Not a bad week for Cristopher Sánchez, huh?

Two starts, two wins, 14 innings, one earned run allowed and a four-year contract worth at least $22.5 million.

Sánchez immediately made good on his new deal, tossing seven shutout innings while limiting the Diamondbacks to all of three baserunners.

His 2.67 ERA ranks third among all National League starting pitchers, trailing only Ranger Suarez (1.75 ERA).

The Phillies figure to send a number of players to the MLB All-Star game next month, but it’s getting harder to overlook the possibility of Sánchez joining the mix.

Despite opponents hitting a stellar .262 against him this season, he has done a good job limiting walks while keeping the ball in the park. His one home run allowed this season is by far the stingiest of qualified National League starting pitchers. Logan Webb has allowed the next fewest — with five.

Sánchez’s latest outstanding effort probably could have lasted longer given his day ended at only 80 pitches. He needed just 28 pitches to get through his final three innings (h/t Mike McGarry, who I stole this from).

The 95 degree weather in South Philly played a part.

“Yeah, during the first three innings, I was thinking to myself, I was going to die here,” Sánchez joked after the game. “But I guess that’s a part of the game, and that’s something that I thought of when I added some muscle this offseason.”

Rob Thomson noted that extended down time for José Alvarado and Jeff Hoffman also played a part in making the call.

Either way, Sánchez helped propel the Phillies to a feel-good series win over the Diamondbacks while also ensuring a winning six-game homestand.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been here, so let’s get to some observations.

Bryce Harper Is in MVP Position

Two more hits for Bryce Harper Sunday, who’s now hitting .297 this season. As the Phillies near the midway point of the regular season, Harper is very much in the MVP conversation. In fact, oddsmakers at FanDuel currently have the award sized up as a two-man race.

Shohei Ohtani (-120) has the best odds with Harper (+230) in striking distance. A huge gap follows with Freddie Freeman, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Marcell Ozuna (+1300) trailing far behind.

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like there is another gear for Harper to find this season, a scary thought for opposing pitchers given he’s fifth in on-base percentage, third in slugging and third in OPS among all NL hitters. He’s also third in homers, fourth in walks and sixth in runs batted in.

Want a take? I think +230 sounds good right about now.

Nick Castellanos Is Alive

After an 11-for-23 homestand, Nick Castellanos is off the mat.

While nobody is going to give a $20 million per year player flowers for hitting .226, his in-progress bounce back has been impressive.

Through May 3, he held a .180 average and gruesome .488 OPS. He was borderline unplayable, and questions understandably emerged about his everyday usage, questions like:

Why the hell are they playing this guy every day? 

It was a fair question. At the time, Castellanos was arguably the least productive hitter in the sport.

Here’s how he stacked up against all qualified MLB hitters on May 3:

  • .180 BA (167 of 174)
  • .242 OBP (167 of 174)
  • .246 SLG (171 of 174)
  • .488 OPS (172 of 174)
  • 40 wRC+ (170 of 174)

Despite questions about how much longer the Phillies could continue to trot him out there, they just kept doing it. Good call.

Entering play Sunday, Castellanos used a 43-game stretch in which he hit .257 with an .804 OPS to get his average up to .225 with a more respectable .672 OPS.

While his progress has not been linear, a fact highlighted by a rough 1-for-19 stretch against the Red Sox and Orioles earlier this month, he is making good on the team’s faith. Not to take any credit away from the Phillies’ resolve, but their decision to grind through Castellanos’ struggles has always been the logical one — even as things got ugly.

Coming off a season in which he produced 68 total extra-base hits and 106 RBI, he, by far, represents the most upside among any of the Phillies’ other outfield options, a group that entered Sunday with a .651 OPS.

His inclusion in certain lineups during the height of his struggles may not have made for the optimal matchup in a given moment, but there are larger goals at play. Working to unlock his upside was and is more important than optimizing the immediate matchup.

Alec Bohm Just Keeps Hitting

You can file away my questioning of Alec Bohm with all of my other bad takes.

On the June 14 episode of Crossed Up: A Phillies Podcast, I pointed out that Bohm’s MVP-level play of April was long gone (which, at the time, was correct), noting his OPS dropped from 1.018 on May 1 to .797 entering the Phillies’ series in Baltimore.

Over a 35-game stretch, Bohm slashed .201/.258/.343. His latest bout with inconsistency that splashed cold water on the idea he was making some significant jump offensively.

All he has done in nine games since then is go 16-for-37 (.432 BA).

Is he a perfect player? No, but Bohm, who’s on track for 54 doubles and 129 RBI, leads all National League third baseman in batting average and OPS while ranking second in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

That will do.

Brandon Marsh Sets the Tone

Brandon Marsh prevented early trouble for Sánchez  by smoothly flagging down a 101 mph shot into the right field alley off the bat of Christian Walker. Despite some extra carry, Marsh made the catch in front of the wall while leaping to steal extra bases on a ball that would have left 9 of 30 MLB parks.

Centerfield defense was a topic of conversation last Wednesday against the Padres when Marsh failed to bring in a sinking liner that plated three runs and broke open a 5-2 San Diego victory.

It was a tough play, but it was one that also predictably prompted tons of shortsighted second guessing and bitching over the recent demotion of Johan Rojas.

Advanced defensive metrics back up what your eyes tell you — Marsh is better in left than he is in center, but it’s not like he’s a mess out there.

He has posted +15 defensive runs saved across 1,088.2 career defensive innings in left field. He had -6 DRS in 1,952 defensive innings in center before Sunday.

His robbery of Walker set the tone in helping the Phillies to earn a series victory, especially as the offense struggled to separate early.

If his defense was a talking point Wednesday, then it should be a talking point after this one too.