Phillies Mailbag: Important Week, Wheeler, Braves Sweep
We are back once again with the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Just 16 games remain. If the Phillies play better than the San Diego Padres and/or the Milwaukee Brewers, they are in the playoffs. So each Tuesday we continue taking your questions and discuss them on The Sports Bash with Mike Gill.
So how much should I worry about this Braves series?
I think it is more to say that the sweep by the Braves was not ideal for the Phillies. If the Phillies were able to win at least one game, they could have saved some of the ground they had over the Milwaukee Brewers and remained ahead of the San Diego Padres. But there were a few things that it was important to note this past series.
One: Ronald Acuña is good. Yes, really good. As in, "pitch around this guy" good. He had some struggles early this season and they seem like a distant memory now. The Phillies could be very careful how they pitch to him in upcoming series. Of course, with the likes of Matt Olsen and Austin Riley in the lineup, that's easier said than done.
Two: The Phillies miss Nick Castellanos. Yes, he did not have a good season if you consider the whole. But he was hitting .306 in his last 15 games. Neither Dalton Guthrie or Matt Vierling have matched the offensive output. They did pick up something on defense, but the Phillies needed runs during that series, scoring just seven.
Three: The Phillies need their old attitude back. Remember when the young kids stepped up and won when people wrote them off? Well, the tide has changed; they are expected to win and are facing tough opponents. Can the young players keep the mindset that they are good and there to win?
I think this stretch is something that they should look forward to, rather than worry about.
So let's see who shows up against the Toronto Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves at home. The Phillies will benefit from being at the comforts of home. But they need to win some games here. With the Brewers and Padres being inconsistent they don't need to be dominant, but they really should win more than they lose the rest of the way to make the postseason. 8-8 gives the Phillies 88 wins. Can they go 10-6 and win 90?
Has there been a more important week in recent Phillies history?
James, I would sure say so. 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 were all really bad playoff misses for the Phillies. In light of four years wasted, in light of both Gabe Kapler and Joe Girardi passing through town without a playoff berth, and in light of the Phillies spending big money this offseason to add Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber, I think that yes, this is the most important in a while.
The amount of time that passed and the money spent almost demand that this year be a playoff year for the Phillies. Of course, that would not have been what the expectation would have been on June 1. The meteoric rise of the Phillies under interim manager Rob Thomson has changed the expectations.
Had the Phillies remained flat after Girardi's dismissal, the Phillies would have traded off pieces. Right about now the discussion would have been who would be the next manager. Instead, the Phillies added pieces in the bullpen, the starting rotation, and in center field and it feels like Thomson is the guy.
After all of that, it really feels like the Phillies need to make this happen, right?
What will the Phillies do with Zack Wheeler and the rest of the rotation?
The Phillies gave some insight into this just on Sunday. Zack Wheeler will indeed be activated and will start on Wednesday night. His sub in the starting rotation,Bailey Falter, will stay in the rotation. Noah Syndergaard will exit the rotation, for now.
Syndergaard will piggyback Wheeler on Wednesday. The Phillies do not expect Wheeler to go deep in his first game back. Syndergaard will face the team that drafted him on Wednesday likely the inning after Wheeler departs.
That probably will be the plan for two starts. Then, the Phillies will need both pitchers the Saturday of next week. Why? Well, the Phillies have a doubleheader scheduled against the Washington Nationals. Hopefully by then Wheeler can go deep and Syndergaard can start the game of his own.
Zach Eflin, meanwhile, remains an option in the bullpen.
But it's crunch time. The Phillies will have to let a pitcher go to accommodate on Wednesday. By my estimation, Sam Coonrod is currently the weakest link. But in this game, you never know who might get hurt.
Cutting ties with Coonrod could test the team's depth. But it would open a roster spot. Griff McGarry could be a potential replacement if necessary, and the Phillies could summon Michael Plassmeyer, Cristopher Sanchez, or Vinny Nittoli again if need be.