Phillies

Phillies cannot afford letup in Miami after collection of castoffs stands tall in Boston

Phillies cannot afford letup in Miami after collection of castoffs stands tall in Boston

BOSTON — Raise your hand if you saw this coming.

Keep it up if you saw it coming like this.

Not many of you, huh?

The Boston Red Sox might not be having the season they envisioned as they languish in third place in the American League East, but they are still the defending World Series champions and they still have plenty of thunder sticks in their bat rack. They entered Wednesday leading the majors in batting average (.276) and were third in runs per game (5.78) and fourth in OPS (.827).

This was the offense the Phillies had to stop during a two-day visit to Fenway Park.

This was the offense the Phillies did stop.

The Phils completed a rousing two-game interleague sweep of the Sox with a 5-2 win on Wednesday night. The Phils beat the Sox, 3-2, on Tuesday night.

Two wins while scoring just eight runs. Take a bow, pitching staff.

“I remember what it's like to play here and how difficult it is for a team to come in and beat this team in the middle of the summer,” Phillies manager and former Red Sox player Gabe Kapler said. “Defending world champions. More specifically, it's one of the best lineups in baseball and something we're really paying close attention to. Our pitchers did a good job for two days straight. Our bullpen, in particular, was excellent.”

The Phillies’ bullpen has been ravaged by injuries. Just rattle off the names — Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, David Robertson, Seranthony Dominguez, Edubray Ramos, Victor Arano — of those who have gone down. In their stead, the team is using starters who’ve lost their spot in the rotation, guys who have spent significant time in the minors this season and a handful of castoffs from other organizations.

So many of them came up big in this series. So many of them came up big Wednesday night. The bullpen delivered 7⅓ scoreless innings in the two games, including 5⅓ in relief of Drew Smyly on Wednesday night.

Jared Hughes, Ranger Suarez, Mike Morin and Jose Alvarez all delivered scoreless work in setting up Hector Neris for his 23rd save.

Hughes got a huge ground ball from defending AL MVP Mookie Betts to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth. Morin struck out Betts (for the second night in a row) in the seventh, Alvarez got the game’s biggest out (a strikeout of Chris Owings) with runners on second and third in a two-run game to end the eighth.

So many big performances from the often-maligned Phillies bullpen. And so many of these guys weren’t even a twinkle in Kapler’s eye a few weeks ago. 

Morin, who has pitched scoreless ball in 11 of 13 appearances with the Phils, was on his way to going on waivers before the Phillies snagged him in a cash deal from Minnesota. Hughes was plucked off waivers from the Reds last week. Suarez is a rookie working as a reliever for the first time in his career. Alvarez joined the Phillies from Anaheim in a nondescript trade for Luis Garcia over the winter.

These unheralded relievers, castoffs from other clubs in some case, were the Phillies' lifeline in this series.

“I think that when that happens, players can get a chip on their shoulder,” Kapler said. “They can have something to prove. They can say, 'I'm going to prove you wrong for either trading me, DFAing me, sending me down.' And that can bring out the best performance, especially with guys who have done it for several years in the past like Morin has, like (another castoff Blake) Parker has, like Alvarez has. And like Hughes has.”

Is getting let go by another club a motivator?

“I try to not be vindictive,” Hughes said. “I try to focus on winning today. At the same time, it is eye-opening because it lets you know there’s things you need to work on to get better. That’s where I need to be. When you’re vindictive, you lose focus.”

Alvarez is one of the few Phillies relievers who has withstood the test of time this season. He has been an unsung difference-maker in the bullpen.

“I don’t care if I get noticed,” he said. “I’m just trying to help the team. When they need me, I’ll be there.”

The Phillies didn’t hit a ton in this series. They had just 13 hits, but they made them count. Bryce Harper (two-run homer) and Corey Dickerson (RBI triple and RBI single in the final three innings) had big hits Wednesday night. Harper also made a huge play in the field. Red Sox fans heckled him mercilessly. Kapler even took note of it before Harper’s two-run homer in the fifth.

“They were on him pretty good up until that moment,” Kapler said. “That was a pretty explosive moment for the dugout celebration. I'm really happy for Bryce to be able to come up big in that moment.” 

The Phillies are six games over .500 and two back in the NL wild-card race.

Now they face a very interesting weekend — three games in Miami against the NL’s worst team. The Phils are just 6-7 against the Marlins this season.

