Phillies-Marlins observations: Ben Lively bounces back in 3-2 win

Phillies-Marlins observations: Ben Lively bounces back in 3-2 win


MIAMI — It wasn’t a fatal blow, but the Phillies landed a damaging dagger to the heart of the Miami Marlins and their fading playoff hopes with a 3-2 win on Thursday night at Marlins Park.

Ben Lively (2-5) earned the win by allowing just two runs in six innings. He also drove in two runs in an all-around performance. (OK, he made a throwing error, but still …)

Hector Neris earned his 17th save the very hard way, loading the bases before striking out J.T. Realmuto, who watched a 2-2 fastball for strike three.  

With the win, the Phillies (50-83) became the last team in the majors to reach 50 victories. The Marlins (66-67) fell six games behind the Colorado Rockies in the battle for the final wild-card berth in the National League.

• The Marlins appeared to had tied the score in the eighth inning on a swinging bunt by Tomas Telis. Reliever Luis Garcia’s throw to first bounced into right field and allowed Derek Dietrich to score from first. However, Telis ran out of the baseline at first and was called out, crushing the rally. The Phillies dodged the proverbial bullet.  

• Left-hander Adam Morgan turned in an impressive relief outing, striking out the side in the seventh. Morgan got all three batters swinging. And these weren’t just any three batters. They were Giancarlo Stanton, who leads the majors in homers; Christian Yelich, a Silver Slugger winner last year who has 16 homers this season; and Marcell Ozuna, a 2017 All-Star who has 31 homers and 103 RBIs (see story).

• The power versus power matchup — Stanton against Phillies rookie Rhys Hoskins — never materialized. Stanton went 0 for 5 with a fly out, two strikeouts and two pop outs. He is 1 for 15 this week.

Hoskins, who has 11 homers in 22 games, didn’t go deep, but he went 1 for 3 with a single and a walk. Hoskins became the first Phillies rookie to produce a 13-game hit streak in the first month of his major-league career since Hall of Famer Chuck Klein accomplished the feat in 1928.

• The Phillies were sloppy on defense, making three errors. Shortstop Freddy Galvis, who could be forced to give up his spot upon the imminent arrival of minor-league standout J.P. Crawford, made one of the miscues. Galvis charged in on a slow roller but couldn’t make the grab.

The other two errors happened on the same play as a Dee Gordon bunt turned into — in net effect — a triple because of throwing errors by Lively and second baseman Cesar Hernandez. 
• Lively, who entered Friday 3 for 14 with one homer and two RBIs as a competent (for a pitcher) big-league hitter, doubled his RBI count with a two-run single in the fourth. He raised his batting average to .235.

• Left-swinging Phillies rightfielder Nick Williams has had fairly even splits against right-handers and left-handers this year. He entered Thursday batting .281 with an .844 OPS against right-handers and .280 with a .785 OPS against left-handers.

Having even splits is the key to playing every day, especially for a rookie such as Williams, who is still trying to prove himself. But in the seventh inning, with a runner on third and one out, Williams hit a grounder to third base, failing to get the run in against rookie lefty reliever Jarlin Garcia.

Despite loss in finale, Phillies finish with successful road trip

Despite loss in finale, Phillies finish with successful road trip


ATLANTA — The Phillies won four out of six games on their road trip through the South and manager Gabe Kapler was happy with that. He said so in word after Wednesday night’s trip-ending, 7-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park (see first take). He said so in action in the eighth inning.

“All in all, you go on the road and you go 4-2, you feel good coming home,” Kapler said. “That's the biggest positive from this. We're going to go home stronger than when we left on this road trip. It's not an easy thing to do in baseball. I'm proud of our guys for doing that.”

Kapler’s satisfaction with the trip was evident even before the game ended. Lefty specialist Hoby Milner entered the game with one out in the eighth inning and the Phils down by two runs. His job, ostensibly, was to retire lefty hitters Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis. He retired neither. Up came right-handed hitting Kurt Suzuki. The situation screamed for a right-hander but Kapler stuck with Milner and he allowed an RBI single as the Braves pulled away with three runs in the inning to salt the game away.

