Matt Veasey's NL East beat

Matt Veasey’s NL East Beat: 5/6-5/12/19


In a surprisingly poor 2019 season to date, the Washington Nationals have spent just two days above the .500 mark. The Nats have not enjoyed a winning record since April 18. (Chief Petty Officer Stephen Hassay)

The Philadelphia Phillies (23-16) offense completely disappeared twice over last week’s action. But the club won their other four games, moving out to a four-game lead in the loss column in the National League East Division standings.

The Phillies were shutout 6-0 at Saint Louis in their first game of the week but came back to win the final two games to outscore the host Cardinals by 16-1 over the final two games to take that series.

Moving on to an Interleague match-up at Kansas City, the host Royals shut the Phillies down in a 5-1 win in the opener. But again the Phillies roared back, outscoring the Royals by 13-1 to take the final two games.

As always, my NL East Beat report reveals how each of those Phillies divisional rivals fared over the course of the past week: games scores, pivotal performers, key injuries, and other important updates on each team are included.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST DIVISION STANDINGS

ATLANTA BRAVES (3 – 4)

Summary: Thanks to victories in their final three games of the week, all tight affairs on the road over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Braves are the lone NL East rival of the Phillies who are over the .500 mark at the present time. The Braves dropped four straight to open the week, getting swept at LA against the Dodgers and dropping the opener of their four-game set in Arizona, before recovering.

The Atlanta offensive attack has the 4th-highest OPS (.773) in the National League, but their 196 runs scored leaves the club as just middle-of-the-road at 8th-ranked in the league. That OPS drops to just .665, next-to-last in the NL ahead of only the lowly Miami offense with runners in scoring position.

Veterans Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis continue to pace the offense as the most consistent hitters. Freeman has a .308/.403/.526 slash and leads the club with 19 extra-base hits. Markakis is batting .299 with a .388 OBP and is tied with Freeman and Ronald Acuna for second on the club with 23 RBIs.

Shortstop Dansby Swanson leads the Braves with 25 RBIs. Third baseman Josh Donaldson is second with 17 extra-base hits and has a .376 OBP. Brian McCann as the lefty half of a catching platoon is slashing .311/.389/508 over 72 plate appearances.

Atlanta’s best starting pitcher has been 21-year-old Mike Soroka. In what is technically his rookie season (he threw 25.2 innings last season) Soroka has a 3-1 record with a 1.21 ERA and 1.045 WHIP since his mid-April promotion. Soroka is currently on a streak of three consecutive Quality Start outings.

27-year-old right-hander Luke Jackson appears to have seized the closer role. Jackson has allowed 17 hits over 20 innings across 18 games with a 24/7 K:BB and four Saves over his last six outings.

Key injuries: Freeman missed Sunday’s game with an undisclosed illness that is not expected to keep him out very long. Lefty reliever Jesse Biddle is on the IL battling a groin strain and right thigh bruise. He is on a minor league rehab assignment and could return later this week. Righty relievers Darren O’Day and Arodys Vizcaino are also on the IL, with Vizcaino out for the season following mid-April surgery on his right pitching shoulder. No timetable on O’Day, who is out with a strain in his right pitching forearm.

Upcoming: Following an off-day on Monday the Braves will be at home to host both the Saint Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers for three games each.

 

MIAMI MARLINS (1 – 5)

Summary: The Fish opened last week with a win over the red-hot Chicago Cubs but then quickly returned to their losing ways. Miami continued to plummet in the standings by dropping their remaining five games to fall 19 games below the .500 mark, 13 games off the NL East pace. Their .256 winning percentage is by far the worst in Major League Baseball.

Runs scored, OPS, home runs. You name the category and the Marlins are at the bottom of the National League team rankings. Well…they are tied for 10th in stolen bases and have more than twice as many as the non-running Phillies.

Former Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro leads the club with five home runs. Veteran Curtis Granderson paces the team with 10 extra-base hits. He and Starlin Castro lead the Marlins with 11 RBIs. Neil Walker has enjoyed a solid season as the primary first baseman, batting .287 with a .379 OBP and nine extra-base hits, second on the club.

Lefty Caleb Smith continues to enjoy an All-Star caliber campaign, and is easily the shining star on this team thus far in 2019. Smith is 3-0 with a 2.11 ERA and 0.891 WHIP, allowing just 26 hits over 42.2 innings across seven starts. He has a 56/12 K:BB ratio. His last six outings have all been of the Quality Start variety.

Rookie right-hander Nick Anderson has been overpowering at times out of embattled manager Don Mattingly‘s bullpen. Anderson has a 30/5 K:BB over 16.2 innings, allowing 14 hits. His 4.32 ERA is mostly a product of one poor outing against the Braves.

The Marlins were expected to finish in the division cellar as the team was clearly pushed into rebuilding mode over the last couple of seasons. However, the club has performed so abysmally that it could result in Mattingly being one of the first managers to lose his job this season.

