Hoby Milner didn’t know he was accumulating the Phillies’ longest streak of scoreless appearances in a decade until his girlfriend sent him a screen grab from a recent television broadcast.
“I didn’t notice because I’ve had some shaky outings in there where I’ve had bases-loaded, one out, two outs and it just doesn’t feel like I had a good outing,” the lefty sidearmer said Sunday prior to the series finale vs. the Athletics. “I just got out of it without giving up a run. There’s some luck involved.”
Milner’s steak reached 20 appearances when he got two outs and walked one while pitching the sixth inning of Saturday night’s 5-3 win over Oakland. Milner last allowed a run when he was charged with two against Atlanta on July 29, spanning 16 1/3 innings entering Sunday’s game.
It’s the longest streak since J.C. Romero had 35 straight scoreless outings in 2007.
“A lot of the times, though, I come in and maybe get the first two outs and, like (Saturday) night, and it’s up to someone else to make sure he doesn’t score,” Milner said. “I’ve been lucky that most of my outings have been late and close and we’ve got Luis (Garcia) or (Hector) Neris coming after me and they just shut it down and I get off the hook.”
The skinny 26-year-old was a seventh-round pick of the Phillies in 2012 after playing college ball at Texas. The team decided his deceptive delivery was better for the bullpen and he became a full-time reliever in 2015.
Milner made his major-league debut June 24. Far from a finished product, he’s allowed 28 hits, including two home runs, while walking 11 and hitting four batters over his first 26 innings. But he’s struck out 16 in 30 appearances and held a 1.73 ERA.
His most impressive stat: lefties were batting .081 (3 for 37) during the scoreless streak.
Milner’s emergence is part of a trend. A group of mostly young Phillies relievers has impressed in the second half of the season.
“(Adam) Morgan has improved immensely and Hoby Milner has really established himself as a pretty good situational lefty. And he gets righties out for the most part,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “Garcia, huge step forward and outstanding. (Edubray) Ramos is pitching well. (Victor) Arano looks good and (Kevin) Siegrist, they’re all contributing. They’re all pitching very well and that’s the reason we’re improving."
The Phillies had a streak of 18 2/3 scoreless innings pitched by relievers snapped in the ninth inning Saturday when Neris gave up a solo homer to Jed Lowrie. But Neris has converted 25 straight saves, and since Aug. 27, Phillies relievers have a 2.04 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 70 2/3 innings.
“Once we got rid of (Joaquin) Benoit and (Pat) Neshek and those guys, I’m assuming the Phillies had no clue how the bullpen was going to shape up the rest of the year,” Milner said. “But if we can show we can get outs and we can put up zeros now, that’s less than they have to go out and get in the offseason. They can focus on bigger roles and not bullpen guys.”