After defeating the Braves 4-1 on Saturday afternoon, the Phillies have now won five straight games for the first time since 2018. The Phils sit at .500 entering tonight’s Sunday Night game with a 14-14 record, and they’re just two games out of second place in the NL East. They currently hold a Wildcard spot and would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
Here are four reasons this team will find themselves in a playoff spot when the regular season comes to an end.
1. Zach Efflin
Efflin was one of the Phillies biggest question marks entering 2020. He showed great potential early on in the 2019 season but fatigue got the best of him towards the end of the season.
Efflin threw an absolute gem on Saturday afternoon against the Braves, going seven innings, allowing just four hits and striking out eight. His lone mistake of the game was a solo homerun hit by third baseman Johan Camargo.
Efflin has solidified the back end of the Phillies rotation posting a respectable 4.10 ERA thus far in 2020. If Efflin can find consistency he would really take the load off of Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler.
2. Bullpen finding their role
Last week during a five game losing streak, the Phillies bullpen was absolutely horrendous, blowing late leads in four of the five losses. Matt Klentak decided to make moves for multiple established relievers to try and save his sinking ship of a pen. Even though the price tags were high to acquire these arms, it’s looking like a solid move now.
Heath Hembree and Blake Parker have been outstanding since joining the team, Hembree via trade, Parker call up, and have changed the complexity of this pen. Parker has not let up a run since his call up in over seven innings of work and Hembree has been shut down after struggling early on this year with Boston.
The question marks remain at the backend of the pen with Hector Neris and newly added Brandon Workman. They both have great stuff, but control issues make them both somewhat unreliable closers. Girardi seems comfortable using Neris as the set up man and Workman as the closer, but if they can’t get their control down, the ninth inning could be an adventure all season long.
3. Cutch has his Swagger Back/ Hoskins out of Slump
Andrew Mccutchen is returning to that elite form that we saw at the beginning of the 2019 season. Cutch started off 2020 very slow and the worries that he lost his step after the ACL tear were real. Cutch is back to swinging a hot bat, launching a two run homer Friday night. He’s been pivotal to this five game win streak.
Rhys Hoskins has also broke out of his early season slump. I was worried early on this season that Rhys was broke at the plate, his timing was off, he was taking crushable pitches and looked like a fragment of the player we were use to seeing in previous times.
Rhys had a monster game on Saturday afternoon, going 3/4 with a single, double and a three-run homerun, which was the difference in the win. If Rhys can continue this hit streak for the remainder of the season, this scary offense will be even more deadly.
4. Nola and Wheeler
Aaron Nola is easily the best pitcher the Phillies have had since Roy Halladay and has really proven that he is one of the top arms in all of baseball. Nola pitched seven innings in Friday night’s win and allowed just two runs to a deadly Braves offense. What impressed me was that it was clear Nola did not have his best stuff on Friday and that he flat out is just good enough to dominate through that.
Wheeler has been the bargain of the offseason. He’s locked in for four more seasons making a fraction of what Gerrit Cole and Steven Strasburg make, the two other top pitching free agents last offseason. Wheeler has turned into a ground ball machine since joining the Phillies; he keeps a low pitch count and eats up innings. Unfortunately for Wheeler, he has been a victim of some bullpen disasters as two of his dominant starts turned to no decisions because of games blown at the back end.
If Nola and Wheeler can continue to dominate during the second half, I see no reason why this Phillies team won’t be in the playoffs.