Key injuries: The Marlins lost talented righty reliever Drew Steckenrider to a flexor strain in his right elbow. He has been placed on the 60-day IL and his season is in jeopardy. Other than that, the Marlins have been healthy all season.

Upcoming: Following an off-day on Monday, the Marlins will host their fellow Floridians, the Tampa Bay Rays, in an Interleague two-game series. Another off-day on Thursday will be followed by three at home over next weekend against the division-rival New York Mets.

 

NEW YORK METS (3 – 2)

Summary: The Mets were the lone Phillies rival to enjoy a winning week by taking three of their last four games. They dropped two of three in San Diego to start the week, then took advantage of the weak Marlins to win their next two at home. Sunday’s series finale with Miami was rained out and will be replayed as part of a doubleheader on August 5 at Citi Field.

Rookie first baseman Pete Alonso continues to lead the offensive stats board with 12 homers, 21 extra-base hits, 32 RBIs, and 25 runs scored for the Mets. However, Alonso has cooled considerably with just a .190/.255/.405 slash over his last 11 games. That slugging percentage is propped up by three homers in that span, but he has just five other hits.

Right fielder Michael Conforto went 5-6 with two home runs over the two Marlins victories, raising his slash line to .274/.412/.519 over a team-high 170 plate appearances. Shortstop Amed Rosario leads the Mets with four stolen bases, and his 24 RBIs are second on the club.

The Mets are just ninth in the NL in both runs scored and OPS as they offense has mostly struggled. The pitching staff has been even worse, ranking 12th in both ERA and BAA.

Jacob deGrom has really picked up the pace on the mound following a rough three-start stretch in mid-April. The 2018 Cy Young Award winner has gone seven innings in each of his last three outings, allowing a total of 12 hits over the 21 innings with a 21/4 K:BB ratio. He has a 1.29 ERA and .162 batting average against in that span.

After being nearly unhittable over the first month, closer Edwin Diaz has struggled some over his last five outings. He has surrendered five hits including a pair of home runs in that stretch.

Key injuries: Righty reliever Jeurys Familia received a cortisone injection in his right shoulder and could return later this week. Lefty starter Steven Matz was diagnosed with nerve damage in his pitching shoulder. Lefty relievers Luis Avilan and Justin Wilson both have left elbow discomfort. All three are on the IL with no timetable. Infielder Jed Lowrie has been out with a sprained knee and could finally return later this week following a minor league rehab. Yoenis Cespedes remains out, possibly for the season, following off-season surgery on both heels.

Upcoming: Following an off-day on Monday, the Mets will host division rivals Washington and Miami in three-game series at Citi Field this week.

 

WASHINGTON NATIONALS (2 – 5)

Summary: They’ve suffered some key injuries but there is no question, the Nationals are one of the most disappointing stories in all of baseball this season. They were swept in Milwaukee to open last week and then split a four-gamer over the weekend in LA against the host Dodgers.

The Nationals vaunted pitching ranks just 13th of the 15 National League ball clubs thus far in both ERA and BAA. The offensive attack is just 10th in runs scored and OPS. It’s no wonder this club has now fallen seven below the .500 mark.

The two-headed Dominican combination of 20-year-old Juan Soto and 22-year-old Victor Robles was supposed to lead the way into the future and help smooth the loss of Bryce Harper to the Phillies in free agency. They are hitting just .243 and .250 respectively, though with six homers they are tied for the club lead. Soto leads the team with 23 RBIs and Robles sets the pace with eight stolen bases.

Veteran Howie Kendrick has proven to be a godsend, slashing .306/.364/.553 with nine extra-base hits over just 99 plate appearances. He is tied for the team lead with six home runs and his 21 RBIs are second on the club. Third baseman Anthony Rendon missed time with an injury but is still slashing .305/.391/.621 with a team-high 18 extra-base hits.

Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, and Stephen Strasburg have mostly been strong in the rotation. But the back-end of Anibal Sanchez and Jeremy Hellickson has been poor for the most part, as has the bullpen.

Closer Sean Doolittle has been one of the few reliable options for manager Dave Martinez out of the pen. He has a 1.00 ERA and 1.111 WHIP with six Saves, allowing just 15 hits over 18 innings with a 20/5 K:BB.

Key injuries: Kendrick was held out yesterday with neck stiffness and is considered day-to-day. Ryan Zimmerman continues out on the IL with plantar fasciitis. Trea Turner continues out with a fractured finger suffered more than a month ago. He is back doing baseball activities and should be headed to a minor league rehab assignment soon. He could return to the Nationals lineup within two weeks. Matt Adams is on the IL with a left shoulder strain and has no timetable.

Upcoming: The Nationals are off on Monday and then host both the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs for three-game sets this coming week.

 

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