The Braves continue to tread water as division leaders, regaining the top spot after wrestling back the lead from the Nationals despite a 3-4 week. They head into Tuesday night's slate of games with a half game lead over Washington while also being just a game in front of Miami. As we head closer to the halfway mark of the season, it's looking more and more like the NL East is going to be a three-horse race, with each team refusing to pull away from one another.
What's most alarming for Atlanta right now is that its pitching staff, usually the team's strength, got shelled this past week. In their last seven games, the Braves have allowed six or more runs five different times, including three games in which their opponent scored in double digits. That's not going to cut it for a team that is average in a lot of offensive categories (though Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis have done more than their fair share at the plate).
After their current series with the Phillies, the Braves will head to Washington and try to maintain their slim division lead in a pivotal four-game set against the Nationals.
At some point we're going to stop being surprised that the Marlins are hanging around in the division race. But it's still so hard to believe given all their struggles in recent years and the relative anonymity of many players on the roster. But here we are in mid-June, and Miami sits a game back of the NL East lead. Amazing.
It's unclear if the Marlins will be active at the July 31st trade deadline, but it is clear that they're still willing to make moves to help the team win now. It was announced Monday that Miami is calling up its top pitching prospect, 23-year-old left-hander Andrew Heaney, and he'll make his major league debut Thursday night against the Mets. He may not be Jose Fernandez, who was lost to the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but perhaps he can be that boost to the rotation that helps Miami get into a groove and vaults them above their division rivals.
NEW YORK METS
The Mets seem to have a way of making things interesting, even when they're struggling. Such was the case before Monday night's game against the St. Louis Cardinals, as manager Terry Collins filled out a lineup card that had starting pitcher Jacob deGrom batting eighth, which was the first time in franchise history that a pitcher has hit in that spot in the batting order. Unfortunately for deGrom, he not only was held hitless, but he delivered perhaps his worst start as a pro en route to a 6-2 loss, New York's fourth defeat in its last seven games.
Collins' move seems to be the theme of the Mets struggles this year: Tinkering with the lineup, bullpen and rotation in the hopes of finding a spark that has yet to come. New York still sits only 5.5 games out of first, but given all their issues, you don't get the feeling they'll be making a run anytime soon.
Despite still being tied for last place, there's no doubting the fact that the Phillies had the best week of any NL East team. They went 5-2 over their last seven games, including a three-game sweep against the San Diego Padres as well as an extra inning win over the Braves Monday night. It remains to be seen if the Phillies have a season-saving run in them, but the past week is certainly a good start.
However, this week for the Philadelphia was highlighted by an individual accomplishment. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins passed Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt as the franchise's all-time leader in hits. The record is the latest milestone for the 15-year veteran, who is among the leaders in many of the team's all-time franchise marks. But now that he has passed Schmidt and the team continues to be in last place, would the Phillies consider trading him? Rollins said recently he's open to waiving his no-trade clause if the team decides to "blow it up" come the trade deadline. It stands to reason that if that were indeed the case, Rollins wouldn't be the only veteran who would be moved. Only a month and a half until we find out.