MLB

Now comes the biggest series of the season for the Phillies as they host the Nationals for four games

HUNTER MARTIN/GETTY IMAGES

The Phillies could have easily tucked their tails between their legs and phoned in the third game of their series with the Yankees after falling down two games to none. Instead they came out and played well behind a strong performance by Zach Eflin.

Eflin who threw seven innings, allowed four hits and struckout six – set the Phillies up for success against one of the best teams in baseball. Rhys Hoskins hit a three-run homerun in the second inning was enough to win the game.

Taking game three was a huge testament to the heart and fight of this Phillies team. It also gives them a good boost before their four game series against the Nationals that starts on June 28.

As it stands, the Phillies are second in the National League East with a 42-36 record, 2.5 games behind the Braves. The Nationals are 41-37, 3.5 games behind the Braves. The Phillies need to perform well against a struggling Nationals team in order to give them some cushion in a close NL East. Let’s look to the starters:

The starters for the series for the Phillies will be Aaron Nola, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Jake Arrieta. Before the season I would bet that Nola and Arrieta, for sure, would put up quality starts and give the team a solid chance to win. On the other hand I would be worried about Pivetta and Velasquez. right now, I’m confident that Nola will give the team enough to win game one. Pivetta and Velasquez are still question marks but they have been trending upwards this season. Arrieta has been struggling since he called out Scott Kingery earlier this month. He needs to turn it around if the Phillies want to – at least – split the series.

It’s huge that the Phillies could possibly avoid Scherzer. I see no reason why the Phillies can’t take three of these four games against those starters. The Phillies offense will have plenty of chances to score runs against those four guys. It all falls back on the Phils starters to keep a potent Nationals offense in check.

I already mentioned it, but the pitching needs to show up if the Phillies want to take this series. I’m not just talking about the starters, I mean the bullpen too. Seranthony Dominguez can’t do it alone; he needs help from the other guys. There’s a chance the Phillies will see Pat Neshek for the first time this season as he’s finishing up a rehab assignment.

If Neshek comes up, over the weekend look for him to get immersed later in the series. He will provide an immediate upgrade to the bullpen and could steady the ship.

Taking game three of the Yankees series was huge. It showed that this team puts the “Fight” in Fightin’ Phils and it will give them a huge confidence boost to take on a division rival with direct implications to the standings.

My prediction for the four games: the Phillies take three games behind excellent starts by Nola, Velasquez and Arrieta. Scott Kingery stays hot at the plate and mashes his fourth major league homerun and contributes on the defensive end as well. If the Phils take three games they will have a two game cushion over the Nationals while closing the gap on the Braves. They would take a 45-37 record down to Baltimore where they’ll be able to build on an impressive stretch against one of the worst teams in baseball. In the first game of that series Zach Eflin will take the mound after going 5-0 in June.  It’s an exciting time to be a Phillies fan, isn’t it?

 


You can follow Anthony Mazziotti on Twitter (@AntMazziotti) and e-mail him at anthonymazziottiwriting@gmail.com.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. johnnyeagle

    June 28, 2018 at 2:07 PM

    If the pitching is going to mature we should see improvement in the young guys as the season progresses. Without improved consistent command it is going to be a frustrating season. Kapler could help by learning how to better manage a bullpen. Relievers seem to thrive on understanding their roles. Analytics plays a part but it is must be leavened with common sense. Pitchers are human beings not machines. I hope Kapler understands what makes the individuals tick. I get that he is learning the guys. He may need a little more Uncle Charlie and a little less DDDM.

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