Phillies

Done deal: Phillies land elite catcher J.T. Realmuto in blockbuster trade

Done deal: Phillies land elite catcher J.T. Realmuto in blockbuster trade

Updated: 3:20 p.m.

The Phillies and Marlins on Thursday completed a trade that brings All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to Philadelphia.

Top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, catcher Jorge Alfaro and pitcher Will Stewart head to Miami. The Phillies also sent international slot money to the Marlins.

Adding Realmuto, a top offensive and defensive catcher, improves the Phillies’ winter dramatically. They have already added shortstop Jean Segura, outfielder Andrew McCutchen and reliever David Robertson. And, of course, the team is still very much in the hunt for Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, the two mega stars on the free-agent market. First baseman Rhys Hoskins recently said he believed the Phillies would land either Machado or Harper. Doing that would take the Phillies' impressive winter to a higher level and could make them the favorite in the NL East.

The Phillies were linked to Realmuto during the winter meetings two months ago. At the time, a member of the Marlins organization said the Phillies didn’t have the prospects to pull off a deal. But after months of trying to move Realmuto, the Marlins found what they liked with the Phillies.

Alfaro, 25, was the Phillies’ regular catcher last year. The addition of Realmuto made him expendable. Sanchez, 20, was a big key to the deal. The Phillies’ top pitching prospect features a big fastball and exceptional control. However, he missed significant time with an elbow injury last season.

Realmuto turns 28 in March and won’t be a free agent until after the 2020 season. He hit .277 with 30 doubles, 21 homers, 74 RBIs and an .825 OPS for the Marlins last season. He is considered an excellent handler of pitchers.

Realmuto has seen young stars and former teammates such Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna get shipped out by the rebuilding Marlins and was eager to be the next guy to go.

The Dodgers, Reds, Padres, Mets and Braves were all considered top suitors for Realmuto earlier this winter.

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It wasn't just him, but this was a Phillies win that showed Bryce Harper's full value

It wasn't just him, but this was a Phillies win that showed Bryce Harper's full value

A 458-foot, three-run home run on a 98 mph fastball.

A walk-off two-run double against one of baseball's most accomplished closers of the last decade.

This was the kind of night that shows you why Bryce Harper is valued the way he is.

The Phillies were two outs away from yet another game that could have been classified as their worst loss of the season. What was once a five-run lead had turned into a two-run deficit when Hector Neris was victimized again by the Dodgers. This time it was rookie Matt Beaty with a three-run, pinch-hit home run off Neris in the ninth.

Another late-game implosion, especially following Monday's 16-2 embarrassment, would have taken the Phillies to a point even below rock bottom. It would have been another harbinger of doom. One walk-off win does not change the events of the last six weeks, but it does at least show these Phillies that they can beat the Dodgers. They can beat a good closer. They can respond even after the most deflating of circumstances.

"You live for those moments," Harper said. "That's what it's all about. Going in there, Jansen, one of the best closers in all of baseball, Dodgers-Phils. When you're facing the best in baseball, it's always a blast."

Don't get it twisted — they haven't done it enough, the Phillies as a group or Harper as an individual offensive player. This team should be better than 49-46. Harper's OPS should be higher than .850.

But this was the kind of win that can give a team some swagger. The Phillies hit Walker Buehler and they hit Kenley Jansen.

And in a game that was also televised nationally, the Phillies' brightest star delivered in his team's highest-pressure moment in weeks.

"It was a huge moment for Bryce and you could see it coming off the field after everybody was celebrating on the field, how important that was to him," manager Gabe Kapler said. "It meant a lot to him. He was clearly emotional and I understand there had been a lot of buildup that led to that moment. It was quite a release for him."

This felt like Harper's second really big moment with the Phillies, the first being his poetic blast at Nationals Park in his first game back in D.C. But this win went beyond him. The much-maligned Andrew Knapp, who entered with a .155 batting average, began the rally with a double. It came one batter after Adam Haseley hit a ball off Jansen's ankle. After the game, Jansen told Dodgers reporters that if he could have done it again, he would have exited the game.

Prior to Harper's game-winning double, Scott Kingery trimmed the deficit to one with an RBI single. Earlier in the night, Kingery homered on a 96 mph fastball up in the zone from Buehler.

