Phillies' bullpen deserves tons of credit for series win over Nats

Phillies' bullpen deserves tons of credit for series win over Nats


They're heavily scrutinized whenever an inning goes wrong, so the Phillies' relievers also deserve a ton of credit for Saturday and Sunday.

The Phils don't win this series without nearly lights-out work from the bullpen.

On Saturday, the 'pen pitched seven innings after an injury ended Vince Velasquez's night. 

On Sunday, the 'pen pitched eight more scoreless innings to put the Phillies in position for Andrew Knapp's pinch-hit, walk-off home run in the 13th inning of a 4-3 win over the Nationals.

All told, the Phils' bullpen allowed one run in 15 innings Saturday and Sunday, an Anthony Rendon homer off Tommy Hunter early Saturday.

This was the first game in Phillies history in which they had eight relievers make a scoreless appearance.

And it's their first walk-off home run since Ryan Howard's on April 29, 2016.

Nick Pivetta earned the win in relief two days after getting rocked by the Nationals in a start.

Sunday's win means the Phillies are 6-4 this season vs. the Nats and 5-2 against them over the last nine days. 

At 45-37, the Phillies are three games behind the Braves and three ahead of the Nationals.

Good call

Gabe Kapler made a 50-50 decision in the bottom of the fifth inning and it paid off. Down 3-0, with two men on and nobody out, he pinch-hit for Arrieta with Carlos Santana.

Santana walked to load the bases. Cesar Hernandez walked to drive in a run. Rhys Hoskins hit a sac fly, and Odubel Herrera followed with an RBI single. Just like that, game tied, Arrieta off the hook.

Arrieta had thrown only 71 pitches, but it was the Phillies' first opportunity all game with multiple men on base or a runner in scoring position. 

Most managers wouldn't take out their $25 million pitcher in the fifth inning after the bullpen was needed for 14⅓ innings the previous two nights. But it made complete sense. Santana gives you a much better chance at a crooked number that inning than batting Arrieta, and if the move doesn't pay off ... well, you're down 3-0 anyway. Getting an extra inning or two out of Arrieta in a game you trail by three runs isn't nearly as important as scoring in a rare opportunity. 

It was clear, as well, that the Phils had Gio Gonzalez on the ropes. He completely lost his control in the fifth as a dominant outing turned into a mediocre one. If he's let off the hook there, you could be looking at a shutout.

Lefty reliever Austin Davis entered the following half-inning and struck out Juan Soto, Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper in order in his most impressive big-league outing to date.

Arrieta's afternoon

After posting a 6.66 ERA in five June starts, Arrieta allowed three runs (two earned) in five innings Sunday. His season ERA of 3.54 didn't budge.

The key blow came from Adam Eaton with runners on second and third after Arrieta had kept them there with a strikeout of Pedro Severino and a soft groundout from Gonzalez. Eaton laced a groundball between first and second base to plate two runs.

Arrieta's rate of 6.17 strikeouts per nine innings is dead-last among National League starting pitchers.

He's completed six innings just twice in his last six starts.

More defensive issues

In the fifth inning when Arrieta allowed two runs, Hernandez couldn't field a sharply hit ball right at him. It didn't go down as an error because of how well it was struck, but it's a play a second baseman has to make. Instead of getting in front of it, Hernandez attempted to field it to the side and it skipped off his glove into the outfield, placing runners on the corners. It should have been a 4-6-3 double play.

The inning before, Jorge Alfaro made an errant throw, which allowed Trea Turner to advance to second base after a bunt single. Turner came around to score, marking the 15th unearned run behind Arrieta. Arrieta's allowed more unearned runs this season than the Red Sox.

Neshek debuts

Pat Neshek made his season debut, allowing a single to Mark Reynolds and a groundout to Severino before being taken out for Tommy Hunter to face a couple lefties.

It's July 1 and Neshek has a 0.00 ERA — crazy, right?!

Struggling with southpaws

Aaron Altherr got a big hit Saturday, a pinch-hit RBI double that gave the Phillies a 3-1 lead. 

