The All-Star break has come and gone. Phillies players got a chance to chill for a few days but they will not be able to relax for at least a week now.
Straight out of the All-Star break, the Phillies face Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Max Scherzer, then the Dodgers for four games.
Those three Nationals pitchers are a combined 26-14 this season with a 3.06 ERA and 89 more strikeouts than innings pitched.
Scherzer, whom the Phillies face Sunday, is on maybe the best run of his career. Over his last nine starts, he is 7-0 with a 0.84 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 94 strikeouts in 64 innings.
In the year of the home run, Scherzer somehow has the lowest home run rate of his career and the second-lowest home run rate in the majors.
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Corbin, too, has been on a roll. His began against the Phillies on June 19 in that rain-filled Phils-Nats series. Corbin has gone seven innings in four straight starts and allowed just three runs in those 28 innings.
Then after the weekend comes the Dodgers, who at 60-32 are 12 games better than every National League team except the Braves. (They're 5½ games ahead of Atlanta.)
At least the Phillies will miss Hyun-Jin Ryu in that four-game series. Ryu pitches Sunday after starting the All-Star Game for the NL.
Still, the Phils must deal with Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler.
These upcoming seven games, all at home, will determine the Phillies' course of action leading up to the hard trade deadline of July 31.
If they go 2-5, they'd be one game over .500 after 97 games. It would be difficult for the front office to feel confident making several impactful win-now moves for a team that has been barely better than average through 60 percent of the season.
If the Phillies go even 4-3 in this stretch, though, it would likely be enough for them to still buy. Going 4-3 against two red-hot teams and a handful of ace-caliber pitchers would be a shot in the arm and recreate some of their early-season swagger.
This is a period when the Phillies need their stars to be stars. Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto need to outperform these tough starting pitchers. The middle of the Phillies' order has been just OK this season compared to the rest of the league. This next week needs to be their best.
After July 18, the schedule softens somewhat. Between July 19 and Aug. 12, the Phils play 15 of 21 games against teams under .500. So it's not that the season would be lost if the Phillies don't play well over this next week, it's just that buying big would be less logical because it would be another strong sign that they're far behind the NL's best.
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