Matt Veasey's NL East beat

Matt Veasey’s NL East Beat: MLB All-Star break edition


Shortstop Dansby Swanson is developing into the player envisioned when the Arizona Diamondbacks selected him with the first overall pick of the 2015 MLB Draft out of Vanderbilt. (Arturo Pardavila III)

The Philadelphia Phillies (47-43) have arrived at the MLB All-Star break in third place in the National League East Division standings. They trail the Atlanta Braves by 6.5 games and are a half-game behind the Washington Nationals, but still control the second NL Wildcard playoff berth.

The Phillies captured a weekend series over the New York Mets at Citi Field by winning two of the three games, capped off by a rousing 8-3 victory in Sunday’s series finale. That followed on the heels of a series defeat after they dropped two of three to the first-place Atlanta Braves to open last week.

Now nearly three and a half months into the six-month long MLB regular season, the Phillies appear to be approaching a cross-roads. They led the division for all but seven days up until June 12, then were passed for second place by the Nats just this past week.

While the club has struggled to produce runs on a consistent basis over the traditional first-half of the season, their real problem has been on the mound. Phillies pitchers rank at or near the bottom of most important statistical categories. While the bullpen appears to finally be getting healthy, the starting rotation has become a complete mess.

The ability of general manager Matt Klentak to find a pair of more stable, veteran, productive starting pitchers prior to the trade deadline at the end of this month will likely prove pivotal to any hope of reaching the postseason. If he is unable to procure those new starters, even a bit of improvement from the offense is unlikely to keep them in contention through the dog days of August and the crucible of a September stretch run.

The 2019 MLB All-Star Game will take place at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday night. The lone Phillies representative will be J.T. Realmuto, who was selected as a back-up catcher for the National League.

As always, my NL East Beat report reveals how each of the Phillies divisional rivals fared over the course of the past week with a presentation of the standings, last week’s results, and the upcoming schedules for each club.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST DIVISION STANDINGS

ATLANTA BRAVES (4 – 2)

Summary: The first-place Braves continued to win series as the month of July opened, beating the Phillies and Marlins in two of three games each last week.

While it was nothing special, it demonstrated exactly the kind of consistent, winning performance that the Phillies had been producing over the season’s first two months.

Upcoming: Atlanta will head out on the road following the All-Star break, visiting San Diego and Milwaukee for three games each.

Player of the First Half: Mike Soroka, SP

NL All-Star reps: Freddie Freeman 1B, Ronald Acuna Jr.OF, Mike Soroka SP

MIAMI MARLINS (1 – 5)

Summary: For a second straight week, Don Mattingly‘s Fish dropped five of six games, this time to the division’s top two ball clubs. The Washington Nationals swept the Marlins in D.C. to open the week, and then the Braves won two of three in Atlanta over the weekend.

After a stretch of strong play from mid-May through mid-June, the Marlins have begun to collapse. They are just 3-9 over their last dozen contests, and their overall .375 winning percentage is the worst in the entire National League. However, their 8-7 mark against the Phillies is proving to be a major factor in the division race.

Upcoming: The Marlins will be at home coming out of the break, hosting the New York Mets for three games over the weekend. The San Diego Padres then come to South Florida to open next week.

Player of the First Half: Garrett Cooper, OF/1B

NL All-Star reps: Sandy Alcantara P

NEW YORK METS (2 – 3)

Summary: A losing week has dropped the Mets to 10 games below the .500 mark on the season, with the second-worst record in the NL behind only the Marlins.

They began last week with a two-game split of a Subway Series match-up with the New York Yankees. Then the Phillies came to Citi Field and took two of three over this past weekend. The Mets are seven games behind the Phillies for the second NL Wildcard, but would have to climb over nine other teams to get there as well.

Upcoming: New York will come out of the break and head out on the road to begin a nine-game trip that will start in Miami over the weekend. The road trip will then take them to Minnesota for two with the AL Central-leading Twins and out to San Francisco for three with the Giants.

Player of the First Half: Pete Alonso, 1B

NL All-Star reps: Pete Alonso 1B, Jeff McNeil 3B/OF

WASHINGTON NATIONALS (5 – 1)

Summary: The Nationals are white-hot after appearing to be on the verge of getting buried just a month ago. Since May 23, when they were 19-31 and sitting in fourth place, 10 games behind the first-place Phillies, Washington has gone 28-11 to overtake the Phils in the standings.

This past week, the Nationals stayed hot by sweeping the Marlins at home to open the week. Then they took two of three over the weekend from the visiting Kansas City Royals.

Upcoming: The Nats also come out of the break and head out on the road. It all starts with a visit to Citizens Bank Park this coming weekend to take on the Phillies in a showdown for second place in the NL East. The trip doesn’t take them geographically very far at all. Next week they will drive to Baltimore for a pair with the Orioles at Camden Yards. Then it’s down south for a huge four-game set next weekend in Atlanta.

Player of the First Half: Anthony Rendon, 3B

NL All-Star reps: Anthony Rendon 3B, Max Scherzer P

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