Phillies begin pivotal week with 18 hits and a 4-game sweep in Pittsburgh


PITTSBURGH -- The Phillies began one of the most important weeks of their season on a high note Sunday afternoon.

They completed a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates with an 8-2 win at PNC Park.

Aaron Nola spun a beauty and a host of Phillies, led by sizzling Alec Bohm, swung the bats well (18 hits) as the team won its fifth straight game to improve to 55-47 on the season and finish July with a 15-10 record.

The Phils, who control the third and final National League wild-card spot, are 34-18 since June 1 and 33-18 under manager Rob Thomson.

The four-game sweep was the Phillies' first of the Pirates in Pittsburgh since July 11-13, 1968. Chris Short pitched seven innings and allowed just an unearned run in one of those games and three scoreless innings of relief in another to earn two wins in the series.

Sunday's win marked the start of a pivotal calendar week for the Phillies.

Bryce Harper, out since June 25 with a broken left thumb, is scheduled to be examined by doctors on Monday. It's possible he could have the surgical pins removed from his injury and ramp up his rehab in preparation for a return in about a month.

Jean Segura, out since May 31 with a broken right index finger, could be ready to return this week. He has been playing rehab games at Triple A.

Segura and Harper are the Phillies' two best pure hitters. Getting them back will be a big boon to an offense that entered Sunday ranked fifth in the NL scoring 4.63 runs per game.

Of course, the big event of the week, the one that will have a huge impact on the team's bid to break a 10-year postseason drought and maybe win a series or two in October, is the trade deadline, which arrives Tuesday at 6 p.m. Dave Dombrowski and his team are holed up in Philadelphia trying to add a starting pitcher and maybe a center fielder before the deadline. Prices for even marginal upgrades remain very high, but the market is expected to loosen up in the final hours before the deadline. The Phils have already added a utility infielder in Edmundo Sosa. It would be very surprising if they stopped there.

The Phils are off on Monday before starting a quick, two-game series against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night. The Phils are 29-22 on the road, their best mark away from home since 2011, the last time they made the playoffs. They took two of three from the Braves last week in Philadelphia. With Kyle Gibson on the bereavement list, the Phils will go with a bullpen game (Nick Nelson could start) Tuesday night and ace Zack Wheeler on Wednesday afternoon.

Wheeler kicked off the series in Pittsburgh with seven innings of two-run ball Thursday night. Phillies starters were brilliant, allowing just five runs in 25 innings, in the series. Nola capped things off with six innings of one-run ball Sunday afternoon against the weakest lineup in the NL. He scattered six hits, walked one and struck out eight.

The right-hander received plenty of run support. It all started with back-to-back, two-out doubles by Bohm and J.T. Realmuto in the first inning and an RBI single by Nick Castellanos, who finished with four hits and two RBIs. Realmuto also had three hits. Kyle Schwarber swatted his league-leading 33rd homer.

Bohm had four hits -- two singles, a double and a homer. His sixth-inning homer improved his batting average to .300 on the nose.

The third baseman had a month to remember in July. He hit .434 (33 for 76). Overall, Bohm has hit safely in 24 of his last 26 games at a .420 clip.

On to August.

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