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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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

AP Images

Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Baseball America’s always interesting Top 100 Prospects list landed this week and the Phillies are represented with two players in the top half.

Starting pitcher Spencer Howard ranks 27th on the list and third baseman Alec Bohm 28th. Both players are projected to open the coming season at Triple A and get to the majors at some point in 2020. Both have been invited to major-league spring training camp, which begins in less than three weeks in Clearwater. See the complete list of Phillies’ in-house non-roster invites here.

Howard, a 23-year-old right-hander, was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2017. We profiled him here.

In its story on the Top 100 prospects, Baseball America offered this take on Howard: Triple-digit fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and the ability to work the edges of the strike zone, Howard flashes front-end potential.

Bohm, 23, was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. He hit .305 with 21 homers, 80 RBIs and a .896 OPS at three levels, including Double A in 2019. We profiled him here.

Baseball America offered this take on Bohm: Even with questions about whether he’ll have to move to first base, Bohm has the feel to hit and plus power to hit in the middle of the Phillies’ order, and soon.

Shortstop Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays was ranked No. 1 on Baseball America’s list for the second year in a row. The Rays placed eight players on the list. Because of a loaded farm system, the Rays were unable to protect left-hander Cristopher Sanchez on their 40-man roster and the Phillies traded for him in November. Read about Sanchez here.

The Los Angeles Dodgers placed seven players on the list and the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres had six each.

The Miami Marlins led National League East teams with five players in the Top 100, including former Phillies pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who was traded for J.T. Realmuto a year ago. Sanchez ranks 16th on the list and is projected to arrive in the majors sometime in 2020.

The Atlanta Braves placed four players on the list and the Washington Nationals and New York Mets joined the Phillies with two players.

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