Sean Newcomb pitched for the Braves on Sunday afternoon against the Milwaukee Brewers. This was his final line:
4 IP, 12 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
In fact, Atlanta pitchers surrendered a combined 19 hits and four walks, but it didn’t matter. The Braves won the game, and not only did they win the game, they also moved back into a first-place tie atop the NL East after the Phillies were pummeled by the inferior San Diego Padres in a sloppy and listless 9-3 loss.
So why did I mention Newcomb’s start? Because I need a new way to frame a piece that focuses on how absolutely miserable the Phillies lineup is right now. Can you imagine any scenario at the moment in which this team overcomes a similar effort from a starting pitcher to win a game? Of course not. And that’s why you knew, I knew, we all knew that they were completely boned in only the third inning when Freddy Galvis took Jake Arrieta out of the yard for a grand slam. Because why wouldn’t Freddy Galvis hit a grand slam?
Freddy Galvis is having a GRAND time this afternoon @PetcoPark!
— FOX Sports San Diego (@FOXSportsSD) August 12, 2018
Yup. That was it. Game over.
How bad has this offense been? It was a meaningless eighth inning trio of runs away from being shutout for the third time in four games. It managed only 15 runs in six games on this west coast swing. In fact, since beating the Reds 9-4 back on July 26, the Phillies have scored only 25 runs over their last 11 road games. Unsurprisingly, they went only 3-8. Infuriatingly, they managed to lose four games in which their starting pitcher allowed two runs or less during that stretch.
You don’t have to look too closely to see why this offense so frequently struggles to scrape together a functional collective offensive effort. Maikel Franco and Nick Williams have remained hot in recent weeks, but it’s hard to find much else to feel good about.
Cesar Hernandez entered today with a .690 OPS and nine extra base hits since June 1. Rhys Hoskins is in the midst of a 1 for 27 slump that began last Saturday. Carlos Santana’s .747 OPS is a career-worst. He’s the team’s clean-up hitter and has seven extra-base hits in 130 at-bats since July 1. Mookie Betts has nine extra-base hits since last Sunday. Odubel Herrera, an early-season MVP candidate, is hitting .161 in August with only one walk and one extra-base hit in 32 plate appearances. Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro are hitting a combined .179 this month with zero extra-base hits. They have struck out in 18 of their combined 45 plate appearances. Oh, and Scott Kingery doesn’t have a hit since the team acquired Asdrubal Cabrera. He’s 0 for his last 21 with eight strikeouts.
Looking for a silver lining? It doesn’t seem to matter if they face elite, average, or weak starting pitching. They beat Zack Grienke one night, get shut down by a no-namer or struggling arm the next. Consider this:
Today was the 40th time this season the Phillies have been held to 2 runs or less by a starting pitcher who either entered with an ERA over 4.00 or is a rookie.
— Corey Seidman (@CSeidmanNBCS) August 12, 2018
Maybe that’s a good omen as they prepare to face 14-game winner Rick Porcello on Tuesday night, followed later in the week by the slew of excellent Mets arms that always gives them fits.
So what should Gabe Kapler do? What can he do? There’s a fine line between a panic move and enacting meaningful change to what’s recently been a failing approach. He can cross his fingers and stay the course, or perhaps he considers adding Justin Bour’s .835 OPS against right-handed pitching this season to the starting lineup a few nights a week. The addition and impending return of Wilson Ramos, who might instantly become the team’s best hitter, should also provide a boost. But make no mistake here. This lineup’s recent failures aren’t on Kapler. They aren’t on Matt Klentak. We’re always quick to blame the decision-makers, but at some point, the players who have woefully underperformed have to wake up. If they don’t, the Braves and Nationals are going to run right past these guys:
— BWanksCB (@BWCrossingBroad) August 13, 2018
Fine. Maybe not the Nationals, but you get the point.