This Bottom has the Phillies on Top: Thoughts after Phils 8, Nationals 5

Photo Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

I want to apologize up front if my mind is a little elsewhere at the moment.

As some of you may know, aside from all the writing I do, I am involved with a local theatre, and I’m currently directing a very funny musical called Something Rotten!

Without getting into details you aren’t interested in, the two lead characters are brothers with the last name “Bottom” and there is a song in the show titled “Bottom’s Gonna be on Top.”

Of course, that, and many other songs from the show are constantly in my brain, especially since we open in five days.

Saturday, the Phillies beat the Nationals for seemingly the 10,000th time this season, this time by an 8-5 final fueled by four home runs. But aside from the homers, which featured a majestic oppo-taco from Bryce Harper and an absolute bomb from Kyle Schwarber, the offense was coming from the bottom four spots in the lineup.

In this game it was Nick Maton, Garrett Stubbs, Edmundo Sosa, and Brandon Marsh. It’s worth pointing that out because in the seven games since Nick Castellanos came out of the lineup and went on the I.L. with an oblique injury, the Phillies have not had the same lineup and the bottom four guys have been juggled, or subbed each and every game.

And since that injury to Castellanos, the guys hitting in those spots have completely outhit and out performed the batters hitting 1-through-5 in the order.

It’s funny, because it’s kind of akin to what the lineup did when Harper went out of the lineup for two months with a broken thumb. It’s a real next-man-up mentality and these players – mostly young guys from within the organization, or savvy additions by President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski and his staff.

Here’s the data, broken down by game, over the past seven contests:

  • 9/10 vs. WAS – (W 8-5) Maton, Stubbs, Sosa, Marsh – 5-14. 4R. 4RBI, 2BB, 2B, 2HR
  • 9/9 vs. WAS – ( W 5-3) Stott, Vierling, Sosa, Guthrie – 6-14, 2R, 2RBI,  3B
  • 9/8 vs. MIA – (L 6-5) Stott, Segura, Marsh, Maton, (Vierling) – 4-14, R, 2RBI, 2B, HR
  • 9/7 vs. MIA – (W 4-3) Segura, Vierling, Marsh, Sosa – 6-12, 4R, 4RBI, 2 2B, 2HR
  • 9/6 vs. MIA – (W 3-2) Segura, Vierling, Guthrie, Sosa 3-12, 2R, 2RBI, BB, 2B, HR
  • 9/4 @SF – (L 5-3) Segura, Stott, Vierling, Maton 2-15, BB
  • 9/3 @ SF – (L 5-4) Stott, Segura, Marsh, Vierling, (Sands) 7-16, 4R, 4RBI, 2 2B, HR

TOTALS – 33-97, .340/.367/.990, 1.357OPS 17R, 18RBI, 4BB, 7 2B, 3B, 7HR

REST of TEAM 39-134, .291/.349/.485, .834OPS, 15R, 13RBI, 12BB, 7 2B, 2 3B, 5HR

It’s not like the rest of the team isn’t hitting either. You’d take that slash line all day, every day. But the bottom of the order is just making a difference when the games matter, and keeping the Phillies poised to make the postseason for the first time in 11 years.

“If we can get the top of the lineup going, it’s only going to benefit us,” said Schwarber, whose home run was his 37th of the season, and first since Aug. 29th, to give him some breathing room over St. Louis’ Paul Goldschmidt, who is trying to win the Triple Crown. “Our mid-to-bottom of the lineup has been doing a really good job… stringing together some really good at bats. It’s really cool to see where they are and what they can do.”

Swing of Marsh, mellowed

Brandon Marsh could turn out to be a really smart pick up for the Phillies if he keeps doing what he’s been doing when he’s in the lineup.

The Phillies are being smart with him – protecting him by not playing him against lefties – and giving him a chance to build confidence with a great approach against righties, and it’s paid dividends.

Since the start of the last road trip in Arizona, Marsh is 9-29 (.310), with a 2B, a 3B and two homers.

“At the start of the year in Anaheim he just wasn’t hitting,” said interim manager Rob Thomson. “He was swinging the bat and missing a lot. (Hitting coach Kevin) Long saw some stuff and they’ve been working hard on it. Brandon is a diligent worker and we’re seeing some good things out of him.”

Marsh almost had a two-homer game, his double was maybe the most exciting play of the game as it hit the very top of the right field wall and created a play at the plate where a hustling Edmundo Sosa just beat the throw:

But the next time up, Marsh didn’t miss, he went the opposite way and put one in the left field seats:

Balls in Space Oddity

Interestingly enough, three of the four Phillies homers went the other way. Harper and Maton both put balls into the left field bleachers. Here they are and then I’ll share a baseball oddity about them with you:

Per Statcast, it was the first time since at least 2008 (their data only goes back that far) that the Phillies have hit three opposite field homers in the same game. In fact, it’s only happened once in all of baseball this season (Texas against Boston on May 15th).

As for Schwarber, well, his homer was nowhere near left field. But it did have Washington relievers ducking for cover toward left field:

Danger-free Ranger

On the pitching front, it was good to see Ranger Suarez pitch into the seventh inning, especially after getting shelled early in his last two starts and taxing the bullpen.

Still, he does seem to have a point of weakness in the 90-95 pitch range. He topped out at 103 pitches in the seventh inning, but was pulled after a walk and a double.

Nevertheless, it had to be a good sign for the Phillies. Zach Eflin is scheduled to return to the roster on Tuesday and be used more as a multi-inning reliever. The belief was that the Phillies might tag team him with Suarez to try and get a combined seven innings from them.


One concern from Saturday was the ninth inning where Connor Brogdon was called on with a four run lead. He gave up three hits and a walk, loading the bases for the ever dangerous Nelson Cruz:

It was a good strikeout, for sure, but Brogdon has been leaking oil for some time now. The Phillies remain confident he’ll get through it, but how much more do they have to see before they shut him down for a little bit to get right?

In his last eight appearances, dating back to Aug. 21, He has an 8.21 ERA and a 2.216 WHIP. He’s allowed 15 hits and two walks in 7 2/3 innings, including three homers.

Prior to this awful stretch, Brogdon was lights out.

In his first 29 appearances, he had a 1.63 ERA and a and a 0.976 WHIP.

But these struggles are coming at a bad time. The Phillies were hoping he could be a reliable 6th/7th inning guy, splitting time with Brad Hand before getting to the back end of the bullpen where Jose Alvarez, David Robertson, and Seranthony Dominguez would be waiting (Dominguez will be activated from the IL Sunday).

However, if these struggles keep up, Brogdon could be pushed into more low-leverage situations in favor of an Andrew Bellatti or Nick Nelson or Sam Coonrod.

Come and see the show

I mentioned the show I’m directing at the top of the story. I didn’t want to shove it down your throat then, but I will now. Something Rotten! is a great date night show. It’s funny. It’s very irreverent, and the cast is brilliant. Grab some friends. Grab some tickets. Grab some dinner (I recommend the Broad Table Tavern on the campus of Swarthmore College. It’s just a few blocks from the theatre). And be ready to laugh all night. Tickets sell fastest the day before and day of the show, and we will sell out – so get them now.