Phillies

Bryce Harper is getting hot and playing with some fire

Bryce Harper is getting hot and playing with some fire

If the Phillies are going to emerge from the six-week funk that caused their nosedive from first to third place in the National League East and eventually make a run at a playoff spot, they are going to need Bryce Harper to be The Man in the middle of their batting order.

They need a lot of other things, too — like improved starting pitching — but they really need Harper to produce big and play with the fire and passion that rubs off on everyone else.

In other words, they need him to do what he did Thursday afternoon.

Harper came up with the game on the line in the seventh inning and delivered a game-tying base hit to help the Phillies rally past the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-6, in the rain at Citizens Bank Park.

Rhys Hoskins, just as important to the team’s chances as Harper, followed his teammate with a two-run, opposite-field single (an on 0-2 pitch) to give the Phillies the lead.

The hits by Harper and Hoskins both came off hard-throwing Dodgers’ reliever Joe Kelly and they helped the Phillies pull off a crucial split of the four-game series against baseball’s best club. The Phils lost the opener, 16-2, and came back to win two of the next three.

The Phillies finished the homestand against the Dodgers and the red-hot Washington Nationals with three wins and four losses, not enough to convince the front office to go for broke at the trade deadline later this month, but enough to keep the Phillies hanging around in the playoff chase as they head to Pittsburgh for a weekend series against the Pirates.

“Obviously, we've gotten hit in the mouth a couple of times throughout the course of the season, but we seem to bounce back,” Hoskins said. “The Dodgers beat us the first game pretty well, so to be able to come back after that and split with one of the best teams in the National League does a lot for the confidence of this club. Especially today, coming from behind.”

Aaron Nola, who has been a stud for a month, had an off day with his location. He allowed three of the four homers that the Dodgers hit and he left trailing after five innings.

The offense saved him.

The Phils rallied for four runs in the bottom of the seventh after reliever Caleb Ferguson hit a batter and walked a batter with no outs. Jean Segura had an RBI single before Harper tied the game against Kelly.

Harper moved to second — diving into the bag — on a bobble in the outfield. He came up muddy with a pumping fist and a “Let’s go!” shout to the dugout. The crowd of 38,043 loved it. Hoskins also showed some fire as he reached first base on his go-ahead base hit to right.

“After going through a long night (Wednesday) and coming out with a loss, it was good to see that kind of energy and that kind of emotion,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Rhys putting the ball in play against Kelly down the right field line — it didn’t have to be a bullet, just put it in play down the line and he was clearly fired up at first base. There was some emotion shown. A lot of our guys showed a lot of emotion today after this win. We came out and were resilient, tough and energetic today.”

Harper had a good series with three two-hit games. He had three doubles and drove in seven runs. Over his last 22 games, he is hitting .316 (25 for 79) with six doubles, five homers and 19 RBIs.

“We’ve leaned on him and we’ve leaned all season long on him and we’re going to continue to lean on him as an emotional leader and the producer that he is on the bases, at the plate and on defense,” Kapler said of Harper.

Hoskins has 54 go-ahead RBIs since making his big-league debut August 10, 2017. That’s the most in baseball.

At 50-47, the Phillies need a lot to go right if they are going to make a run.

You know all about the starting pitching. You know all about the bullpen.

Getting Harper and Hoskins hot in the middle of the lineup — like they were Thursday — would be huge.

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Was that the Phillies’ worst loss ever to the Marlins?

Was that the Phillies’ worst loss ever to the Marlins?

A few things about last night’s loss, which was inarguably the Phillies’ worst of the season and maybe their worst loss ever to the Marlins.

What happened last night should never happen. The Marlins are a pitiful offense that entered Friday night ranked last in the majors in OPS and 29th in runs scored.

At home, in massive Marlins Park, Miami had been averaging 3.9 runs and 2.4 extra-base hits per game. Against the Phillies Friday night, the Marlins scored 19 and had seven extra-base hits.

Ignominious records

The Marlins came into existence in 1993. Never in those 27 years had the Phillies given up 19 runs to Miami. The 19 hits were also the most the Phillies have ever allowed to the Marlins.

The meltdown

Last night was the first game in recorded Phillies history that they led by at least seven runs and lost by at least seven.

Considering the Marlins had scored more than seven runs only 10 times in their previous 126 games, it had to feel in the moment like a slam-dunk win. And yet...

The 8-run deficit

These teams have met 449 times. The Phillies have suffered a loss by more than eight runs just eight times. In other words, it’s happened once every 56 meetings.

The big picture

The Phillies are fighting for their playoff lives. The Marlins are 46-81 and on pace to lose 103 games.

The Phillies had just come off an improbable two-game sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway. The next two opponents after that are the two worst teams in the NL: Miami and Pittsburgh. If ever the opportunity for that elusive five-game win streak existed, it was now. Now, the Phillies will need to win the next two in Miami and sweep the Pirates to achieve that.

Consider also that the teams the Phillies are chasing continue to win.

The Nationals have won 8 of 10, scored 81 runs in their last seven games and have separated themselves from the wild-card pack. The Phillies trail the Nats by 4.5 games.

The Mets lost in extra innings to the Braves Friday night but had won five in a row before that. They’re 21-5 since July 25.

