Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Phillies Notebook: Phillies must take a stand

Posted by Eric Fisher On September 10

The math is pretty simple for the Phillies. With 20 games remaining in the regular season, they are 4½ games behind the first-place Braves in the National League East.

The Phillies are also 4½ games behind the Cardinals in the NL wild card race, but, with multiple teams involved, that math is much more complicated.

The Phillies have a golden opportunity to gain ground on the Braves because seven of their last 11 games are against them. Even if the Phillies win five of seven from the Braves, they would only gain three games in the standings. That means the Phillies have to get closer to the Braves before they face them in Atlanta on Thurs., Sept. 20.

The Phillies must gain ground during the nine-game homestand that precedes their trip to Atlanta. The nine-game homestand, which starts tonight (Monday), includes three-game series against all of the NL East opponents – the Nationals, Marlins and Mets – except the Braves.

Before anyone gets too excited about playing the Mets and Marlins, it should be noted that the Phillies are 15-17 this season against those two teams. In fact, the Phillies lost series to the Marlins and Mets on the road trip that concluded Sunday. The Phillies dropped a pair of series to the Nationals during the final two weeks of August.

The Phillies haven’t had much success beating anyone recently. They are 0-9-1 in their last 10 series (the tie was a two-game series with the Red Sox). Their last series win came against the Marlins during the first week of August.

If there’s a chance for the Phillies, however, it is more likely that they gain ground at home. The Phillies are 43-26 at Citizen Bank Park this season. They are 31-42 on the road.

This homestand presents the Phillies with an opportunity to save their season. If they can’t take advantage of this opportunity, those two series with the Braves at the end of this month would lose a lot of their meaning.


WHO’S ON FIRST? Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana were among the first eight players named to the MLB team that will tour Japan in November as part of the 2018 All-Star Tour with Nippon Professional Baseball. But will Hoskins, who has spent most of the season in left field, or Santana be the first basemen? With Santana recently playing third base due to Maikel Franco’s wrist injury and an attempt to get Justin Bour’s bat in the lineup, maybe the answer is “neither.”


LOSSES HURT: The struggling Phillies can use all the help they can get, but they are currently without two of their better hitters. Maikel Franco (.266, 22 homers, 66 RBI) has been relegated to pinch-hitting duty by a sore right wrist. He only has seven at-bats during September, missing nearly a week. Roman Quinn, who has batted .338 since being called up from the minors, is sidelined by a displaced fracture in the pinkie toe of his right foot.


HOSKINS HOMERS: Rhys Hoskins broke a recent slump by hitting home runs in three straight games. His first-inning homer during Sunday’s loss to the Mets was his 30th home run this season. The last Phillie to hit 30 home runs was Ryan Howard in 2011.


FIRST THINGS FIRST: Speaking of Ryan Howard, he officially announced his retirement last Tuesday. Given that he hasn’t played in the majors in two years, the announcement was hardly a surprise, but it gives us an opportunity to reflect on the best first baseman in Phillies history.

Howard’s 382 home runs rank second on the Phillies’ career list, with only Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt (548) ahead of him. Howard also ranks second to Howard among Phillies in career RBI (Howard has 1,194, 301 behind Schmidt).

It will be interesting to see if Howard joins Schmidt some day in the Hall of Fame. Howard didn’t spend a full season in the majors until he was 26. For those next four years, Howard put up frightening numbers. He hit 58 home runs and produced 149 RBI during the 2006 season. He hit, in order, 47m 48 and 45 home runs during those next three seasons, with his RBI ranging from 136- to 146. He was a dominant player for four seasons and terrific for six before tailing off during the final five years of his career.

Will that be enough to earn induction into the Hall of Fame? Only time will tell. But Howard is already the best first baseman in Phillies history.


UNHAPPY RETURN: There had been much anticipation about Jerad Eickhoff finally healthy enough to pitch. His season debut came Saturday. Eickhoff allowed three hits and one run in one inning of relief during a 10-5 loss to the Mets.


OVERLOOKED DEPARTURE: It’s not the type of story that generates headlines, but the Phillies may have lost an important component when director of player development Joe Jordan decided to leave the organization. Jordan and general manager Matt Klentak worked together with the Orioles, but Jordan is not considered part of Klentak’s inner circle, which has a heavy emphasis on analytics. Jordan has received a lot of credit for the number of players developed in the farm system who have already reached the majors.


SHORT LEASH: As the playoff race has heated up, manager Gabe Kapler has had a shorter leash on his pitchers. Starters Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez have all been pulled recently after one bad inning. Relievers have also received the quick hook when they get in trouble. Kapler has more options due to roster being expanded to 40 on Sept. 1, but he also seems conscious of not letting games get away from the Phillies.


THE RACE IS ON: The Brewers have taken command of the NL wild card rae, moving 2½ games ahead of the Cardinals, who occupy the second wild card spot. The Dodgers, who are one game behind the Cardinals, are only a half-game behind the Rockies in the tight NL West race. The Diamond backs are three games behind in the wild card race. This is why the Phillies must concentrate on catching the Braves in the NL East. It will be very difficult to catch the Cardinals while also jumping over several other teams.


WILL HOME BE SWEET? As I wrote at the beginning of this notebook, the Phillies are starting a nine-game homestand. The Nationals will visit the Phillies on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (7 p.m. for all games). After an off day on Thursday, the Phillies are scheduled to play 17 straight days, starting with a weekend series with the visiting Marlins and then continuing with three games against the Mets.

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