With just 36 games left, the Phils need to clean up on the Marlins. A poor showing in Miami after a sweep in Boston would be like drowning in the bathtub after a successful swim across the English Channel and the Phils can’t afford for that to happen.

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Bryce Harper's headband collection continues to grow with latest design for his son

Bryce Harper's headband collection continues to grow with latest design for his son

Since his time in Philadelphia began just shy of one year ago, Bryce Harper has embraced the city with open arms from the moment he arrived.

One thing that Harper is known for, outside of crushing dingers and having a monster arm in right field, is his vast headband collection that was seen throughout the season.

It’s something that he carried over from his time in Washington, but let’s be honest — the ones that he has worn here have been way cooler.

Who can forget the iconic Phanatic one, that had just about every fan running to the closest team store or taking to their phones to place an order for their own.


(Image credit: USA Today Images)

Harper truly took a liking to the Phanatic (who wouldn’t?) and even embraced the mascot via socks and cleats. Notice the details in the laces? They’re fuzzy. Seriously, who designed those? Give that person a raise.



(Credit for Images: USA Today Images)

And let’s just hope the whole Phanatic ordeal gets settled before the start of the season, so Harper can continue repping his biggest supporter.

Let’s get back to the main reason for this post — headbands.

There were many other ways he sported his new team last season, including a headband in army green, one to match the Phillies’ home uniforms and even one with stars.



(Credit for images: USA Today Images)

His latest one though, looks to be a custom design from JunkBrands.com. It’s personalized with Harper’s number but more importantly, his son’s name, Krew.


(Image credit: John Clark/Twitter)

We’re not sure how Harper is going to top last year’s lineup … but he’s off to a pretty great start.

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Realmuto feeling ‘blessed’ as he heads into arbitration showdown with Phillies

2020 Phillies spring training pitching probables: Battle for 5th starter begins this weekend

2020 Phillies spring training pitching probables: Battle for 5th starter begins this weekend

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The battle for the Phillies' fifth starter's job will get off to a quick start.

Manager Joe Girardi on Tuesday announced his starting pitchers for the first three Grapefruit League games.

Nick Pivetta will start the exhibition opener against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday in Lakeland.

Presumed opening day starter Aaron Nola will get the ball Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Clearwater.

Vince Velasquez will get the nod Monday against the Baltimore Orioles in Clearwater.

Girardi was not ready to announce any other pitching plans.

On paper, the top four spots in the Phillies' rotation appear set with Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin. Pivetta and Velasquez will vie for the fifth spot with pitchers like Ranger Suarez, Cole Irvin and prospect Damon Jones also getting a look.

"I think it's important that all these guys that are competing for the last spots get a ton of looks and we can afford to do that," Girardi said. "We have a number of games, we have split-squad games. We'll look at people. I think it's important that we do that, that we're fair to everyone because it's fair to the team that way.

"As we go forward, each start gets a little bit more important, but I think it's not fair to evaluate start 1 and start 2. That's the buildup stage."

Girardi, his staff and the front office will use a couple of factors in picking a fifth starter. Obviously, there is performance in spring training. In addition, Girardi said, the team will consider who might profile best in the bullpen. Suarez opened eyes in the bullpen last year. Velasquez and Pivetta both spent time in the rotation and the bullpen last year. One of them appears to be ticketed for the rotation and the other for the bullpen.

"The bottom line is we're going to want our 13 best pitchers to go with us and we have to kind of put that puzzle together," Girardi said.

New pitching coach Bryan Price has mentioned that a starter transitioning to the bullpen can benefit from some adjustment time because relieving is "a learned craft." In a perfect world, the Phils will identify who starts and who goes to the bullpen before the Grapefruit League schedule ends so the adjustment period can commence.

"We would like to do that," Girardi said. "That doesn't mean it will happen. If they make our job really difficult, it might get drawn out longer. And you can make it difficult two different ways — they're all pitching good or they're all scuffling."

Girardi hopes they're all pitching good.

In Price's view, a starter transitioning to the bullpen should not view the move as a slight.

"There's an emotional hurdle of not starting that has to be cleared," he said. "Some guys look at it as a demotion when it can really be something that stimulates a career and greatly impact the ballclub."

No team gets through a season with five starters. So today's reliever might be tomorrow's starter. 

"Just because we pick a fifth starter at the end of March doesn't mean things couldn't change," Girardi said.

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