The All-Star break came at the right time for the Phillies.

Philadelphia is 14-19 since June 1. Overall, the Phillies (47-43) are in third place in the National League East, 6.5 games back of the first-place Atlanta Braves.

But if the season ended today, Philadelphia would make the postseason as a wild-card team.

“I think it’s a good time for us to step back and reflect and adjust and get to work,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said after Philadelphia ended the season’s traditional first half with an 8-3 win over the New York Mets on Sunday. “Obviously, we can enjoy the break but think about ways that we can do better in the second half.”

Philadelphia returns from the break Friday, hosting the Washington Nationals in the first of a three-game series at 6:05 p.m. at Citizens Bank Park.

What follows are five key questions that cover what the Phillies have accomplished and what they face the rest of the season:

Who is the Phillies’ MVP?

There is no clear cut answer, and that’s a problem.

Many of the Phillies are having solid seasons, but no one is having an outstanding year.

Catcher J.T. Realmuto (.273 average, 10 home runs and 42 RBIs) has the Phillies’ highest WAR (wins above replacement) at 2.6. He was also the team’s representative at the All-Star Game.

Realmuto finished strong before the break, batting .360 (9 for 25) in July.

Realmuto is as good a choice as anyone for the team’s MVP right now, but the Phillies need more big hits from him and everyone else in the lineup the rest of the way.

“He’s been one of, if not the best defensive catchers in baseball,” Kapler said. “He’s extremely dependable, a high-quality teammate. We rode him pretty good in this first half. He met the challenge at every turn.”

What grade does Bryce Harper deserve?

Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in the offseason.

He’s on pace to hit 29 home runs and knock in a career-high 112 runs. Harper is also on pace to strike out a career-high 189 times.

He’s played well defensively and hustled — sometimes too much. Harper has been thrown out on the base paths eight times this season, tied for the most in baseball.

“I’ve never seen a superstar play so hard,” Kapler said last month.

“I’ve never seen a superstar give as much as he gives on a daily basis. It’s not just on the field; it’s in the clubhouse as well. Selfless. Obviously he wants to perform, but he’s looking out for his teammates all the time. I’m his biggest fan, and I think his teammates are as well.”

The problem is Harper has yet to deliver a signature moment for the Phillies.

His grade? Let’s call it a C+ at this point.

What has been their biggest shortcoming?

Injuries, especially to the bullpen, have been costly.

The offense has yet to hit consistently. Philadelphia is 10th in the NL with 115 home runs.

But the biggest problem has been starting pitching.

The Phillies, because of injuries and poor performances, are down to one reliable starter in Aaron Nola. Philadelphia has allowed 153 home runs — the most in the NL. Phillies starters have a 4.56 ERA, 10th in the NL.

“I don’t want to pin our struggles and our adversity in the first half on any one area in particular,” Kapler said. “I just don’t think that would tell a complete story.

“However, I do think that the injuries that we’ve had in our bullpen have been impactful for us, and to some degree I believe that we’ve weathered the storm.”

Will the Phillies make a big trade?

This is tricky. If the Phillies don’t close the gap between themselves and the Braves by the July 31 deadline, expect the Phillies to make some minor moves to try to win one of two wild-card playoff spots.

If Philadelphia doesn’t have a realistic chance of winning the division, it doesn’t make sense to make a big trade for a postseason run that could last just one wild-card game.

Also, how many moves can the Phillies make? It’s just not practical to expect them to replace 60% of their starting rotation through trades.

“I don’t think we should be focused on the reinforcements coming from the outside,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said last month.

“If this group of 25 guys plays well, we will be a playoff team. If this group of 25 guys does not play well, we will not. We will do everything we can to add to this team where it makes sense to fill in the gaps, but we’re not going to radically alter the core of this team in July.”

Who could surprise in the second half?

If the Phillies don’t make multiple big trades, they will probably look inward to improve their team.

Adonis Medina is the team’s top pitching prospect. Medina, 22, is 5-3 with a 3.90 ERA for the double-A Reading Fightin’ Phils.

Medina could find himself in Philadelphia if the team’s pitching struggles continue.

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Contact: 609-272-7209 Twitter @ACPressMcGarry

Staff Writer

I've covered high school sports and variety of other events and teams - including the ShopRite LPGA Classic and the Phillies - since 1993.

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