After the slow start for the Phillies who opened the season with a 1-4 record, things are starting to come together for the entire roster. Earlier this afternoon, the Phillies completed the sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays with a 10-4 win, which improved their record to 9-5. 8 wins in their last 9 games leaves me asking one question: do you still want to fire Gabe Kapler?
If you have not already, now should be the time where you take back some of the things you said about the new Phillies manager. There was a lot of noise from the “Fire Kapler” crowd following the first two series of the season. Since losing both games in New York against the Mets, that crowd remains silent.
The first game of the series against Tampa Bay did not show the same offensive performance as shown in games 2 and 3. The takeaway from game 1 was the impressive bounce back performance by starting pitcher Vince Velasquez. After an awful first start for the right-hander (2.2IP, 9H, 7R, 4ER, 2BB, 4K), the last two outings were positive signs.
In both starts since his performance on March 31st, Velasquez was able to hand the ball off to the bullpen in the 7th inning. While totaling 13 strikeouts in his last two starts, only two batters were able to reach on base via a walk. For someone who is always criticized about his control and high pitch counts, his latest start in Tampa Bay put the Phillies in a position to win.
After the 2-1 pitchers duel in game 1 of the series, the bats came alive for the remainder of the weekend. The Phillies totaled 19 runs on 21 hits in the final two games and also walked 9 times while only striking out in 11 at bats. These numbers are a good sign for a team that does not have a consistent starting lineup.
Like most games this season, manager Gabe Kapler has thrown out a different starting lineup than the previous game. During the series against Tampa Bay, Kapler had 3 different starting lineups that faced Rays pitching. The front four in the order remained the same this weekend with César Hernández, Carlos Santana, Odubel Herrera, and Rhys Hoskins, but there was constant changed from 5-9. We will continue to see this as the season goes on thanks to the use of analytics from Kapler.
Except for the 20 run outburst against the Miami Marlins, the 9 runs in game two and the 10 runs in game three were the most scored in a game for the Phillies in 2018. To make things even better, the Phillies were able to score all of those runs without having to rely on the home run.
In game two, J.P Crawford had the only home run, which was a solo shot off of Rays starter Chris Archer. This afternoon, Aaron Altherr hit a 3-run home run, which like game two, was the only home run of the day. For a team to score 19 runs in two games, and only have 2 of their 21 hits go over the fence, shows that the Phillies are taking advantage when they have runners in scoring position.
With runners in scoring position during the final two games of the series, Phillies batters combined to hit 11-29. That is good for a team batting average of .379. To add context to how impressive those numbers are, the Boston Red Sox currently lead the Major Leagues with a .319 team batting average with runners in scoring position. The last two games alone for the Phillies raised their team batting average with runners in scoring position to .275, which is good for the 5th best in the league.
Now that the Phillies have a 9-5 record and are in 2nd place of the NL East, the young team is starting to show how talented they could be. The future stars in the lineup are heating up at the plate, the starters on the mound are pitching deeper into games, and the bullpen is doing its job closing games out. Through 14 games, we should all be happy with where this Phillies team currently stands. There is still plenty of room for growth, but we are getting a nice preview for what the future holds.
- Andrew Salciunas: Phillies Contributor for 975thefanatic.com
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