Phillies

Bryce Harper clears Green Monster, bullpen deals in Phillies sweep over Red Sox

Bryce Harper clears Green Monster, bullpen deals in Phillies sweep over Red Sox

BOX SCORE

BOSTON – The Phillies shipped up to Boston, got some out-of-their-mind pitching and took a pair of games from the majors’ top hitting team.

The Phils completed a two-game sweep of the Red Sox with a tense 5-2 win at Fenway Park on Wednesday night.

The Phillies had just six hits in the game, but four of them were for extra bags and accounted for three runs.

The stat is pretty amazing: The Phillies are 57-16 when they score four or more runs. Getting four can be a problem for this offense. They scored just three on Tuesday night but got the win behind Aaron Nola.

The Phillies, who entered the game two back in the NL wild-card chase, head into an off day Thursday with a 66-60 record.

The drought ends

The Phillies scored three runs in the first inning of Tuesday night’s series opener and nothing the rest of the game. Nola and the bullpen made those three runs stand up for the win. The Phils opened Wednesday night’s game with four scoreless innings, running their scoring drought to 12, before putting a three-spot on the board in the fifth inning. Bryce Harper had the big blow, a two-run homer with one out that put the Phils ahead. Harper has 27 homers and 92 RBIs.

Dickerson shines

Corey Dickerson’s RBI triple in the seventh was a big hit for the Phils. He added an RBI single in the ninth for more valuable insurance. Both of Dickerson’s runs scored Rhys Hoskins, who doubled, walked twice and scored twice out of the leadoff hole. Hoskins scored three of the Phillies’ eight runs in the series.

Keep ‘em in it

Drew Smyly needed 32 pitches (16 strikes, 16 balls) to get through the first inning and, predictably, did not last long. He pitched 3 2/3 innings. But Smyly, who threw 84 pitches in those 3 2/3 innings, did manage to hold the Red Sox to two runs, a feat considering he allowed eight base runners. Smyly did a good job limiting damage and keeping his team in the game. He also got a huge assist from reliever Jared Hughes, who came on with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth and retired last year’s American League MVP, Mookie Betts, on a ground ball to third.

The Phillies rallied for three runs in the top of the fifth and Hughes stayed on for a quick shutdown frame, retiring the middle of Boston’s order, in the bottom of the inning.

Check out the bullpen

It was outstanding in the two games. It picked up two scoreless innings Tuesday night and 5 1/3 in this one.

Mike Morin got two big outs in the eighth inning on Tuesday night. He got two more in the seventh in this one. Both nights, he struck out Betts.

Lefty Jose Alvarez, whose contributions have been unsung this season, registered one of the biggest outs of the series when he struck out Chris Owings with runners on second and third to end the eighth and preserve a two-run lead. Harper made a big play in right field earlier in the inning. He cut off a ball that likely saved a run.

Hector Neris saved both wins.

Still not good

The Phillies needed every ounce of their good pitching to win this one because the offense, despite some extra-base pop, went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.

The DH decision

A pregame look at the stat sheet suggested that Brad Miller might get a start as the designated hitter. Miller is 13 for 47 with five homers and 12 RBIs lifetime against Rick Porcello, who was Boston’s starter.

But Gabe Kapler went with Logan Morrison as the DH. He also had good pregame numbers against Porcello – 12 for 40 with two homers and five RBIs.

In making his decision, Kapler watched video of every plate appearance that Miller and Morrison had in their careers against Porcello. That’s over 90 plate appearances. Kapler then went to the Phillies’ recent data on Porcello and noticed that the right-hander had been throwing his four-seam fastball more than his sinking two-seamer. Kapler surmised that Morrison’s swing would fare better against that pitch than Miller’s.

Kapler alerted Miller of his decision with an early afternoon text message.

And that’s the story behind the story on how Kapler picked a DH for the game.

By the way, Morrison was hitless in two at-bats against Porcello.

Up next

Vince Velasquez will pitch Friday night in Miami. The Marlins had not named a starter.

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Phillies still need a miracle, but 2 wins over Braves, with Aaron Nola up next, is a good place to start

Phillies still need a miracle, but 2 wins over Braves, with Aaron Nola up next, is a good place to start

ATLANTA — The Phillies departed on this 11-game road trip needing to win just about all of them to have a shot at making the postseason. There are still two more cities to visit and miles upon miles to go on this trip, but …

Do you believe in miracles?

“I don’t think there’s anything we can’t do in this clubhouse,” Zach Eflin said after backboning a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.

The Phils have opened the road trip with two straight wins against the soon-to-be NL East champs and they will look for a sweep behind Aaron Nola on Thursday. A sweep is almost a must if the Phillies want to stay in the NL wild-card chase. There are 12 games remaining and they are three back.

The Phillies have used the long ball in beating the Braves on back-to-back nights. They have hit four homers in the two games and three of them have been two-run shots. Bryce Harper keyed the offense Wednesday night with a two-run bomb in the fourth inning. Cesar Hernandez also homered and the Phils scored their third run on a bases-loaded walk.

The Phils had just four hits in the game and they struck out 12 times. They also committed three errors in the field. All of this made it imperative that they get a good performance from their pitchers and they did.

Eflin was brilliant for seven innings and the bullpen tandem of Jose Alvarez and Hector Neris got the final six outs in speedy fashion.

After the game, manager Gabe Kapler gushed about Eflin.

“That was the toughest, from a mental standpoint, start from a pitcher that we've gotten all season long,” he said. “Quite simply, we didn't make plays behind him early on. He continued to get ground ball after ground ball. Calls were not going his way. And that was true when he was at that plate, as well. He just kind of had a resiliency about him throughout this game. He wasn't going to get beat mentally. He just continued to induce ground balls and got weak contact throughout the game. That was why we won that game.

