Heading into Monday night’s matchup against the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies sit just one-and-a-half games behind the first-place team they’re set to host. At this point of the season, nobody thought either the Phillies or Braves would be in this position. Sure, it’s a long season, but with the struggles of the Nationals and Mets, and the farm team in the Marlins, the Phillies and Braves are currently the class of the National League East.
Yes, it’s only May 21st. Yes, this could change by as early as next weekend. Yes, it’s too early to say the Phillies and Braves are favorites to make the postseason.
But the upcoming series that begins tonight at Citizens Bank Park will tell us a lot about both teams. Thus far, the Phillies have played well and lost some heartbreaking games. The Braves, on the other hand, lodged a six-run rally on Sunday in the 9th inning to defeat the Marlins, so they’re already thinking about being a team of destiny. Nobody gave them a shot, but they’re for real. And the Phillies are trying to prove they’re real, too. Until someone knocks off the Washington Nationals, it’s all up in the air.
On Monday night, Nick Pivetta takes the mound against Mike Foltynewicz. Foltynewicz has a 3.74 ERA against the Phillies in ten games, but this season he’s already had three starts against them, going 1-0 with a 2.12 ERA. Pivetta has a 3.48 ERA in six career starts against Atlanta. Pivetta’s been gaining some traction as he continues to make start after start and could actually become one of the Phillies’ stronger arms as the season moves on.
Rhys Hoskins has been struggling at the plate, only hitting two home runs so far in the month of May, but I think we’ll see that trend wane away series after series heading into the summer. Hopefully Hoskins can find his swing against the Braves.
The Phillies and Braves won’t meet again until September after this series, so the Phillies need to take advantage while they can. Come September, I’m sure these two teams could be battling it out for a wild card spot, if not for the NL East crown. After all, if the Phillies can somehow manage to sweep the Braves, they’d be in first place in the division by Wednesday night. And that’s a good spot to be at no matter the time of year.
I understand the tepidness to believe this Phillies team can make the playoffs, but there’s no reason to believe they can’t sustain playing winning baseball. They’ve got the tools and talent, it’s just a matter of putting it all into place. And that’s something Gabe Kapler will have to make happen.
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