On Sunday, MLB announced that the Phillies would send a franchise-record seven players to this year’s All-Star Game. The news broke shortly after the team had been thoroughly throttled by the Atlanta Braves for the second consecutive game, losing 6-0 in a one-sided contest in Truist Park. The Phillies escaped Atlanta relatively unscathed, still in possession of an eight game lead over the division and the best record in all of baseball, but something felt different. For as welcome as the news of the All-Star selections is–and Zack Wheeler, Ranger Suarez, Jeff Hoffman and Matt Strahm are all incredibly deserving of that honor–a lingering sentiment hangs around the team heading into this week’s homestand against the Dodgers: the Midsummer Classic can’t come soon enough. The Phillies are in need of a break. They’ve been banged up since catcher J.T. Realmuto went to the IL with right knee pain on June 10 and ever since have been playing catch up. Taijuan Walker was optioned to the 15-day IL on June 23 and shortly after, fill-in Spencer Turnbull left his start early with a shoulder strain. He’s set to miss at least six weeks retroactive to June 26. In the last nine games alone, the Phillies have been without their two best power hitters, Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber, both dealing with lower body soft tissue injuries. They’ve played admirably, going 5-4 in that stretch, but the duo’s offensive contributions have been sorely missed. This is why all of the fanfare surrounding the All-Star selections feels so strange. Yes, the Phillies are every bit deserving of the attention and yes, the players selected should be celebrated for their accomplishments. At 58-32, the Phillies are the best team in baseball and have had a historic first half–but they’re also a tired team approaching a critical juncture in the season. After surrendering 17 earned runs and two games to the division rivals and limping into a potential NLCS preview with the Dodgers, the Phillies’ success has been put into a  slightly different perspective. Is their first half dominance merely a symptom of midsummer bloat? Or is it indicative of a team capable of cutting through the post season like a knife through hot butter?

 

Areas of Concern:

Ranger Suarez’s magical run has hit a major roadblock in his recent outings. In his last three starts, Suarez has a 7.47 ERA, allowing 15 runs in just 15 2/3rds innings. His velocity has dipped as has his command, likely a product of his high usage this year. After Saturday’s outing, Suarez has logged 108 innings this season with one start remaining prior to the All-Star Game (which he plans to pitch in). His highest inning total pre All-Star break prior to 2024? 84 in 2022. 

Michael Mercado, filling in for an injured Spencer Turnbull, had a rude awakening on Sunday lasting just 1 2/3rds innings, surrendering five runs on five hits and three walks. The fifth starting spot in the rotation remains a question–even when Taijuan Walker eventually returns, will he be competent? Will the team have the ability to pivot to a six-man rotation to maintain the health of arms such as Suarez in the second half?

Following the series against the Pittsburgh Pirates to open the second half, the Phillies will face a gauntlet of American League contenders. A series in Minnesota against the Twins will be followed by a homestand against the Guardians and then the Yankees. They’ll have a reprieve with an away series in Miami before flying out West to face the Dodgers in the beginning of August.

 

Reasons to Hope:

Help is very much on the way. Harper and Schwarber could rejoin the lineup as soon as Tuesday night and Realmuto is still on track to rejoin the club after the All-Star break. If the Phillies can continue to at least tread water against the Dodgers, then they should be able to ease into the All-Star break following a set against the A’s. 

 

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