Phillies

Phillies-Nationals observations: Big 3rd inning in 4-1 win

Phillies-Nationals observations: Big 3rd inning in 4-1 win

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Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp keyed a three-run third inning and the bullpen pitched well in lifting the Phillies to a 4-1 win over the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night.

The win was the lowly Phillies' 63rd against 95 losses and it ensured that the team will not reach the 100-defeat mark. The Phils have not lost 100 games in a season since 1961. Nonetheless, the Phils entered the game tied with San Francisco for having the game's worst record.
 
Joseph and Rupp have each lost playing time recently. Joseph had an RBI single in the third and Rupp scorched a two-run, two-out double over the centerfielder's head.

• Jake Thompson pitched five innings of one-run ball. He pitched 46 1/3 innings in the majors this season and had a 3.88 ERA. For his career, he is at 100 big-league innings. His ERA is 4.86.

• Washington starter Gio Gonzalez entered the game with the third-best ERA in the National League at 2.68. He allowed five hits and three runs over five innings. He struck out seven but walked five. Two of those walks became runs. Gonzalez will need to be better when the postseason starts next week.

• Washington star Bryce Harper returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a hyperextended left knee on Aug. 12. He was hitless with a walk in three at-bats. Harper is basically trying to get his timing back for the postseason.

• Pitch efficiency was seriously lacking early in the game as Thompson and Gonzalez combined to throw 96 pitches in the first two innings. Thompson threw 29 strikes and 18 balls in the first two innings. Gonzalez threw 25 strikes and 24 balls in the first two innings and reached 100 pitches with one out in the fifth inning.

• J.P. Crawford continued to get work at third base. His actions and first-step quickness at the position are excellent. He made a quick-reaction diving stab on a liner from Ryan Zimmerman in the sixth inning. That ball came off Zimmerman's bat at 108 mph.

• Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan, Luis Garcia and Hector Neris combined on four shutout innings — and nine strikeouts — out of the bullpen. Morgan has given up just two runs in his last 25 innings. Neris has converted 19 straight save chances.

• Odubel Herrera's first two at-bats against Gonzalez were not pretty. He struck out swinging at a pitch up and out of the strike zone in the second inning and popped weakly to short with men on base in the fourth. He got out in front of a Gonzalez curveball and popped to center in the fifth. In the eighth, he fanned against reliever Austin Adams.

• Smart play by Freddy Galvis taking an extra base on Nats first baseman Zimmerman on a groundout in the seventh. Zimmerman has trouble throwing the ball, hence his position move from third base to first. Galvis knew this, alertly took advantage of it and it resulted in a run on a sacrifice fly by Rhys Hoskins.

• Hoskins entered the game in an 0-for-10 funk (5 for 37 overall) and struck out on curveballs from Gonzalez in his first two at-bats. He rebounded to draw a walk in the fifth and had an important sacrifice fly in the seventh.

• Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6, 4.69) pitches against Washington's Tanner Roark (13-10, 4.41) in the series finale on Wednesday night.

Phillies nearly complete sweep on national TV, but that bullpen …

Phillies nearly complete sweep on national TV, but that bullpen …

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WASHINGTON — In this case, it really was a game of inches.

A powerful fifth inning put the Phillies up four runs, but the bullpen couldn't finish the sweep, allowing three in the sixth and three in the eighth in an 8-6 loss Sunday night to the Nationals.

The culprits were Edubray Ramos, who allowed his first two earned runs since May 8, and Seranthony Dominguez, who allowed a two-out, two-run, bases-loaded single to Daniel Murphy. It was a soft line drive an inch over 5-foot-10 Cesar Hernandez's glove. 

The Nationals had 17 hits. Nine of them came in the final three innings.

The meltdown was under the bright lights of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Know how long it had been since the Phils appeared on Sunday Night Baseball? So long that Delmon Young and Darin Ruf were their starting corner outfielders. 

Despite the loss, the Phillies won another series against a good team. They've been doing a lot of that lately. They're 12-13 during this grueling stretch that began at Dodger Stadium on Memorial Day, and they're 23-25 against teams over .500. 

It's a very good sign for the ensuing three months of the regular season.

"I think that every series that we win, it's less, 'If they keep this up, it proves they are good' kind of thing. And rather every series we win, we feel more confident that second-half development leads us into the playoffs," manager Gabe Kapler said Sunday. 

"That's how I am thinking about it. We have young players on our roster, right? A lot of 25-, 26-year-olds. If they all do what their natural curve should do, get a little bit better in the second half, theoretically we are a developing team that is getting better. So I can see us getting even better in the second half."

After losing seven of their first eight games in June, the Phils are 9-4. Just in time to welcome to Citizens Bank Park a suddenly cold Yankees team.

