Phillies

Phillies-Mets observations: Homers help deliver 6-2 win

Phillies-Mets observations: Homers help deliver 6-2 win

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Pete Mackanin's farewell weekend began with a 6-2 win over the New York Mets on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The win left the Phillies at a game under .500 (36-37) since the All-Star break. They went 29-58 before the break. They are 15-12 in the month of September.

This improvement did not save Mackanin's job. He was fired from the manager's position earlier Friday, but will finish out the season and move to a front-office advisory position after the season (see story).

• Rookie Ben Lively got the win in his final start of the season. He gave up two runs, both on solo homers, over six innings. He struck out just one batter, but walked none. The quality start was Lively's 10th in 15 starts this season. He has a knack for pitching around trouble and keeping his team in games. He finished with a 4.26 ERA in 88 2/3 innings in the big leagues and will surely get a long look to be in the rotation in spring training.

• Lively was visibly angry with himself after allowing a first-inning home run to Jose Reyes on an 0-1 fastball, but he got it together and pitched well. The kid's got some toughness to him.

• Maikel Franco, Jorge Alfaro and Cesar Hernandez all homered for the Phillies. Franco's was a two-run shot in the second inning on a 3-1 fastball from Matt Harvey. The pitch tailed right into Franco's happy zone on the inner half of the plate and he did some damage. Alfaro's homer against Hansel Robles in the sixth was a bomb — 423 feet to center.

• Robles also gave up a homer to Hernandez in the sixth inning. He came inside on the next batter, Freddy Galvis, and that prompted home plate umpire Marvin Hudson to issue warnings to both benches. The Phillies have had problems with Robles in the past. Tommy Joseph, who was not in the lineup, stood on the top step of the dugout as warnings were issued. He looked ready to take a run at Robles. Joseph was the Phillies' opening day first baseman but he's been relegated to reserve duty down the stretch and he has a history of concussions — five of them — but he was ready to go if things escalated and that says something about him as a teammate.

• Lively left with a 6-2 lead and the bullpen did the rest. Adam Morgan was first with another scoreless inning. He has given up just two runs in his last 26 innings. He struck out two to raise his total to 32 in his last 26 innings. Luis Garcia and Edubray Ramos followed Morgan with a pair of scoreless frames. Over the last 31 games, the Phillies’ 'pen has given up just 30 runs in 110 1/3 innings. That's an ERA of 2.44. 

• The Phillies have hit 171 homers, their most since 2009 when they slugged a National League-high 224. The Phils have hit 101 homers at home, their most at Citizens Bank Park since they had 108 in 2009.

• Henderson Alvarez (0-1, 3.60) pitches against Mets right-hander Seth Lugo (7-5, 4.72) on Saturday night. Alvarez is auditioning for future employment. He pitched five shutout innings last weekend in Atlanta. The right-hander is coming back from shoulder surgery. It might make sense for the Phillies to try to keep him in the organization on a minor-league contract next season. Pitching depth is always needed. Alvarez, however, will surely seek a big-league deal somewhere.

Phillies score 10 runs and win but still leave behind a sour taste

Phillies score 10 runs and win but still leave behind a sour taste

Such an enigmatic group, these Phillies.

How crazy is it that on an afternoon when the Phils scored 10 runs to finish off an unlikely series victory, the leftover taste was a sour one because of the bullpen.

Gabe Kapler tried to show confidence in Hector Neris in the ninth inning for the second straight game. It worked Saturday but not Sunday.

After needing eight pitches in a 1-2-3 save Saturday, Neris allowed four runs and two homers in two-thirds of an inning to turn a 10-5 lead into a 10-9 game (see first take)

Kapler was forced to turn to Jake Thompson, who threw one pitch to get the save.

At this point, how can Kapler go back to Neris late in a close game? He attempted to use Neris in low-leverage situations — prior to Saturday, each of his last six outings came in games well in-hand — but it hasn't worked. 

Neris has a 6.00 ERA and has allowed eight home runs in 27 innings. To put that in perspective, Aaron Nola has allowed six home runs in 95⅓ innings. 

Neris' velocity was crisp Sunday, reaching as high as 98 mph. But the location, again, was off. Too many pitches in the middle of the plate.

The Phillies have a 4.56 ERA in the ninth inning. That's fourth-worst in the majors and second-worst in the NL, ahead of only the Marlins. Remove Neris from the equation and the Phils' ninth-inning ERA is 3.52.

