Three things to keep an eye on as Phillies roll into the final month

Nola can't do it all for the Phillies
As tumultuous as things seem right now with the Phillies, the club somehow sits a single game off the pace in the hunt for a Wildcard berth.

It's astounding to think about how many issues surround this team, and yet here they are entering the final month of the season with a legitimate chance to reach the postseason. To make that leap though the club will have to recalibrate and rely on someone else other than Aaron Nola to dominate a ballgame.

Here are three things to watch for as the Phils enter the final stretch:

Thing 1: Hustle.
Cesar Hernandez should have been benched immediately for his lack of hustle over the weekend. He's a veteran and should act like it, setting an example for others to follow, not lollygagging down the line. Problem is, this isn't his first brush with a lack of hustle or awareness this year. Compounding matters is the fact manager Gabe Kapler appears - outwardly at least - to be lax on reprisal when this type of thing happens.

Things finally reached a point on Monday where the club had a team meeting before their extra-inning win over the Pirates, partly to address such troubling issues.

Thing 2: Starting Pitching.
Aaron Nola has been outstanding over the last couple of weeks, but he's only one man and the Phils need more from their rotation. Jason Vargas has pieced together a few outings now where he's getting into the sixth inning while keeping the club in the game and that's what the Phillies need. Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin, and Drew Smyly all have to follow suit. There's no time for duds with a month left in the season.

Thing 3: The Bats.
Things have improved a tad under Charlie Manuel as hitting coach, but things still seem stale with the Phillies' offense. A major reason for that is the regression of Rhys Hoskins who is battling the worst slump of his career, hitting just .130 over his last 30 games. As he goes, so goes the Phils' lineup.

Beyond Hoskins, the next biggest concern with the offense falls to the bench where the Phillies have a pinch-hitting batting average of .200.

There's not too much that can change now though about the selection of bats free to come off the bench in a high-leverage spot, but it's a certain area of concern heading into the final month of the season.

With the deficiencies outlined above, it's still surprising this Phillies club is a legitimate conder to reach the postseason, yet here we are.

Every day is meaningful now, with one month left in the season.
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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