“I think that there were a lot of people who were inspired — myself and the coaching staff and many of the players in the dugout — by the start that Zach just made. “

Eflin had struggled mightily in three previous starts against the Braves this season, including one last week. In just 9 1/3 innings, he was tagged for 17 hits and 20 runs (eight were unearned). He walked nine and struck out nine.

The 25-year-old righty rebounded impressively in this one. Relying heavily on his favorite pitch, a sinking, two-seam fastball, he held the Braves to five hits and one unearned run. He walked two and struck out four. He threw 99 pitches and 57 were sinkers. He got 12 outs on the ground, including a big double play against Brian McCann to end the sixth inning.

“The part that makes it especially mentally tough is the fact that he just faced the Braves,” Kapler said. “It's an incredibly tough lineup to go through several times, but even more so that he's coming off a start against them. 

“We've talked about this time of year being when we're going to fight and scratch and claw. That was fight. That was tough from Zach Eflin.”

Over his last five starts, Eflin has allowed just five earned runs in 28 2/3 innings for a 1.57 ERA.  

After some mid-season struggles, he has found himself again. It has all coincided with his re-dedication to throwing his favorite pitch, the sinker.

“At the end of the day, I’m going out and attacking guys and if it’s my sinker that day that’s working I’m going to use my sinker, if it’s my change-up I’m going to use my change-up,” he said. “We figure out what we have going early in the bullpen before the game. Today was the sinker. It’s been working these last couple outings so if it’s there next outing you’ll probably see it again.”

The Phillies still have stops in Cleveland (three games) and Washington (five) on this trip.

They face the longest of odds in making the postseason, but they’re not dead.

“We come in every single day mentally and physically ready to play and win,” Eflin said. “We have the guys in the clubhouse to do it and get there and make a postseason run, so to be able to do that and play good baseball at the same time is really good for us. We’re looking forward to riding this momentum the next couple of days and into the next series that we have coming and really doing everything we can to make it.”

On paper, you have to like the Phillies' chances with their ace, Nola, on the mound in Thursday’s series finale. However, the Phils are 0-5 in his last five starts.

Can he turn things around and keep the Phillies’ momentum going?

“I think it's really important that we focus on just one game,” Kapler said. “More specifically, just one pitch. The first pitch of the game for Aaron Nola, the first pitch of the game for our leadoff batter tomorrow is what we're focused on.”



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Zach Eflin excellent, Bryce Harper homers and Phillies beat Braves again

Zach Eflin excellent, Bryce Harper homers and Phillies beat Braves again

BOX SCORE 

ATLANTA — A couple of home runs and some excellent pitching.

That was the Phillies’ recipe in a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.

The Phils remain alive in the NL wild-card race. They entered the night four games out and had a chance to pick up ground depending on outcomes elsewhere.

There are 12 games remaining.

Zach Eflin gave the Phils an outstanding start Wednesday night and he was supported by home runs from Bryce Harper and Cesar Hernandez. Harper’s 32nd homer was a long, two-run shot against Julio Teheran in the fourth inning.

The Phillies only had four hits in the game and they struck out 12 times. It helps when half of your hits go over the wall and are preceded by a batter getting hit by a pitch as J.T. Realmuto was before Harper’s homer. The Phils scored their fourth run on a bases-loaded walk to Jean Segura in the sixth.

The Phils have beaten the Braves two straight nights in this three-game series. They have hit four home runs, including three two-run shots, in the two games.

Atlanta’s magic number for winning the NL East is two.

The Phillies are 78-72. They need to win four of their final 12 games to have their first winning season since 2011.

Quite the rebound

Eflin had struggled mightily in three previous starts against the Braves this season, including one last week. In just 9 1/3 innings, he was tagged for 17 hits and 20 runs (eight were unearned). He walked nine and struck out nine.

Eflin really turned the tables in this one. Relying heavily on his favorite pitch, a sinking, two-seam fastball, he held the Braves to five hits and one unearned run over seven innings. He walked two and struck out four.

Eflin threw 99 pitches and 57 were sinkers. He got 12 outs on the ground. He also pitched over three errors behind him.

Big out

Eflin got into a little jam in the bottom of the sixth when he allowed a one-out infield hit followed by a walk. Dangerous but slow-footed Brian McCann came to the plate with the Braves down, 4-1. The best way to attack McCann in that situation was with a heavy dose of sinkers, something that would produce a ground ball and a potential double play. Eflin threw McCann a first-pitch sinker and got his double play ball for one of his biggest outs of the night.

Bullpen shines

Lefty Jose Alvarez retired three big bats — Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson and Nick Markakis — in the bottom of the eighth. He struck out both Freeman and Donaldson and got Markakis on a ground ball. The Phils have done a good job on Freeman in the first two games of the series. They’ve pitched around him some and gone after him some. He is 0 for 5 with four walks.

Hector Neris got the save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Go figure

Heading into the final meeting of the season with Atlanta on Thursday afternoon, the Phillies have 10-8 record against the Braves.

While the Phils have enjoyed a winning record against the soon-to-be NL East champions, they have struggled against the last-place Miami Marlins. The Phils are 7-9 against the Marlins. The Phils finish the season later this month with three games against Miami.

Up next

Good pitching matchup in Thursday afternoon’s series finale: Aaron Nola (12-5, 3.62) against right-hander Mike Soroka (12-4, 2.57). First pitch is 12:10 p.m.

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