The Phillies' bullpen was supposed to be a strength. But Pat Neshek hasn't pitched, Neris has fallen flat, Tommy Hunter is only starting to get into a groove and Luis Garcia is on the DL after several rough outings in a row.

Kapler must be careful of overusing Seranthony Dominguez, who factors into their ninth-inning plans far beyond this year. But aside from Dominguez, the only relievers the Phillies have who've been reliable more often than not are Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano. 

It's a precarious position to be in, yet the Phils are 12-6 in one-run games this season. Only the Mariners, Yankees, Brewers and Braves have a better winning percentage in such games. 

Nick Pivetta is on the hill Monday at home against the Cardinals. The Phillies badly need a long outing from him after their starters accounted for just 57% of the innings in Milwaukee.

It would be the perfect time for Pivetta to get back on track after allowing 13 runs in his last 14 innings and failing to pitch into the sixth four starts in a row.

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Maikel Franco picks up Aaron Nola for unlikely Phillies series win

Maikel Franco picks up Aaron Nola for unlikely Phillies series win

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The Phillies didn't get the kind of start from Aaron Nola they've been accustomed to but were still able to finish off an impressive series win Sunday by beating the Brewers 10-9.

As bad as they looked Friday night, this turned out to be a strong week for the Phils, who have won four of six games and two straight series over the Rockies and Brewers. 

The Phils are 37-32 and have been at least two games over .500 every day since April 13. The Brewers still own the best record in the National League at 42-29.

After this quick trip to Milwaukee, the Phillies are back home Monday through Wednesday against the Cardinals before going to Washington for the weekend. After that, they have an eight-game homestand.

Franco connects

Maikel Franco hasn't played much lately but got the start Sunday with J.P. Crawford playing shortstop in place of Scott Kingery.

In his second at-bat against right-hander Chase Anderson, Franco connected on a hanging, middle-in curveball for a two-run homer to left field.

In the seventh inning, Franco gave the Phillies some insurance with a rare single to right-center in a high-pressure situation. Franco's line drive drove in two more runs as he completed a four-RBI day. 

In nine career games at Miller Park, Franco is 14 for 30 (.467) with four homers and 14 RBI.

He's never going to be a high-OBP guy, but Franco can still pound mistakes here and there. The Phillies think Crawford has more upside offensively and defensively, but right now, Franco is the more effective option between the two because of this ability to occasionally run into a two-run homer.

The league knows what Franco is. He's likely never going to have significant trade value because of his .298 career on-base percentage in just under 1,900 plate appearances. But he does have mid-20s home run power. He has nine this season after hitting 24 last season and 25 the year before.

Neris … not so good

Kapler turned to Hector Neris in the ninth inning for the second day in a row and this time, it didn't work.

Neris gave up four runs with the Phillies up by five and was pulled with two outs for Jake Thompson.

Neris allowed home runs to Jesus Aguilar and Eric Thames, with Thames' three-run shot coming at the literal four-hour mark of the game — 4:00:00.

This game lasted 4 hours and 3 minutes, making it the Phils' longest non-extra-inning game since July 6, 2015 at Dodger Stadium.

The Phillies' ERA in the ninth inning this season is now 4.56 — fourth-worst in the majors and second-worst in the NL ahead of only the Marlins.

Hoskins stays hot

After demolishing a 431-foot home run Saturday, Rhys Hoskins hit another two-run shot to left in his first at-bat on Father's Day.

This one wasn't hit quite as hard but was a majestic, high shot that just kept carrying and carrying.

Hoskins is seeing the ball well. In a later at-bat, he hung with a low-and-away curveball and just missed the barrel, flying out to left field.

Since fracturing his jaw, Hoskins is 11 for 30 (.367) with three doubles, four homers, 11 RBI and four walks in nine games.

Williams' decisive blow

The half-inning after Nola exited his shortest start in over a year, Nick Williams delivered the key blow for the Phillies, a two-run single up the middle with the bases loaded.

Williams has had a productive week, going 6 for 13 with two doubles, a homer, four RBI, two walks and two hit by pitches in his last five games.

Up next

Pitching matchups for the Cardinals series:

Monday: Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.25) vs. Miles Mikolas (7-2, 2.43)

Tuesday: Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.74) vs. Luke Weaver (3-6, 4.52)

Wednesday: Jake Arrieta (5-5, 3.33) vs. Michael Wacha (8-2, 3.24)

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