After it seemed like the Philadelphia Phillies had hit rock bottom in an abysmal sweep by the Baltimore Orioles, a four-game win streak got them right back in the thick of things. Despite falling to the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, August 19, the Phillies remain just two games back of the first-place Atlanta Braves at 9-10. There are several major reasons to point towards the Phillies revival.
Bryce Harper Is in MVP Form
Bryce Harper entered play on Wednesday in the top-five in baseball in five of the most important offensive statistics. Batting average (4th), on-base percentage (1st), stolen bases (tied-3rd), slugging percentage (5th), and OPS (2nd). With a current slash line of .349/.474/.667 it’s clear that Harper is in his 2015 MVP form. J.T. Realmuto has been on fire since Opening Day, but Harper has really turned it up a level this past week.
Quality Starting Pitching
The big guns Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler have been nothing short of phenomenal to start the 2020 season. Nola is clearly in 2018 form that led to 25 quality starts, a 2.37 ERA, and 9.5 K/9 placing third in Cy Young voting. He is currently striking out 12.9 per nine innings with quality starts in three of his four games and a 2.05 ERA. Meanwhile, Wheeler has been everything they paid for with a 2.81 ERA, and three of four quality starts. The interesting part is that he is doing so without the strikeouts this year only whiffing 4.2 per nine.
Bullpen Sort of Finding Rhythm
Everyone knows about the Phillies immense bullpen struggles that have led to the worst ERA in the MLB. They still have that embarrassing title by more than two runs, however, they have shown their first bright spots over the past few games. Since getting called up on August 11, Blake Parker has thrown four and one-thirds scoreless innings striking out seven. The 25-year-old Connor Brogdon got the call-up on the same day and really struggled in his debut. However, on Wednesday, August 19 against the Red Sox he got out of a tough jam with runners on second and third, and no outs. Veteran Adam Morgan and rookie Ramon Rosso have looked more comfortable at times this week as well.
Alec Bohm Call-Up
The biggest jolt of the week was the Phillies calling up their top prospect and the 31st-best according to MLB.com Alec Bohm. Since the call-up, Bohm has 20 plate appearances and is hitting .353 with six hits, two doubles, and three walks. It appears as though third base is his to run with and he is taking full advantage of it on both sides of the field. His debut week featured two top web gems at the hot corner.
Cat-like reflexes. 🙀 pic.twitter.com/KovIk1hplG
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) August 19, 2020
Keys to Winning the East
Continue to Dominate the Mets
The 2020 Phillies hopeful revival began with a sweep of the New York Mets who they have dominated in recent memory winning 13 of their last 17. With seven games left to play in the season series, the Phillies have the opportunity to really gain momentum in the NL East race. If they could take eight of the ten games or better against the Mets they will be in strong shape.
Perform Against the Nationals
Conversely, the Phillies have really struggled of late against the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals losing ten of their last eleven. Over the past two seasons, they trail enormously in the series with a record of 13-25. With all 10 of their games yet to be played against the Nationals in 2020, this series could very well make or break the Phillies season. They will need Harper to get the team extra motivated to bring it to his former team.
Capitalize on Doubleheaders
After the Miami Marlins outbreak of the virus put the Phillies season on pause, they will have several doubleheaders in the future including Thursday, August 20 against the Toronto Blue Jays. This creates a unique opportunity for a team whose bullpen is their greatest weakness. As long as the Phillies can get quality starts out of their trusted rotation arms in a seven-inning game, they could take advantage of these make-up games.
Solidify the “Back-End”
For as great as Nola and Wheeler have been this season, the rest of the rotation still leaves a lot of uncertainty. The Phillies seem to never know what they are going to get out of Zach Eflin and especially Jake Arrieta. The recent call-up of top prospect Spencer Howard has yet to really pan out but what did they expect from a guy who has never made a triple-A start. If these three have not found stability before the trade deadline, the Philadelphia Phillies should look for both back-end relief help and back-end starting pitching.
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