The Cardinals have won 7 of 10 to move a half-game ahead of the Cubs for the NL Central lead. For the Phillies to make the playoffs, they’ll need to catapult both the Mets and whichever NL Central team does not win the division.

The Phillies just aren’t as good as the teams they’re chasing. Here are the playoff odds per team, according to Fangraphs as of today. These take into account each team’s remaining schedule and projected performance.

Nationals: 93%

Cubs: 76%

Cardinals: 57%

Mets: 46%

Brewers: 17%

Phillies: 8%

The Marlins are 11-36 against the Braves, Nationals and Mets. Over a full season, that is a 38-124 pace.

And yet the Marlins are 8-6 against the Phillies. They have outscored the Phillies by one run and been outscored by 149 runs when facing anyone else.

Simply unacceptable. Friday counted as one loss by definition but looked and felt much worse than that in the bigger picture.

We all said entering the season that success against the Marlins could determine the NL East. Well, everyone but the Phillies has done what they’re supposed to do against this lowly Miami team. If/when the Phillies miss the playoffs, their 2019 performance against Miami will be one of the main storylines we remember from this frustrating season.

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Vince Velasquez on brutal loss to Marlins: 'I'm flat-out embarrassed'

Vince Velasquez on brutal loss to Marlins: 'I'm flat-out embarrassed'

MIAMI — The Phillies rolled into South Florida feeling really good about themselves after a two-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox. Phillies pitching held one of the best offenses in baseball to just four runs in that series and now it was time to keep the party going against one of the worst offenses in baseball.

For a while Friday night, the party rocked on and everyone was having a good ol' time.

Then, out of nowhere, the septic system backed up.

Actually, there was nothing wrong with the plumbing at Marlins Park, but you get the odious imagery. Phillies pitcher Vince Velasquez let a seven-run lead get away in the third inning and the Phils went on to suffer an embarrassing 19-11 loss to the lowly Miami Marlins in the heat of a playoff race.

It was the first time the Phils blew a 7-0 lead and lost since August 2003.

“Unacceptable,” manager Gabe Kapler said afterward. “That’s a game we have to win.”

The night could not have started any better for Velasquez. He allowed just one base runner in the first two innings and took a 7-0 lead into the bottom of the third.

The Marlins tagged him for seven runs in that inning to tie the game. They also overcame a 9-7 deficit in the fifth inning on their way to hanging a 19-spot on the Phils. It’s worth noting that the Marlins had lost 16 of their previous 19 and six in a row. They’d scored just 13 runs total in that six-game losing streak.

Their offense got well against Phillies pitching. The Marlins had seven extra-base hits, including four homers. The only Phillies pitchers not to give up runs were reliever Juan Nicasio, who threw just two pitches before leaving with a sore shoulder, and utility man Sean Rodriguez, who threw two pitches in mop-up duty.

In addition to the poor pitching, the Phils played poor defense, particularly at third base, where Brad Miller and Maikel Franco both struggled. Franco made an error that helped fuel the Marlins’ five-run fifth inning. Four of those runs were unearned.

But the biggest problem the Phillies had on Friday night was Velasquez.

“I take full responsibility for the outcome of the game,” he said. “As a pitcher you want that run support. What more do you want than a 7-zero lead and you end up giving it up.

“I feel pretty embarrassed and disappointed.

“It’s a good sign that the bats are still alive. That’s a great sign that everyone is pulling through offensively. But I’m embarrassed that I couldn’t hold the lead and do my job as a pitcher and help the team on my behalf. I think as a team, we have to continue what we’re doing offensively. I’m flat-out embarrassed on my end. There should be no excuses for that.”

Kapler called it a “tough, tough loss,” and added, “We go up, 7-0, and we just didn’t make enough pitches. We weren’t able to put hitters away. We weren’t making enough plays on defense. We let a team back in the game that we shouldn’t have let back in the game. It’s that simple.

“We have to do a better job. We have to find ways to do a better job and then we have to quickly turn the page and come back and be ready to play tomorrow. Probably the most important thing we can do right now is have a short memory. Understand that this one sucks and that we have to protect an early lead and be better than that, and then come back tomorrow and be ready to play again.”

The Marlins’ seven-run rally in the third started when Velasquez hit a batter with an 0-2 pitch. Velasquez hit two batters in that inning and gave up five hits, including a three-run homer. Two innings later, Nick Pivetta allowed a go-ahead, two-run double to Neil Walker on an 0-2 pitch. Pivetta was charged with five runs in that inning, but only one was earned after an error by Franco.

Kapler probably could have gotten Velasquez out of the game sooner as the Marlins were pouring it on in the third.

“I think you wanted to display some confidence in a pitcher that’s been pretty good for us, give him a chance to get out of that, give him a chance to give us a little bit of length and not have to burn through the bullpen,” he said of Velasquez. “At that point, we had still all agreed he was our best option to get outs. He just wasn’t able to get it done.”

The Phillies, 2 1/2 games back in the wild-card race, needed to get greedy in this series, needed to play for the sweep. Now, they have to trust in struggling Zach Eflin on Saturday night before ace Aaron Nola goes on Sunday. The Phils have had a lot of problems with the Marlins this season. They are 6-8 against them. There are 35 games left and these next two games feel like must-wins.



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