Phillies

Phillies 7, Brewers 4: Phillies rally back twice to down Brewers on a long, cold, miserable night

Phillies 7, Brewers 4: Phillies rally back twice to down Brewers on a long, cold, miserable night

BOX SCORE

It was a long, cold, miserable night in South Philadelphia, but all the Phillies will care about is coming away with a win.

Down two runs at two different points, the Phillies rallied to tie the game in the middle innings and go ahead in the seventh of a 7-4 victory Monday over the Brewers.

J.T. Realmuto had the game-winning hit, an RBI double in the seventh inning after Jean Segura reached on a dropped third strike.

Odubel Herrera followed two batters later with a game-sealing two-run double.

The Phillies' bullpen, which entered the night eighth in MLB with a 3.89 ERA, allowed one run over six innings to close out the win. Pat Neshek pitched the ninth for his second save.

The game took 3 hours, 57 minutes.

The Phillies are 24-16 and improved to 15-7 at home with six more games at Citizens Bank Park this week.

Rough night for Nola

Aaron Nola didn't have much on Monday. It was 48 degrees at first pitch after a 52-minute weather delay and both Nola and Brewers starter Freddy Peralta appeared to have difficulty gripping the baseball. Both struggled with control.

Nola allowed back-to-back doubles to Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich to start the game. Both missed home runs by mere inches. Yasmani Grandal followed two batters later with an RBI triple.

Nola threw a career-high 38 pitches in the first inning and allowed a career-high three extra-base hits in the opening frame. 

He lasted only three innings and put eight men on base. Through nine starts, Nola is 3-1 with a 4.86 ERA. He was 6-1 with a 1.99 ERA through this many starts a year ago.

Hernandez still red-hot

Cesar Hernandez tied the game in the middle innings with a two-run shot off Jeremy Jeffress. That home run culminated a 100-at-bat stretch in which Hernandez hit .360/.429/.550 with eight doubles and four home runs.

Hernandez has been the Phillies' best hitter the last few weeks. He's up to .306 on the season with a .374 OBP.

Harper's issues continue

Bryce Harper struck out three more times, once with two men on and twice to lead off an inning.

Harper hasn't done much hitting at all lately. Even when the Phillies scored a combined 13 runs Saturday and Sunday, he went just 1 for 9.

Over his last 20 games, Harper is 10 for 68 (.147) with four doubles, two home runs and 28 strikeouts. His on-base percentage over that span is barely over .300.

Harper has struck out multiple times in seven of his last nine games. Through this many games last season, he had five more home runs and nine more walks.

Harper is at least making an impact right now with his defense. He had a diving catch Sunday in Kansas City and had a nice sliding grab with the bases loaded to end the seventh inning of a tie game Monday (see story).

"He's done a really good job of positioning himself. Specifically, I think he has looked to take command of his portion of the outfield," manager Gabe Kapler said hours earlier.

The importance of catcher defense

Grandal is a top-five catcher offensively but boy, does he give away a lot behind the plate. Within the first two innings, Grandal had a passed ball and a wild pitch that should have been caught. Then came the missed block on Segura's seventh-inning strikeout, which turned out to be the Phils' game-winning run.

On Sunday against the Cubs, Grandal failed to drop and block on a ball in the dirt, resulting in a baserunner advancing before he even knew the ball was by him.

Grandal's poor receiving skills certainly played a role in his extended free agency this offseason. He began the offseason with hopes of receiving a contract in the $80 million range. He was forced instead to sign a one-year, $18.25M contract with Milwaukee.

Up next

The four-game series between the Phillies and Brewers continues at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday.

Jerad Eickhoff (2-1, 1.50) opposes Milwaukee right-hander Brandon Woodruff (5-1, 4.25).

Jake Arrieta (4-3, 3.78) faces lefty Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 1.69) in Game 3.

It's Zach Eflin (5-3, 2.47) and Zach Davies (4-0, 1.54) in Thursday afternoon's finale.

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Will we see Scott Kingery start in center field regularly?

Will we see Scott Kingery start in center field regularly?

Sunday was Scott Kingery’s first career start in center field and it came in his first game back. Kingery was sidelined for a month with a hamstring strain that was worse than the ones suffered by Jean Segura and Odubel Herrera. 

Kingery fared well in his return. There were no issues in the field, and at the plate he went 1 for 3 with a walk and a stolen base. The hit was a smooth line drive to left field in his first at-bat. 

With Herrera not providing much at the plate (.234 batting average, .297 OBP), Kingery will continue to see time in center field. It doesn’t make sense right now to sit Cesar Hernandez for him given how hot Hernandez has been for the last month. But Herrera and Maikel Franco are different stories. 

