Gabe Kapler called Monday night's loss at Fenway Park a "punch in the face" after the Phillies' punchless offense failed to rally around Aaron Nola's dominant night. But the Phillies still woke up this morning with a first-place lead. That could change tonight, as the Phillies enter Tuesday with just a half-game lead over Atlanta, which will play those lousy Marlins while the Phillies try to fend off the Red Sox.
The trade deadline will come three hours before Tuesday's first pitch, and the Phillies need to be active. They can surely use another hitter after scoring only seven runs during a four-game losing streak, and their bullpen can use an extra arm for the stretch run. The Nationals are shopping Bryce Harper, but don't hold your breath on the Phillies acquiring him.
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Perhaps Monday night would not have been a "punch in the face" had Odubel Herrera simply tracked down a fly ball in the fifth inning. The Phillies scored only one run, but that might have been enough had Herrera not allowed the Red Sox to tie the game.
If you've watched the Phillies the last four years, you've seen quite a few mishaps from Herrera. It's even more maddening when those mishaps happen in late July and the Phillies are trying to stay in first place. It is all part of the Odubel Herrera Experience. And there are enough reasons to live with it.
Herrera reached base four times Monday to increase his OPS to .839 over the last 40 games. He's the team's second-most productive hitter, behind Rhys Hoskins. Herrera is just one of seven major-league centerfielders with an OPS better than .800 this season, and his 19 homers are the third most among centerfielders. Plus, his defense is fine. He has the seventh-best fielding percentage and has tracked down more "remote" and "unlikely" plays this season, according to Inside Edge's scouting.
Herrera's mishap combined with his base-running miscue with Hoskins — Herrera failed to slide into third base and was tagged out while Hoskins was caught in a rundown between third and home — made Monday's loss feel like a punch in the face. Herrera's lapses seem to be as much as part of his game as his leg kick. It is no doubt frustrating, but if his production remains elite everywhere else, there's no other choice but to live with it.
"I want Odubel to do well. That's what I think about all the time," Kapler said. "How can we put him in a position to succeed and be the best version of himself? Because when he is the best version of himself, he's unstoppable."
The Phillies enter the trade deadline today with some questions, which Scott Lauber tried to tackle from Boston. The team's approach this afternoon will come down to one question: Is it worth pursuing upgrades on the margins of the roster for a division-leading team even if it comes at the expense of playing time for some young players?
Remember Cord Sandberg? The Phillies drafted him in 2013's third round and lured him away from college football with a nice signing bonus. Sandberg played six minor-league seasons as an outfielder in the Phillies system but never got past double A. He retired in early July and signed a scholarship Monday to play quarterback at Auburn. In a few weeks, Sandberg went from a double-A outfielder to an SEC quarterback.
You've probably seen this by now, but what was up with that bizarre rant by Braves broadcaster Joe Simpson on Saturday night during the Dodgers-Braves game about what the Dodgers were wearing during batting practice? Of all the things in the world to get worked up about, he was angry that Chase Utley wore a t-shirt and rolled his pants up a few hours before the game starts. Who cares?
Today: The non-waiver trade deadline, 4 p.m.
Tonight: Jake Arrieta tries to get a split in Fenway, 7:10 p.m.
Tomorrow: The Phillies are off.
Thursday: Phillies open a four-game home series vs. Miami, 7:05 p.m.
Friday: Shane Victorino retires before Phillies-Marlins, 7:05 p.m.
Aaron Nola was tremendous again Monday night, and he finished July with a 1.91 ERA in five starts. It was his second sub-2.00 ERA month of the season, and it is enough to put him in conversation for the Cy Young Award. Nola enters the season's final two months with the second-best WHIP (0.97), the third-best ERA (2.35), and the second-best batting average against (.199) in the National League. There is no question that he's elite. It will be tough to pass Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, but Nola has a chance.
Question: What's an 80 runner? — Dennis C., email question