Phillies Lineup

Pitching carrying Phillies, who haven't seen many top-end arms since opening series

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Built around power in the lineup, power in the bullpen and steadiness in the rotation, two of the Phillies' three units have held up their end of the bargain through six series.

The rotation entered Tuesday night with a 2.95 ERA, the lowest in the National League. Phillies starting pitchers owned the second-highest strikeout rate in the NL and the third-best groundball rate in the majors.

Their bullpen entered the night with a 5.01 ERA but that has been heavily skewed by three poor outings from Connor Brogdon and mop-up work by Ricardo Pinto. Remove those two and the Phillies' bullpen has a 3.72 ERA.

Jose Alvarado has made seven straight scoreless appearances since allowing a career-high five runs on Opening Day to the Braves. Matt Strahm has allowed two hits with 11 strikeouts over 7⅓ scoreless innings since his Opening Day stumble. Jeff Hoffman has a 2.16 ERA with two wins and a save. Gregory Soto has a 1.69 ERA. Yunior Marte has a 1.17 ERA.

"I think over the course of the season, there's going to be a lot of guys picking each other up," Hoffman said Monday night. "Right now, you could say that the pitchers are doing that for the offense, and we could look up a month from now and the hitters can be carrying the pitchers. Marathon season. We kind of just roll with the waves. At the end of the day, hopefully we take care of each other well enough to win a lot of ballgames."

With such a heavy emphasis on reducing their chase rate, we've seen a muted version of the Phillies' offense thus far. They haven't had a big night collectively, scoring more than five runs only once, the night Bryce Harper homered three times.

The Phils went into the middle game of the Rockies series with just 30 extra-base hits, the fewest in MLB. They had only 12 doubles, their fewest through 17 games since at least 1901.

Nick Castellanos, who had nine doubles in his first 17 games last season, is still searching for his first extra-base hit. The only Phillie with an OPS of .800 or better is Brandon Marsh.

In retrospect, it shouldn't be too surprising that the Phillies' focus on trimming their chase rate got in some players' heads or resulted in tentativeness. It's not all that realistic for a 32-year-old Castellanos or 31-year-old Trea Turner to change his offensive approach in the course of one offseason. What the Phillies have preached is being aggressive in zones you can handle and selective in zones you cannot. Easier said than done the vast majority of the time, and the last thing you want is hitters who've relied on instinct for decades thinking about whether to swing when a pitch is on its way to the plate.

Expanding the strike zone was obviously the main reason for the Phillies' demise in the 2023 NLCS, but it wasn't a glaring problem in the preceding six months, nor was the offense as a whole. The Phillies averaged 4.9 runs per game last season and finished fifth in the majors in slugging percentage.

The Phils' hitters feel they're on the brink of a turnaround. Sometimes all it takes is one night for the floodgates to open. It seemed perhaps that Harper's three-homer game two Tuesdays ago could be a launch point, but the Phillies scored just 36 runs in their next 12 games.

They haven't faced much high-end pitching, either. They saw Spencer Strider, Max Fried and Chris Sale in the opening series against Atlanta but have since faced the lesser pitching staffs of the Reds, Nationals, Cardinals and Rockies, with the AL-worst White Sox on deck.

Concern would grow even more if the Phillies can't break through this week in what's probably the most advantageous homestand of their season, on paper.

"Grinding," Aaron Nola said. "We're competing. We haven't scored many runs, man, but that's gonna come, for sure. Our team's too good. We've seen what our lineup can do. Nobody's gonna hang their head over that. We've got a lot of baseball left. All we can do, from a pitcher's standpoint, is keep the game as close as possible and give those guys the best chance."

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