MLB NL East wrap up – 7/2/21
Let’s look at the past week and the upcoming holiday weekend in the MLB NL East.
NEW YORK METS
The Mets maintained their lead at the top of the division, but it’s down to two games ahead of Kyle Schwarber (AKA the Nationals) and 3.5 games over the Braves. Their offense is meager and they lost another starting pitcher in Wednesday’s humiliating 20-2 loss in Atlanta when David Peterson experienced pain on his right side. He is expected to miss a minimum of one start.
The main storyline was Thursday’s 4-3 loss to the Braves and the decision-making of third baseman Luis Guillorme.
Guillorme has been savaged in some circles, defended in others for Thursday’s game-ending play. Briefly, in a game tied at three, the Braves loaded the bases with two outs against Seth Lugo. Freddie Freeman hit a rocket up the middle that caromed off Lugo and toward – not at, toward – Guillorme at third base. Guillorme ran in, fielded the ball, and in one motion tried to throw out Freeman at first, Freeman beat the throw and the Braves won.
Behind Guillorme, Ronald Acuña Jr. was jogging to third. Fans and media members immediately debated or angrily asserted that Guillorme should have tried to catch Acuña for the force out. It’s a shaky argument at best given the moving parts. For him to think about the ten different scenarios in that millisecond and come to the right decision would have been a combination of miraculous and lucky. If Guillorme had the presence of mind to even consider trying to force Ronald Acuña at third base and managed to pull it off, his natural baseball instincts and execution would have been Derek Jeter-like.
In the moment, manager Luis Rojas was yelling for Guillorme to try for the force at third. In the aftermath and out of the heat of competition, he gave a more reasonable answer.
"I was one of the few that was yelling from the dugout about having a chance at third base"
Luis Rojas discusses Luis Guillorme's read of the situation on the final play of the game pic.twitter.com/3aq2BGf8Zm
— SNY (@SNYtv) July 2, 2021
The Mets head back to New York for three games – and a shot at the short right-field porch – at Yankee Stadium against their reeling crosstown rivals.
Before their rain-shortened 6-2 loss to the Dodgers on Thursday in DC, the Nationals had won four straight, the last two against the Rays. Schwarber is still scorching with three more home runs this week. While Schwarber has drawn deserved attention, the key to the Nationals’ resurgence apart from better pitching has been Trea Turner. He hit for the cycle on Wednesday and his all-around game with power (14 homers), speed (18 of 21 in stolen bases and excellent baserunning) and defense puts him in the conversation for Most Valuable Player.
BRING. US. YOUR. CYCLE. EMOJIS. 🚴♂️
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 30, 2021
The Nationals have three more games against the Dodgers this weekend and all eyes will be on that series because of the ongoing Trevor Bauer controversy. Without extensive commentary on the subject, it will be simultaneously stunning and eminently believable to see him on the mound Sunday.
The Braves’ positives and negatives were presented in microcosm in their three-game series against the Mets. They blew two of the three games late. In the opener, Charlie Morton was cruising with a 3-0 lead before the Mets scored three against him in the seventh on James McCann’s three-run home run. A.J. Minter surrendered the fourth run in the Mets 4-3 win.
The second game was not just a blowout, but a 20-2 annihilation, as mentioned above. The Braves’ offense is capable of this type of offensive explosion, but it has been maddeningly inconsistent.
In the third game, they made Jacob deGrom look human before he found his rhythm and stymied them. It was like the first game in that they blew it late, but they managed to pull it out this time. Until they play more consistently in all facets at the same time, expect them to hover around .500.
Austin Riley is starting to look like a superstar and other teams are noticing.
Jacob deGrom couldn’t believe Austin Riley hit that home run. He thought he made his pitch. 100 mph, right off the plate.
DeGrom says the frustration that looked to be directed at McCann was just him saying, “How did he hit that?”
— Steve Gelbs (@SteveGelbs) July 2, 2021
The Braves will host the Marlins over the weekend.
The Phillies maintained their trend of mediocrity losing a makeup game Monday to the Reds and then splitting two with the Marlins. They could easily have lost all three. The bullpen nearly blew Tuesday’s game as Jose Alvarado surrendered two runs in the ninth to cut the lead to 4-3 before ending it. Wednesday, ace Aaron Nola was blasted for seven earned runs in 4.2 innings in an 11-6 loss.
Marlins 11, Phillies 6. Aaron Nola struck out 11 batters, but pitched only 4 2/3 innings. Neftali Feliz followed and it got much worse from there.
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) July 1, 2021
Unlike the Braves and Nationals – who played beneath their capabilities for the first two-plus months of the season – it’s obvious what the Phillies are. They’re still only 4.5 games out of first place, but it’s hard to take that seriously until they win their own games. This is especially clear to President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski whose evaluative interim is nearing an end directly coinciding with the July 31st trade deadline. Expect changes.
They have three games with the Padres in San Diego. There are worse places to spend the July 4th weekend even if the team is in disarray.
The Marlins had an unusual week in which they were off on both Monday and Tuesday. The story of the week was not the two games they split with the Phillies, but the first notable trade made by GM Kim Ng in trading outfielder Corey Dickerson and righty relief pitcher Adam Cimber to the Blue Jays for infielder Joe Panik and minor-league pitcher Andrew McInvale.
The key is McInvale, a 37th round draft pick in 2019 with impressive strikeout numbers.
Welcome to the system, Andrew McInvale! pic.twitter.com/G8JZLZcKxr
— Pensacola Blue Wahoos (@BlueWahoosBBall) July 2, 2021
The Marlins farm system was largely ignored by former owner Jeffrey Loria and has improved exponentially since Jeter took charge. McInvale is another live arm added to the mix and Panik is a player they can spin to another club at the deadline.