Phillies

Phillies hitters rack up 15 Ks, Gomez blows save in loss to Pirates

Phillies hitters rack up 15 Ks, Gomez blows save in loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

As the final month of this Phillies season winds down, there have been some glimmers of hope for the future.
 
But there have also been those reminders that this team still has a long way to go in its rebuild.
 
Alec Asher pitched well again in a 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay). His 6⅓ innings of two-run ball marked the 11th straight start in which a Phillies starting pitcher has allowed three or fewer earned runs. Over those 11 games, Phillies starters have a 1.99 ERA, the best in the majors during that span. Considering that five — Asher, Vince Velasquez, Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff and Adam Morgan — of the six pitchers who have contributed to the nice run of success are under control for next season, that’s a pretty good sign.
 
“I’m excited about the starting pitching,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “That’s something to take forward.”
 
But even with the starters pitching so well recently, the Phillies are still just 4-8 in the month of September. Much of that lack of success can be attributed to the team’s poor offense. The Phils have been shut out three times this month, and as time runs out on the season, they are racking up strikeouts at an alarming rate.
 
On Tuesday night, Phillies hitters struck out 15 times.
 
In 12 games this month, Phillies hitters have struck out 130 times, more than 10 per game. That, by far, is the most in the majors over that span. Minnesota is next with 118 whiffs.
 
Lately, the strikeouts have swelled. Here’s the rundown the last seven games: 13, 11, 12, 10, 9, 11, 15.
 
“We struck out 15 more times,” Mackanin said after Tuesday night’s loss. “We’re striking out too much.”
 
And not getting on base enough.
 
Or scoring enough.
 
The Phils are last in the majors in both of those categories. They have an on-base percentage of just .296 and have scored just 529 runs, 3.65 per game.
 
Despite scoring just three runs Tuesday night, the Phils had a chance to win the ballgame because Asher kept them in it and Freddy Galvis broke a 2-2 tie with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth.
 
The Pirates won it when Jeanmar Gomez blew a one-run lead in the ninth. He gave up a walk, a double and a three-run homer to Sean Rodriguez without retiring a batter.
 
“It was a tough night,” Gomez said. “Tomorrow will be better.”
 
“It’s a shame to lose that game,” Mackanin said. “We battled back. But we also shot ourselves in the foot.”
 
True enough. Pittsburgh scored the tying run in seventh after Asher walked two batters with one out. Reliever Michael Mariot then walked the first batter he faced before uncorking a wild pitch, allowing the Pirates to tie the game at 2-2. A baserunning mistake by Aaron Altherr in the bottom of the inning also did not help.
 
“There were quite a few positives, but a few more negatives,” Mackanin said. “Asher was really good, then he walked a couple of guys. Three walks and a wild pitch to get them back in the game. That didn’t help. They scored without getting a hit. That’s tough to take.
 
“Then we went ahead but didn’t get the job done.”
 
Even with his struggles in the seventh, Asher pitched well and showed promise. He’s made two starts with the big club this season and given up just two runs in 12⅓ innings.
 
“I thought it went well, but I didn’t like giving up those free bases,” Asher said of the two walks in the seventh.
 
Another recent addition also shined. Roman Quinn started at his third different outfield position — left — in as many nights and reached base three times and scored a run. He had two hits, including a bunt single.
 
Quinn has serious wheels and he’s fun to watch.
 
The rest of the offense hasn’t been fun to watch. Too many strikeouts. Not enough base runners. Not enough runs.

Who’s playing third base behind Aaron Nola? Yep, it’s Bryce Harper

Who’s playing third base behind Aaron Nola? Yep, it’s Bryce Harper

Two members of the Phillies' starting pitching rotation took a step forward Monday.

And Bryce Harper did his best Mike Schmidt imitation.

First, the pitching stuff.

Aaron Nola took the mound for the first time in an intrasquad game as he remained on course to potentially start the season opener a week from Friday.

And Zach Eflin, who had been slowed for several days by back spasms, was able to throw a bullpen session without any problem.

"He threw a beautiful pen," pitching coach Bryan Price said. "There were no limitations. He threw it great, aggressive."

Manager Joe Girardi said Eflin's command was "great."

Eflin is projected to slot fourth in the Phillies' rotation but he could move back a spot if he needs an extra day.

Nola, Zack Wheeler and Jake Arrieta will precede Eflin in the rotation. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are battling for the final spot in the rotation. One of them will end up in a bullpen that could number 11 men out of the gate.

Rosters will be increased from 26 to 30 men for the first two weeks of the season. There is no limit on how many pitchers a team can carry.

Nola faced 14 batters and struck out one over three unstructured innings of work. He faced extra batters in the first two innings to get his pitch count up. He retired eight of the first nine batters he faced and allowed two hits and two walks in his third inning of work.

"Aaron threw well," Girardi said. "He lost his command a little in that third inning, but that's probably normal fatigue at the end in your first time out. I feel good about where Aaron is."

Nola threw 47 pitches. He should get up to about 65 in his next outing and that would put him on target to start opening night. Girardi has not officially named Nola his opening night starter because he wants to see how the next week or so of workouts unfolds. But Girardi did acknowledge that Nola could indeed be the opening night starter if all continues to go well.

Nola might still be a little behind in his work. He missed the first few days of workouts because he had come in contact with someone who had been infected by COVID-19. Though Nola was not infected, protocol called for him to stay away from the team for several days.

Several coaches and staff members were pressed into duty as defenders during the intrasquad game.

Harper got some time — six defensive outs — at third base. 

Girardi acknowledged there was risk putting the $330 million man, usually a right fielder, 90 or so feet away from the hitter. 

"I think it's important the guys have fun," Girardi said. "I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, 'You look good there.'"

Girardi said Harper had been bugging him to play third in an intrasquad game.

Finally, Girardi relented.

"All right. One inning," the manager said. "But no diving. And make sure your arm is loose."

Harper got one ball in the field, a bouncer to his left. He moved his feet nicely, fielded it cleanly and threw a strike across the diamond for the third out.

Then he styled it off the field a la Mike Schmidt.

It really was not surprising that Harper handled himself well at third. He was a catcher in college and had played third before. He moved to the outfield in pro ball.

The Phils play another intrasquad game Tuesday night. Wheeler and Velasquez will each pitch four innings.

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Phillies Talk podcast: Will a few key Phillies be ready for opening day?

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Phillies Talk podcast: Will a few key Phillies be ready for opening day?

At the midpoint of MLB's summer camp, Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman look at the opening day readiness of several key Phillies and assess the changing J.T. Realmuto situation.

• What a normal day of Phillies summer camp has looked like.

• Can a job be won in intrasquad games?

• Will Aaron Nola and Scott Kingery be ready for opening day?

• Why Joe Girardi wants to keep Jean Segura at third base even without Kingery.

• COVID-19 testing issues.

• Challenges Phillies face in bullpen.

• Has our outlook on the J.T. Realmuto contract extension situation changed?

Subscribe and rate the Phillies Talk podcast:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19 / YouTube

More on the Phillies