A factoid from Buster Olney’s column this morning:
The Phillies had one of the easiest schedules in the majors in their first 30 games, playing only seven games against teams that had records over .500 — and they did a great job taking advantage, starting 21-9. Since their schedule got more difficult, they have struggled, winning four of 11.
That kind of stat, at least this time of year, is potentially misleading, inasmuch as with relatively few games having been played, one of the major reasons those teams have losing records is because they played, in this case, the Phillies, whose victories over them helped make them losing teams.
But it is the case that the schedule is simply brutal for Philly right now. This bad stretch has come against Atlanta, Florida (who they actually beat two of three) and St. Louis, each of whom has taken a turn as “the hottest team in the NL” at some point in the past couple of weeks. They’re coming home today to face a Rockies team that seems to be rebounding from an early-May swoon. And then they host the Reds and the Rangers.
So I guess what I’m saying is that while the current stretch is depressing the heck out of Phillies fans, the combination of the schedule, the injuries and the offensive swoon could very well mean that this is a low point, not some indicator of a new reality.
Pretty soon the Mets and Pirates will be on the schedule. Pretty soon Chase Utley will be back. Pretty soon Domonic Brown — who went 1 for 2 with a couple of RBI last night — will be in the outfield every day. Like every other otherwise strong team that hits the doldrums, it’s just a matter of holding out until the wind picks up again.
It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:
In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.
Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.
Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.
The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.
The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.
Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.