The Phillies as a team have struggled with velocity this season but Tuesday was not an example of that.

"To see Scott go up to the top of the zone and hit 96-plus out to left field, that was pretty impressive because that's been the book on him," Kapler said. "Sliders off the plate away and then you run the heater up because he has such a good plane to his swing that he's good at getting underneath it. When you have a good four-seam fastball, you want to get above his barrel. So that was a really good sign.

"It's encouraging to see our guys catch up to velocity. We all have a lot of respect for Walker Buehler, he's been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year. To put that kind of number up on him says a lot about our club and the grind in our at-bats today.

"After yesterday's loss, how brutal that was for us, and in some ways embarrassing ... nobody quit. I think that's the calling card for our team. We get knocked down, we get back up."

The Phillies have indeed responded well after awful losses this season. They just haven't yet turned it into a prolonged stretch of good baseball.

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Phillies 9, Dodgers 8: One of the most dramatic 9th-inning swings of emotions you'll see

Phillies 9, Dodgers 8: One of the most dramatic 9th-inning swings of emotions you'll see

BOX SCORE

The skies opened, the game was delayed for 22 minutes before the ninth inning began, and what followed was a dramatic swing of emotions for the Phillies.

Leading 6-5, the Phillies turned to Hector Neris, who blew another save against the Dodgers. Neris has allowed 10 runs and six homers in his last seven appearances against the Dodgers, including the go-ahead three-run shot to pinch-hitter Matt Beaty Tuesday night.

But the Phillies, who have played poorly and sloppily for the better part of six weeks and were embarrassed, 16-2, on Monday, found a way back against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. They scored three of their own in the ninth to win it, 9-8. The rally was capped off by Bryce Harper's walk-off two-run double.

A wild finish to a game that probably didn't need to be this difficult for the Phils.

The Phillies scored six runs in the first two innings on three home runs off Walker Buehler, including a three-run shot from Harper that traveled 458 feet and nearly broke the sound barrier. It was on a 98 mph fastball.

But the Phillies then went 0 for 18 from the third through eighth innings.

Neris' implosion followed stellar work from three previous relievers — Jose Alvarez, Juan Nicasio and Adam Morgan — who retired all 10 batters they faced.

The Phillies are 49-46 and continue to cling to the NL's second wild-card spot. 


The typical Velasquez experience

Velasquez is what he is. A pitcher who can miss bats and strike hitters out, who can look totally dominant for two or three innings but who too rarely puts it all together for five or six complete innings.

There's no more guessing. Calling him enigmatic is being kind. He is infrequently effective.

On Tuesday, Velasquez looked great for three innings, striking out six Dodgers, including three in a row in emphatic fashion after the Phillies' five-run third inning.

But with a five-run lead, Velasquez could not keep L.A. at bay. The game was broken open for all of two innings before Velasquez was taken deep by Cody Bellinger, A.J. Pollock and Joc Pederson. He allowed four home runs in all. The first was a 440-foot shot from Max Muncy on an 0-2 pitch.

Velasquez has made 11 starts this season. In them, he is 1-4 with a 4.97 ERA. He's allowed 17 home runs in 61 innings. That's 2.5 home runs per nine innings for the man who entered 2019 with the highest home run rate of any starting pitcher in Phillies history.

Same story, over and over and over again. The Phillies have known for months that Velasquez is not the answer as the fifth starter. They feel they lack better internal options and have not been able to swing a trade yet. It's almost impossible to imagine Velasquez being in this rotation on Aug. 1.

Neris' nosedive

Neris is 0-3 with a 8.48 ERA in his career against L.A.

Beyond that, Neris has really struggled of late. He's allowed 12 runs in his last 11 innings as his season ERA has risen from 1.88 to 4.08. This team has few places to turn for relief.

Another injury

The Phillies lost Jay Bruce in the third inning to an oblique strain. He exited with an 0-2 count. 

If Bruce misses time, here are the Phillies' two most logical options in replacing him (see story).

Up next

Wednesday night at 7:05 — Nick Pivetta (4-4, 5.81) vs. Kenta Maeda (7-6, 3.82)

Thursday afternoon at 12:35 — Aaron Nola (8-2, 3.63) vs. Ross Stripling (4-3, 3.65).

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