The decision you'll hear about Monday

In that ugly eighth inning, Kapler chose to intentionally walk 19-year-old rookie Juan Soto to load the bases with two outs and Daniel Murphy due up next.

As always, the manager was heavily criticized immediately on the interwebs because the move didn't work.

"Why walk the rookie to pitch to a career Phillie-killer?"

Well, because Soto has been unbelievable, including in this series. He's hitting .324/.430/.588. Murphy was 5 for 37 entering the night after coming back from major knee surgery 12 games ago. He also has had issues catching up to fastballs. 

At the very least, it seemed like a "flip-a-coin" decision. Didn't work. Soto's going to be very good for a very long time.

"Soto has been one of the league's most dangerous offensive players. Murphy, coming off injury and sort of still going through the process of getting back to being Murphy, has struggled," Kapler said.

"And with Seranthony (Dominguez's) fastball, it's not an easy fastball to catch up with and we thought that Soto was more dangerous in that situation. You pick your poison right there. You have two very good hitters and the first one in Soto has been elite and Murphy has struggled a little bit. So, went after the guy who's struggled and coming off an injury."

Big bats in the middle

One through five, the Phillies' offense is clicking.

Cesar Hernandez walked twice more Sunday and has a .376 on-base percentage.

Rhys Hoskins hit a two-run homer and is now batting .352 over his last 15 games with five homers, five doubles and 15 RBI.

Odubel Herrera hit a two-run triple off lefty reliever Sammy Solis. He, too, couldn't be hotter. In his last nine games, Herrera has nine extra-base hits and 11 RBI.

Carlos Santana? Quiet game for him, but over his last 45 games he's hit .277 with a .399 OBP, 20 extra-base hits and 35 RBI.

Not to be outdone, Nick Williams hit his first homer of the season off a lefty two batters after Herrera's triple. Williams has settled into what's become almost an everyday job in right field. He's started 21 of the Phillies' last 25 games.

Just enough from Pivetta

Nick Pivetta really wanted to get the bad taste out of his mouth from his last outing at Nationals Park in early May, which lasted one inning and resulted in six runs. 

Minus that outing, Pivetta has a 3.46 ERA on the season.

In five innings Sunday night, Pivetta allowed two runs and struck out seven. He faced jams in the fourth and fifth innings but navigated around them because of his strikeout stuff. With two on and nobody out in the fourth, he struck out the side. With the bases loaded and two outs the next inning, he punched out Michael A. Taylor.

Pivetta has struck out 101 batters in 84⅓ innings. Only five NL pitchers have more K's: Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, Jacob deGrom, Jon Gray and Zack Greinke.

Pair of injuries

Andrew Knapp left the game in the seventh inning with a right knee contusion.

An inning later, Maikel Franco slipped on a slick first-base bag on a single and landed awkwardly. He stayed in after a brief delay, then exited the next half-inning.

Kapler said both appear to be OK and that Franco could play tomorrow.

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Phillies catch a break this week vs. Yankees

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Phillies catch a break this week vs. Yankees

WASHINGTON — The Phillies will catch a break this week when the Yankees come to town. Starting catcher Gary Sanchez is likely headed to the DL after coming up lame on a groundball in extra innings Sunday.

Sanchez was trying to leg out a double-play ball in the top of the 10th in Tampa Bay when he injured his groin area. He walked off the field carefully, and after the game, Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters his catcher is likely going on the shelf. Monday's MRI will determine it.

It's a break for the Phils against a ridiculously deep Yankees lineup. Sanchez is hitting just .190, but he's a huge power threat with 14 homers and 14 doubles. Since 2016, Sanchez has 67 home runs despite averaging just 340 plate appearances per season over that span. It's by far the most HR hit by any player with that few PAs.

Even with Sanchez out, the Phils will have to deal with a formidable offense. You've got Aaron Judge batting second with his league-best power and .393 OBP. You've got Giancarlo Stanton, who's heating up and went 5 for 5 with a pair of doubles Sunday. Rookie Miguel Andujar has been better than anyone anticipated, entering the week hitting .284 with 11 homers, 35 RBI and a .836 OPS.

But because the series is at Citizens Bank Park and the Yankees won't have a DH, they likely won't play Aaron Hicks. In effect, the Yankees will be without their regular Nos. 5 and 6 hitters.

The pitching matchups for the series are:

Monday — Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) vs. Jonathan Loaisiga (1-0, 3.12)

Tuesday — Jake Arrieta (5-5, 3.42) vs. Luis Severino (11-2, 2.24)

Wednesday — Zach Eflin (5-2, 3.42) vs. Luis Cessa (0-0, 3.00)

Loaisiga has a great nickname: Johnny Lasagna.

Severino is one of the AL's toughest customers. 

Cessa has not started a game this season and has a 4.54 ERA in 14 career starts.

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