Entering the game, Milner had allowed a .375 batting average (21 for 56) to right-handed hitters and a .158 (12 for 76) average to lefty hitters for his career. Despite this, Kapler did not even have a right-hander up in the bullpen. In fact, no one was up. Kapler indicated that he had faith that Milner could get the job done.

But there was more to it, as well.

“At that point it was time to look, in part, to save our bullpen,” Kapler said. “That was the right time to save our bullpen and put them in a good position to succeed going forward.”

Kapler’s thinking was not unheard of. Ask any manager and he’ll tell you, some nights you have to give the bullpen a break, take one step back for the chance to take two forward in subsequent days, and that’s just what Kapler did. After all, the ‘pen did pick up five innings the night before. But the flip side to this was the Phils were down only two runs with the middle of the order due up in the ninth. Keep the difference at two runs and maybe you can rally. Five runs — different story.

All this made one wonder if Kapler didn’t believe his offense could pull it out in the ninth.

“We always have full confidence that the guy on the mound can get outs,” Kapler said. “So this, at least, was as much about our belief in Hoby to be able to get outs in that situation, and, also, preserve arms in the bullpen. And, also, we believe in our offense to be able to come back and put a big number up. Always.”

The Phils ended up scoring a run in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough. Vince Velasquez gave up a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth when he allowed a walk, a single and a three-run homer to new Phillie killer Ryan Flaherty. The Braves were in control the rest of the way. They have beaten the Phillies in four of six meetings this season.

Phillies end road trip with loss to Braves

Phillies end road trip with loss to Braves


ATLANTA — Ryan Flaherty spent spring training with the Phillies on a minor-league contract. He hit .351 with three doubles, a homer and eight RBIs. He played in the infield and the outfield. Flaherty did enough to win a spot on the Phillies’ opening day roster, but was a victim of a numbers crunch so the team granted him his release in the final week of camp. 

In need of some help at third base after Johan Camargo went down with an oblique injury, the Braves signed Flaherty to a big-league deal and installed him as their opening day third baseman.

All Flaherty has done since joining the Braves is hit. He entered Wednesday hitting .354, fifth best in the majors and .130 points better than his career average. He’s been especially tough on the Phillies. He swatted a three-run home run Wednesday night and the Phillies never recovered in a 7-3 loss at SunTrust Park. Flaherty also had an RBI single in the game.

In six games against the Phillies this season, Flaherty has 11 hits, including three doubles and a homer. Despite Flaherty’s strong start, the Braves appear to be making other plans at third base. Camargo came off the disabled list on Wednesday and the team also signed veteran Jose Bautista with the intention of looking at him at third base when he’s ready to go.

Flaherty’s three-run home run came against Vince Velasquez in the fifth inning.

Velasquez had helped himself with an RBI single in the top of the fifth to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. But the right-hander let the lead get away quickly when he allowed a leadoff walk, a single and Flaherty’s three-run homer all with no outs in the bottom of the inning.

Flaherty hit a first-pitch fastball that registered 94 mph.

Those were the only runs that Velasquez allowed in six innings of work. He struck out seven and walked one. That walk became a run.

Braves starter Brandon McCarthy held the Phillies to one run over 5 1/3 innings.

The Phillies ended up losing two out of three in the series and are 2-4 against the Braves on the season. The Phils did not do a lot of scoring in this series. They lost the opener, 2-1. They won the second game, 5-1, but scored four of their runs in the 10th inning. They scored just three runs in the finale.

They probably would have had one more run if it weren’t for Ender Inciarte. The Braves’ defensive whiz centerfielder rose above the wall in left-center to steal a home run away from Scott Kingery in the first inning. Inciarte, like Flaherty, was once Phillies property, a former Rule 5 pick that the club chose not to keep around.