It earned him a start Sunday against lefty Gonzalez but Altherr again couldn't deliver vs. a southpaw. He's 9 for 61 (.148) this season with 20 strikeouts against lefties. 

The Phillies need more from him, there's no two ways about it. They certainly didn't expect him to be hitting .175 on July 1.

Up next

The Phillies are off Monday and again Thursday. In between, they host the lowly Orioles in a two-game series.

How bad have the O's been this season? At 23-59, they're 10 games worse than the team with the worst record in the NL, the Mets. Baltimore is on pace to finish 45-117 and it might actually turn out that bad given the widespread expectation that the club trades Manny Machado by the deadline.

Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. — Zach Eflin (6-2, 3.02) vs. Alex Cobb (2-9, 6.75)

Wednesday at 4:05 p.m. — Aaron Nola (10-2, 2.48) vs. David Hess (2-5, 5.94).

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Hector Neris proves prophetic, Phillies overcome plethora of adversity for best win of season

Hector Neris proves prophetic, Phillies overcome plethora of adversity for best win of season

ATLANTA — About 24 hours before the Phillies pulled off a come-from-behind win, their best of the season, Hector Neris stood in the visiting clubhouse at SunTrust Park and ended his interview by saying, "Tomorrow ... I got it tomorrow, for sure."

He proved prophetic, displaying the kind of short memory a closer needs, retiring the Braves in order in the bottom of the ninth after Cesar Hernandez's game-winning two-run single in the top half.

"You know it, papi," a beaming Neris said after picking himself and his teammates up. "I'm ready for that every day. Today I got the opportunity and I had to get it. Back to the rhythm again, back to a win. Protect the team."

The Phillies' 6-5 win knotted this important divisional series at a game apiece and did a good job of ridding the sour taste from their mouths after Friday's meltdown. In a way, it served as a reset button for the series, which will be determined Sunday afternoon.

This was a huge W in multiple ways. First off, the Phillies just don't have many victories like this in 2019. They were 1-23 when trailing after eight innings, have no walk-off wins and have watched their opponent walk it off five times. Saturday obviously was not a walk-off win but it was just as sweet. Momentum was gained by the Phillies and derailed for the Braves.

If you do believe in momentum in baseball, the Braves sure had it. They had won eight games in a row and have had the Phillies' number in Atlanta, beating them seven straight times at SunTrust Park. But Hernandez's big hit, which came after Scott Kingery singled to begin the ninth and Sean Rodriguez forced an errant throw on a sacrifice bunt, changed that.

"That was a really important win for our team. Wow. What a resilient group of guys," manager Gabe Kapler said. "There's a lot that went on in today's game that could have pushed us to not give the kind of effort that we gave. Really impressive, heartfelt win by our club, as a group, as a unit, as a team."

The Phillies could have folded after losing an early lead and losing two more starters to injuries. Jay Bruce left the game in the fourth inning with hamstring tightness and J.T. Realmuto exited an inning later after taking a foul ball to the groin. 

Bruce actually first felt the hamstring tightness three or four days ago but hid it because he didn't think it was too serious. When he couldn't score from first base on Kingery's two-run double in the third inning, he knew the hamstring was the reason why and he finally admitted the injury to the Phillies' coaching staff. Bruce will not play Sunday but doesn't think the hammy will sideline him for more than a couple days.

Realmuto felt nausea after taking a shot to the jewels. There was no immediate update on his condition. He has played a ton, starting every game in June and catching 105 straight innings before exiting Saturday's game. The Phillies had planned an off-day for him in the upcoming Nationals series but may have to move that up to Sunday.

The Phillies overcame the injuries and another rough start from Aaron Nola, who lasted just 4⅓ innings and again struggled with control. In the bigger picture, Nola's funk is a concern. He has a 4.89 ERA, has allowed 13 homers in 110 fewer innings than it took last season, and just isn't getting ahead of hitters. 

Nola was emphatic saying that his body and arm feel good. He is not hurt. He just isn't in a good place from a control standpoint. He needs to figure it out for this team to get where it wants to go, but the comeback win was at least some solace for him.

