Phillies

Phillies 2, Pirates 1 (11 innings): Drew Smyly, Rhys Hoskins, bullpen deliver series win

Phillies 2, Pirates 1 (11 innings): Drew Smyly, Rhys Hoskins, bullpen deliver series win

BOX SCORE 

PITTSBURGH — Rhys Hoskins smacked his 21st homer — and just his second of the month — with one out in the top of the 11th inning to propel the Phillies to a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Sunday afternoon.

The Phils (52-48) took two of three in the series despite their offense producing just three runs in the final two games — and one of those runs was unearned.

The Phillies had just three hits through eight innings so the pitching had to be good. It was. Newcomer Drew Smyly delivered a strong start and the bullpen pitched shutout ball for five innings — though it was not easy. Hector Neris survived two hit batsmen and a bases-loaded line out to left in the ninth inning.

Rookie Ranger Suarez got the final six outs. He has allowed just one run in his last nine outings. He showed impressive composure in getting three outs after allowing a leadoff double in the 10th. Suarez struck out the final two batters of the game and earned the win.

Solid debut

The veteran Smyly, who opted out of his minor-league deal with Milwaukee on Thursday, did not sign his contract with the Phillies until three hours before first pitch. Pitching in front of teammates he’d just met, the lefty gave the Phillies six innings of four-hit, one-run ball. He walked two and struck out eight.

Smyly threw 96 pitches and got 16 swing and misses, eight on his curveball.

So far, a pretty good pickup for the Phils.

Can't help but think …

That Smyly pitches six shutout innings if third baseman Brad Miller makes a play on Kevin Newman’s leadoff double inside the bag in the first inning. Miller was playing close to the line and the ball, hard hit but probably playable, got past him.

Miller got the start at third over Maikel Franco. Pirates starter Dario Agrazal has a good sinker and manager Gabe Kapler often looks to keep Franco away from tough sinkerballers. The Phils prefer Franco to elevate the ball. His lack of speed does not play well on ground balls.

Demon on the bases

Bryce Harper made a couple of daring base-running plays. He turned what should have been a single into a hustle double in the first inning and in the fourth tagged from first and moved to second on a fly ball to deep left by Hoskins. Harper dived into second base safely as the throw eluded the second baseman. Good thing for the wide throw or Harper may have been out. Harper’s aggressive base-running play set up Cesar Hernandez for a game-tying RBI single with one out.

Big D

Kapler rested starting catcher J.T. Realmuto and gave Andrew Knapp the start behind the plate. Knapp made a huge defensive play when he gunned down Newman trying to steal second for the third out in the bottom of the eighth. The Pirates were looking to steal a run with dangerous Starling Marte at the plate.

Earlier, centerfielder Adam Haseley gunned down Marte trying to stretch a single into a double.

Sights and sounds

The game was delayed by rain for 25 minutes in the fourth inning.

In a bizarre moment in the the top of the sixth inning, a fan casually wandered onto the field and approached home plate with his cell phone outstretched. Security did not pursue the man and home plate umpire Ben May and Phillies hitter Miller backed away from the man, who may have been seeking a handshake. The intruder was apprehended and cuffed by police as he approached the Phillies’ dugout.


(AP Images/Keith Srakocic)

Health check

Shortstop Jean Segura left the game with a sore left heel.

Up next

The Phils are off on Monday. They open a quick, two-game series against the Tigers in Detroit on Tuesday night. Pitching matchups:

Tuesday night — RHP Aaron Nola (8-2, 3.77) vs. RHP Matthew Boyd (6-8, 4.13)

Wednesday afternoon — RHP Vince Velasquez (2-5, 4.87) vs. TBA.

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Will Phillies promote pitching prospect Spencer Howard in September? Discussions ongoing

Will Phillies promote pitching prospect Spencer Howard in September? Discussions ongoing

MIAMI — Spencer Howard, the Phillies’ top pitching prospect, tossed another gem for Double A Reading on Thursday night.

The possibility of the right-hander helping out the big club in September has been mentioned for weeks.

So, what does the manager think?

“I think Spencer has great stuff and he’s had tremendous results and yesterday’s game was no exception,” Gabe Kapler said Friday. “I think everybody is sort of dreaming on what he can be. Whether that happens at some point late this season or it happens next year, I think it’s inevitable that Spencer Howard is going to be on a big-league mound and I don’t think it’s going to take very long.”

Kapler was asked if there would be a hesitation to bring up Howard if the Phillies are still in the race in September.

“I think those discussions are ongoing,” he said. “You’re always trying to balance long-term development with what the club needs and does the pitcher appear ready to help. There’s a lot of things to consider when talking about when is the right time to advance Spencer Howard.”

In addition to simple readiness, both physical and mental, matters to cover when discussing whether to bring up Howard in September likely include the Phillies’ place in the standings, the need for him in relation to the performance of the rest of the rotation, starting his big-league service-time clock, and one other less obvious subject.

The baseball.

Howard has dominated hitters in the Single A Florida State League and Double A Eastern League this season. In 60 innings, he’s allowed 12 earned runs (1.80 ERA) and 36 hits. He has rung up 80 strikeouts and walked just 11. He pitched six shutout innings, gave up two hits, walked none and struck out seven for Reading against Hartford on Thursday night.

Howard has done all of his work this season with a baseball that is different than the one used in the majors and Triple A. The Major League ball, which is being used for the first time in Triple A this season, has smaller, tighter and less pronounced seams. It is made from a higher quality leather than the ball being used at the Double A level and below. And it flies. (MLB is headed toward a record-setting season for home runs.) 

Pitchers notice a difference in the feel of the two baseballs and that feel can affect performance. As an example, Kapler mentioned Damon Jones, a Phillies pitching prospect who rocketed up the system from Single A this season and has struggled at Triple A.

“One thing we’ve seen is the adjustment to the baseball is real,” Kapler said. “It’s a difficult thing just going from Double A to Triple A. We’ve seen it with Damon Jones. He was essentially unhittable in A ball and Double A and he struggled more as he reached the Triple A level and had to adjust to the new ball.”

There are several factors, beyond his performance, that make Howard a good consideration for a September promotion. He’s 23 and mature. He was a second-round pick in the 2017 draft out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. And he will have innings left in his arm after missing time this season with what the team called shoulder fatigue.

September is fast approaching. We’ll know soon if Howard, profiled here, is going to be part of the Phillies’ September push.

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At The Yard podcast: How to avoid another Miami letdown; NL Cy Young race; scary Nationals

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At The Yard podcast: How to avoid another Miami letdown; NL Cy Young race; scary Nationals

On this episode of "At the Yard," Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman break down how the Phillies can avoid another letdown in Miami and handicap the NL Cy Young race and wild-card races.

• Anything less than 4-2 vs. the Marlins and Pirates would be a major fail for the Phils.

• How to avoid another letdown in Miami — made more difficult by Bryce Harper's absence.

• Are the Nationals more dangerous than the Braves?

• Who will win NL Cy Young?

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19