Hard to make a better first impression than Heath Hembree did in Phillies debut

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Brandon Workman's first two outings as a Phillie have been shaky, but Heath Hembree may have been the Phils' most important player in Sunday night's 5-4 win in Atlanta.

Hembree picked up five huge outs, carrying the Phillies through a sixth-inning jam and pitching a clean seventh. He stranded two runners in scoring position with one out in the sixth, a spot in which the Phillies have repeatedly lost games.

"A huge lift," Phillies manager Joe Girardi said after his team's five-game skid ended. "Heath, to get those outs the way he did, he did a really, really good job. And he went through it pretty quickly, was pretty efficient getting his five outs. That was encouraging. It was encouraging to see Tommy (Hunter)'s stuff tonight. 

"Hopefully it's a sign of things to come and we can get this ironed out and have an effective bullpen."

Hembree pumped 94 and 95 mph fastballs, struck out two, threw 15 of his 18 pitches for strikes and generated five swings-and-misses.

"We've seen [Hembree] quite a bit in Boston," said catcher Andrew Knapp, whose tag on a bang-bang play at the plate ended the game for the Phillies. "You know what you're getting, a really good fastball and some good command, too, with the slider. My first impression was great."

Hunter pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning with two strikeouts. He has averaged just under 94 mph with his sinker in his last two appearances after averaging 91 earlier in the month.

Workman came back from a blown save and a loss Saturday night to get the save Sunday night, but he did not pitch well. He couldn't command his curveball. He allowed two hits and a walk and needed a great relay throw and tag to end the game with a play at the plate.


The Phillies eked out this win but they need to get Workman and Hector Neris right. Both had excellent seasons in 2019 and have struggled in 2020. Workman has put 20 men on base in nine innings this season. Neris has allowed 10 runs in 5⅔ innings.

"He's tough as nails," Hembree said of Workman. "What happened last night was flushed right away with him. I've been with him for the last six, seven years, we've gotten to know each other really well. That's just how he is. He's physically and mentally tough."