"To end their eight-game winning streak, that really mattered," Nola said. "It's a tough one for me again but to come out with a win like this is always good."

The Phillies still have not named a starter for Sunday's game. There are a few different options (see story). If they can find a way to pull out the finale, they'll be 5-1 against the Braves and just a half-game back in the division, even after Atlanta won 22 of its last 32.

"It was huge to win tonight because we want to keep people motivated and stay on top of our stuff," Hernandez said.

"Oh my gosh, what an answer," Bruce added. "That was awesome. Everything was kind of falling their way. Huge win to answer back like that. Kind of shows you what our team is capable of doing."

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Phillies 6, Braves 5: Scott Kingery keys uplifting win after 2 injuries and short start from Aaron Nola

Phillies 6, Braves 5: Scott Kingery keys uplifting win after 2 injuries and short start from Aaron Nola


ATLANTA — What was shaping up to be a second straight painful loss for the Phillies was instead an invigorating win.

After they lost two starters to injury (Jay Bruce, J.T. Realmuto) and watched their ace struggle through just 4⅓ innings, the Phillies fought back in the top of the ninth to come back and beat the Braves, 6-5. 

Scott Kingery, the star of the night for the Phillies, keyed the ninth-inning rally with a leadoff single. He went 3 for 3 with a two-run double and a walk and is hitting .347 on the season with a 1.058 OPS.

Braves closer Luke Jackson threw wide of first base on Sean Rodriguez's sacrifice bunt after Kingery began the ninth with a single. Cesar Hernandez followed with the decisive two-run single, and Hector Neris pitched a clean ninth for the save 24 hours after a nightmarish outing.

This was a big-time win. The Braves had won eight straight games and had all the momentum after walking the Phillies off Friday and coming back from an early deficit again Saturday. The Phillies made six straight outs in the seventh and eighth innings and looked like a defeated team.

Instead, they evened the series and go for the improbable series win tomorrow afternoon. At 39-31, the Phils are 1½ games behind the Braves in the NL East. The vibe of this series turned in a hurry.

What is up with Nola?

Walks, home runs, an extremely deliberate pace ... forget 2018, Nola right now isn't even the guy he was in 2017, when he had a mid-3.00s ERA.

Nola has a 4.89 ERA and has already allowed as many home runs in 15 starts as he allowed in 29 starts last season. He has the second-slowest pace in between pitches in all of baseball to Yu Darvish, and his control has been erratic. Nola has walked 4.0 batters per nine innings this season. Prior to this year, he walked 2.5 per nine.

Nola's season has had a very 2009 Cole Hamels vibe to it. 

The Phillies' only reliable starting pitcher this season has been Zach Eflin. That is a problem. This team might not be able to wait until mid- or late-July to add a difference-making starting pitcher.

More injuries

Bruce left the game in the fourth inning with left hamstring tightness, which likely occurred during his sprint around the bases on Kingery's two-run double. Bruce was called out at the plate on the play.

Jean Segura, Kingery and Odubel Herrera have all spent time on the IL this season with hamstring injuries.

In total, 15 different Phillies have been on the injured list this season. Somehow, six teams have had more players on the IL and 12 teams have had more player games lost to injury than the Phillies.

Bruce's injury could expedite Roman Quinn's return to the majors. Quinn was held out of a rehab game Saturday night as a precautionary measure after he was hit by a pitch on the shoulder Friday (see story).

In the fifth inning, Realmuto took a foul ball to the groin and was on the ground for close to five minutes. He was in visible pain the rest of the frame and exited an inning later.

The drop-off from Realmuto to Andrew Knapp is massive. Hopefully for the Phillies, this was just a one-night thing.

Scary moment

Braves lefty Sean Newcomb was removed from the game in the top of the third after being struck on the neck by a Realmuto line drive that left the bat at 102 mph.

Here's footage of the scary play.

Up next

The series concludes tomorrow afternoon at 1:20. The Phillies have not yet named a starter but will face tough righty Mike Foltynewicz, who is off to a slow start this season (1-5, 6.02).

More on the Phillies' options for Sunday's start here

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