Monday was an off day for the big-league club, but a vital one for the organization. With Johnny Almaraz overseeing his fourth draft as the Phillies' amateur scouting director, the team used the third overall pick to select Wichita State third baseman Alec Bohm. He's a 6-foot-5, 220-pound, righthanded hitter who displayed both power and the ability to hit for average during his three years with the Shockers. He also did not strike out much. Almaraz said Bohm has the ability to move up through the minor leagues fast.
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Playing the Cubs in Wrigley Field probably isn't the best remedy for a struggling team that is hitting .208 with a .259 on-base percentage through the first seven games of a 10-game road trip. The Cubs just finished a 6-1 road trip with a three-game sweep of the New York Mets and moved a season-high 10 games above .500 on Sunday. Their 3.18 ERA is the best in the National League and the second best in baseball.
At least the Phillies will not have to face Cubs ace Jon Lester. They do not, however, want to be behind in the late innings. The Cubs relievers, led by closer Brandon Morrow and his 0.89 ERA, have the second-best bullpen ERA in baseball at 2.59.
The Cubs also have a pick-your-poison lineup with six regulars hitting .270 or higher. The Phillies, by comparison, have one, and Odubel Herrera is in his worst slump of the season. The Cubs, who lead the majors with a .347 on-base percentage, also have seven hitters with at least 100 at-bats who have an OPS (on-base-average plus slugging percentage) above .800. The Phillies have one and, again, Herrera is in the midst of an awful slump. The Phillies' on-base percentage is .314, down 17 points in the last 16 days. That's a crash.
Given the deep sleep the Phillies offense slipped into out in San Francisco, it's hard to believe that just 10 days ago this team led the National League East. Now, if they cannot figure out a way to win at least one game against the surging Cubs, the Phillies could return home five games out of first place. And it won't get easier when they get home because the first-place Milwaukee Brewers will be waiting for them.
The slumping Phillies will continue their 2-5 road trip against the white-hot Cubs on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in the beginning of a brutal stretch of games. Our Matt Breen points out that the Phillies will play 19 of their next 25 games against teams that would be in the playoffs if the season had ended Monday.
After watching former No. 1 picks Cornelius Randolph and Mickey Moniak struggle through the minor leagues in recent years, the Phillies need Alec Bohm to be Mr. Right. The good news for the Phillies is that Adam Haseley, last year's No. 1 pick, is playing extremely well at high-A Clearwater.
Tonight: Zach Eflin faces Kyle Hendricks in opener with Cubs, 8:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Aaron Nola against Jose Quintana, 8:05 p.m.
Thursday: Nick Pivetta pitches series finale vs. Tyler Chatwood, 2:20 p.m.
Friday: Phillies return home for series against Milwaukee, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday: Phillies honor 1993 National League-championship team
It is hard to feel anything but empathy for Mitch Walding, the infielder the Phillies added to the roster last week after Pedro Florimon landed on the disabled list with a fractured ankle.
Walding went 0 for 4 and struck out in all four at-bats during his May 30 major-league debut in Los Angeles. According to baseball-almanac.com, he was the first player since Sam Ewing of the Chicago White Sox in 1973 to suffer the dubious distinction of the golden sombrero — four Ks in as many at-bats — during his big-league debut.
Walding is only the seventh player in history to do it, and he has struck out twice more in his only at-bats since then.
If (Jake Arrieta) doesn't back off his comments, he's got to be called on it. … Agree the shifting drives me – and, presumably, others – crazy when it doesn't work. And apparently, the Phightens are behind the wave with success this year. But how did 'bad shifts' play into (Sunday's) turnabout? If (Scott Kingery) goes to second on that play, there is still 2 men on with one out. …You don't bust a teammate for that.
Tom H., via email
Answer: Arrieta's harsh comments about the shift in general and Kingery in particular came immediately after a series sweep, and the veteran pitcher also conceded that he was as responsible for the loss as anyone when he said "there's no way I should have given up five runs in that inning."