Matt DiSanto, Staff Writer
Coming out of spring training, the Philadelphia Phillies were ready for action on the baseball diamond. New manager Gabe Kapler has been encouraging his players to “be bold” and embrace the mindset of a true competitor throughout the season. Lucky for him, this seems to working so far.
Despite a tumultuous first start to the season (including a 1-4 skid to begin seasonal play), the Phillies have jumped to a 16-13 record and are only a game or two out of first place in the National League East. With a roster mixed with seasoned veterans and young, eager rookies, different players have been stepping up to help the team win.
Among these notable players, center fielder Odubel Herrera leads the team with a .343 batting average and is among the best players in the league with a .400 on-base percentage. In fact, Odubel has reached base safely in 31 straight games going back to the 2017 season, which is the longest streak for a Phillie since Darin Ruf five years ago. “El Torito” has been a dominant batter in the Phil’s lineup and has helped to silence those who have doubted him in the past.
Starting pitcher Aaron Nola and left-fielder Rhys Hoskins have also been consistent players in the Phillies’ lineup. Nola, posting a 2.58 ERA and a .98 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched), and Hoskins, who trails only Bryce Harper of the Nationals (by .001!) leads the team in on-base percentage with .457, are among the best players on the team. Chances are, these two could be All-Stars come this summer.
Despite these successes, some players haven’t yet found their stride. Veteran first-baseman Carlos Santana is hitting a measly .160 despite being more disciplined at the plate, racking up 20 walks and 21 strikeouts. Even rookie sensation Rhys Hoskins has been in a minor slump, going 0-for-9 with a walk over the past three games despite his overall success.
One bright spot for the Phillies has been the emergence of starting pitcher Nick Pivetta. Through pitching six games, the 25 year-old right-hander has racked up one win with a manageable 3.27 ERA. Pivetta leads the team with 34 strikeouts and has made major improvements since his big-league debut last season.
The Phillies have also endured a frightening amount of injuries this early in the season. Starting pitcher Jared Eickhoff and sidearm reliever Pat Neshek found themselves on the DL prior to the start of the regular season, but are on the cusp of their respective returns. Shortstop JP Crawford and pitcher Ben Lively were added to the DL a few days ago, while the bullpen took a hit when 23 year-old sensation Victor Arano was placed on the 10-day DL with a right rotator cuff strain, although he should be back soon.
If the Phillies want to win close games and play meaningful games toward the end of the season, they need to take advantage of having runners in scoring position. In their game with Miami on May 1st, the team went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position, eventually suffering a 2-1 loss in the tenth inning. A team can pitch as well as they want, but it won’t matter if they can’t get the run support to win a game.
Despite some early struggles and growing pains, the Phillies are shaping up to make a run for a wild-card spot and a shot for the postseason come October. So long as they can avoid mistakes and develop young players, the Fightin’ Phils are in good shape to be contenders.