler will be an All-Star as Phillie for the second year in a row, with an 8-4 record and a 2.46 ERA. Aaron Nola could be an All-Star but could also face numbers status on the roster along with a sub-0.500 (5-6) record. But his age of 3.15 is a better indication of his presentation. Can they both continue to succeed in the second half? It seems likely that they both have track records. Kyle Gibson has struggled recently and has a 4-3 record and disappointed 4.91 ERA, but Velez can handle him as the fifth starter. The biggest question is the health of Zach Evelyn (knee) and Rangers Suarez (back). If they both return after the All-Star break, they will have one of the best tournaments in the league.
Didi Gregorios has had knee problems all season. He spent about a month on the injured list and recently needed an injection that cost him three matches. While the veteran shortstop returned, his strength strike did not return. He has yet to hit a home run this season – a streak that nearly ended on his way to the wall that Washington’s Juan Soto missed by three on Wednesday. Gregorius still plays well in defense and hits a respectable 2,547 with nine doubles and threes, but Velez needs more and it will be interesting to see how playing time is distributed between Segura and Gregorius and rookie Bryson Stott when Segura returns.
Kyle Schwarber was June’s Player of the Month for the second year in a row, shooting 12 home runs and leg 27. And he went on to hot hits in July, hitting four homers and knocking 12 down. League and bat-at-at-bats became a TV must-have. However, Schwarber hit .169 in April and .196 in May, so there is confusion in his game. Schwarber probably won’t maintain his prolific pace – although 50 is out of the question – but as long as he doesn’t have an extended cold streak, he’s a player who will definitely help the Phillies as they try to end a drought.
Realmuto and Castellanos
While Schwarber came out of the drought in a big way, catcher JT Realmuto started production again, albeit a bit more brilliant—hitting .276 with a seven RBI in the last home and continuing to knock out runners as well as anyone in baseball. Velez needs the right pitcher Nick Castellanos to finally get hot. Castellanos only made 0.251 with eight home runs, although he led 44. Last year, Castellanos hit .309 with 34 home points and 100 RBI. Velez may need big second halves from both players to stay in the race.
Velez was between 22 and 29 years old when Thompson took over as manager after Gerardi was fired. They are 23-10 since then. If they can play in that clip of 0.696 for the rest of the season, the playoff drought will likely be over. It is probably not sustainable. But a win ratio of 0.570 the rest of the way (45-34) would take the Phillies 90 wins and definitely put them in the playoffs. It remains to be seen if Thompson’s steady hand will continue to drive Phillies’ transformation.
Dombrowski is not the one standing pat. An aggressive trader, he can be active on Deadline – even though he knows he’s going to get two stats in Segura and Harper. So what could the need be? A month ago, Bullpen appeared to be the overpowering desire, but with ‘the pen laying the way it has been for the past six weeks, they may choose to use their resources in other ways. If Evelyn and Suarez are healthy, then Velez will be set to spin but depth is an issue and they may not’ They both want to bet five regular players on the rest of their starts, especially with Evelyn’s injury history.The midfielder could be on the wish list especially if Monyak doesn’t prove capable of hitting the courts in the major league over the next few weeks even though Vierling is better than he got. on him.
Bill Evans can be reached at [email protected]. Thank you for counting on us to provide journalism you can trust. Please consider support NJ.com with a subscription.