Since coming back from the break, this Phillies team has taken 3 out of 4 from Miami Marlins, swept in a 2 game road series against the New York Yankees, and split a 4 game series vs. the Atlanta Braves. They sit 4 games back of the 1st place New York Mets and have a 49-49 record through 98 games. They open up a 4 game series tonight at home against the Washington Nationals before Friday's trade deadline. How this series plays out will greatly define this team's season and what Dave Dombrowski decides to do at the trade deadline.
Monday's opening game of this series is headlined by a pitching matchup of Joe Ross vs. Spencer Howard. Ross on the year posts a 5-8 record with an era of 4.02 in 16 starts. Spencer Howard for the Phillies on the flip side posts an 0-2 record with an era of 5.11 in 10 appearances at the major league level this year. Following Howard in this series are Matt Moore on Tuesday, Zack Wheeler on Wednesday, and Vince Velasquez on Thursday. A common theme this year is still true in this series, it all starts with these 4 guys. Can they all go deep in each game and give this ball club quality starts? Outside of Zack Wheeler, it's a major question mark in this series. If they can and the Phillies can limit the use of their bullpen this team should easily win at least 3 out of the 4 games in this series. If they can't however then this series will be rough and look for the Phillies to sell come Friday.
One more question mark in this series is can the Phils get timely hits consistently with runners in scoring position? This is an area this team has struggled with mightily out the gate in the 2nd half of the year. In 10 games so far in this 2nd half, the Phillies have left 79 men on base. They are 5-5 in those games. That is incredibly lucky and we should all be happy it's not worse. This cannot be the case in this Washington series. It's too important a series ( a season defining series at that ) to keep having this issue. This to me is an even bigger point of emphasis in this series than the starting pitching of this team. They keep leaving men on base at this high of rate, eventually your luck will run out and it will start costing you dearly. Could this be a big reason this teams run differential this season is -23?
To wrap this up, these 4 games are bigger than any 4 games this team will play in all season. These games should have playoff intensity because they are essentially playing for the opportunity to compete for a playoff spot. This team needs to prove to Dombrowski that it can give the Mets a run for it's money and eventually beat them out for that NL East title. If this team buys come Friday, some names to watch are Kris Bryant, Byron Buxton, Craig Kimbrel, and Richard Rodriguez. If this team sells, look at names like Rhys Hoskins and Andrew McCutchen as possible names to be dealt. So what will be the state of the Phillies come Friday afternoon? We're going to have to wait and see. Let's go Phils!