Kingery will not start Monday night in Chicago. The Phillies are monitoring his workload with him fresh off the IL. He will, however, likely start multiple games in the Cubs series. The Phillies face lefties Jose Quintana, Cole Hamels and Jon Lester in consecutive games Tuesday through Thursday. Seems like a logical spot to sit Herrera for Kingery. 

Kingery was hitting .406 when he was sidelined. He started the season looking like a completely different player than last season. 

“The most important thing (while I was out) was trying to keep my timing,” Kingery said after the Phillies’ 7-5 win over the Rockies Sunday. “As soon as I could pick up the bat I was in the cage, working on my swing, fastball machine, doing whatever I could, seeing live arms BP-wise and stood in on a few bullpens just to see some different pitches. That's about all you can do when you're hurt. I feel good now.”

Defensively, Kingery will face some adjustments. Center field is not his natural position nor does he have extensive experience there. But his speed, range and instincts give him a chance to be an above-average defender there. 

“I think the main goal is my arm slot has always been for an infielder,” Kingery said. “So I have to work at getting a little more over the top and get a little more carry on the ball. I'd say that's one of the most important things for me right now.”

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Bryce Harper back to feeling like Bryce Harper as Phillies head to the Midwest with something to prove

Bryce Harper back to feeling like Bryce Harper as Phillies head to the Midwest with something to prove

For a little while, all of those "What's wrong with Bryce Harper?" pieces can be shelved. 

Harper's not on the verge of breaking out of his slump. He's already broken out of it.

"It's not a close thing, I think he's there," manager Gabe Kapler said after the Phillies completed a weekend sweep of the visiting Rockies with a 7-5 win.

Harper had the game-winning home run, a 404-foot blast into the Phillies' bullpen to untie the game in the sixth inning (see observations). It was his second straight game with a homer and gave him four extra-base hits in his last three games. He's raised his slugging percentage by 47 points over that span.

"He might not get two hits and a home run tomorrow, but that doesn't mean he's not where he needs to be," Kapler said. "I think the home run that he hit to center field (Saturday) was the turning point and the moment where he started to feel more like Bryce."

In the all-important sixth inning Sunday, J.T. Realmuto tied the game with a pinch-hit home run off of a right-handed reliever and Harper followed three batters later with the deciding home run against a left-handed reliever. The inning highlighted how the Phillies' best hitters are equipped to deal with specialists from both sides. 

Realmuto's longball came against veteran reliever Bryan Shaw, who has lasted 10 years in the bigs because of his ability to retire right-handed hitters. Coming into Sunday, righties were 8 for 58 against Shaw, hitting .138.

Realmuto, like Rhys Hoskins, has reverse career platoon splits. Realmuto's hit .286 against righties with a .777 OPS compared to .250 vs. lefties with a .730 OPS. From 2016-18, Jean Segura and Realmuto ranked second and third in the majors, respectively, batting .292 and .291 against right-handed breaking balls.

The pitch Realmuto hit out from Shaw was not a breaking ball but a changeup. It was his first career pinch-hit home run and it came a few days after Kapler noted that Realmuto's power should be coming based on the quality of hard contact he'd been making.

Harper, meanwhile, took Dunn deep for the second time in a month. He is hitting .304/.407/.537 this season against lefties with six doubles and three homers.

Rare is the left-handed power hitter who doesn't have a major hole in his swing against lefties. Harper is that rare lefty. Last season, he had nine homers, 12 doubles and an .857 OPS against southpaws. The pace he's on this year is even better.

Harper knows he's faced Dunn a ton but doesn't pay attention to his career numbers against him or many other pitchers for that matter.

"He's always been a tough matchup for me," Harper said of Dunn. "Since I was younger, 2012, faced him my rookie year in the East when he was with Miami. Being able to face a guy like that, see his tendencies ... got him today.

"I just go with the feel. I don't really look at (the batter vs. pitcher matchup). Any given day, you could go out there and punch me out in three pitches, it's part of the game. Just gotta keep going. Any given day could be different."

In the span of three days, the Phillies removed the bad taste of the Brewers series from their mouths. They followed a season-high three straight losses with three straight wins. They head to Chicago leading the Braves by 2½ games, the Mets by 6½ games and the Nationals by 7½ games, pending Sunday night's result.

In Chicago, Harper's sample size of 54 plate appearances against lefties will grow. The Phillies face three straight lefties Tuesday through Thursday in Jose Quintana, Cole Hamels and Jon Lester.

The Phillies aren't looking past the Cubs, who are the hottest team in baseball. But they definitely have the following series circled.

"We're really looking forward to getting back at Milwaukee," said Jerad Eickhoff, who started Sunday's game. 

"We didn't put our best foot forward against them. We're gonna take care of Chicago first and go into Milwaukee with a chip on our shoulder."

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