PHILS INSIDER

Phillies cut down on K's and ride Nola to sweep Yankees

PHILS INSIDER

On the final day of May, the Phillies were thumped 11-1 by the Cincinnati Reds. They finished the month four games under .500 and in third place in the National League East, five games out of first.

The next day, the calendar flipped to June and before that night's game in Cincinnati, Phillies players talked about the importance of hitting the refresh button and starting anew.

They went out and laid a 17-3 beating on the Reds that night.

Afterward, Alec Bohm revealed what was talked about in the clubhouse before that game.

"New month. Deep breath. Let's go," he said. "What happened the first two months is in the past. We're moving forward. Go out and dominate the month."

So far, the Phillies have done that.

They completed a two-game sweep of the New York Yankees with a 7-0 win at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon to run their record to 7-2 in June. At 32-31, they are over .500 for the first time since May 19 and in second place in the NL East, three games behind the first-place New York Mets.

"Baseball is weird because when you start a new month you almost feel like you can reset," said Andrew McCutchen, who had two hits, two RBIs and is hitting .353 with a 1.174 OPS in his last 10 games. "It's like, 'All right, new month, here we go.' We've been playing good ball this month and we need to continue it.

"It feels like we're heating up and we should expect to be doing this more times than not."

 

The Phillies' streak of three straight walk-off victories came to an end Sunday, not that anyone was complaining. After Hector Neris had blown saves forcing the team to rally in the 10th inning in the previous two games, everyone was ready for a nice, easy, breezy win and Aaron Nola and the bats delivered.

Nola pitched 7⅔ shutout innings and the offense produced 12 hits. Jean Segura had his third straight three-hit game.

If winning six out of eight games was the best thing that happened on the homestand, Nola's performance in this game was the second-best thing. The right-hander has not pitched up to his standards most of the season. He's struggled with command of his fastball and run high pitch counts. He carried an ERA of 5.68 in his previous six starts into Sunday's outing. He seemed genuinely dejected after his previous start in which he allowed seven hits, including two homers, and four runs over five innings in a loss to Atlanta.

Nola found it all in this one. He held the Yankees to three hits and a walk over his 7⅔ innings. He struck out nine. He threw 103 pitches, 75 of which were strikes. He featured three pitches: four-seam fastball, curveball and changeup. All were sharp. He got five swings and misses on the fastball, eight on the curveball and two on the changeup, which was an excellent complement to the fastball and curveball.

"It's really rewarding for us to get him back on track," manager Joe Girardi said. "That's the Aaron that we see all the time. I thought he used his off-speed stuff tremendously and his fastball up in the zone tremendously. J.T. (Realmuto) and him executed a beautiful plan."

Nola's fastball topped out at 95.8 mph and averaged 93.4, a tick above his season average of 92.7.

That made a difference in McCutchen's view.

"He was tremendous," McCutchen said. "He had all his pitches working. He was getting ahead. He looked great. His velo was up and that set up his off-speed stuff. When he has that velo where he knows he can have it, it makes his secondary stuff really unhittable. That's the biggest thing I saw from him today. He looked amazing." 

Offensively, the Phillies are getting hits and cutting down on strikeouts. They have not homered in three straight games but have 35 hits in those contests. Often plagued by strikeouts, Phillies hitters had just five Sunday and 17 in the last three games.

"I love it," said Girardi. "Put the ball in play, good things will happen. Our guys did a really good job.

"We're having more consistent at-bats, our defense has been better, and our baserunning has been better. We've done a lot of little things right."

The top of the order continues to produce. Odubel Herrera had two more hits in the leadoff spot and scored two runs. Segura, the No. 2 hitter, had two RBIs to go with his three hits. Realmuto joined McCutchen with two hits and two RBIs.

 

The Phillies are playing some of their best ball of the season as they head to the West Coast for three against the Dodgers, beginning Monday night, and three against the Giants later in the week.

It's a big test for the Phils. After a 6-2 homestand, they seem ready for it.

"This gives you confidence moving forward," Girardi said. "We're going on a tough West Coast trip, two teams that are playing extremely well. But there's confidence in that room, and in baseball, confidence is important because there's so much failure."

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