Phillies

Phillies Phodder: The schedule toughens, Hoskins' anniversary, Hector's rebound, a prospect to watch

Phillies Phodder: The schedule toughens, Hoskins' anniversary, Hector's rebound, a prospect to watch

SAN DIEGO — The Phillies open a three-game series against the San Diego Padres on Friday night and they really need to make some hay against the team with the worst record in the National League.

The Phillies enter Friday leading the Atlanta Braves by a game in the NL East and the Washington Nationals by 5½ games.

This race has been so close that it would not be a surprise to see it go down to the wire. The Phillies and Braves play each other seven times over the final two weeks of the season.

But the Nationals remain dangerous, talented and experienced and they have the potential to wreak havoc on the division race as they square off with the Phillies six times in the final two weeks of this month and three more times in September.

The Nationals are only one of the teams that will make the Phillies’ upcoming schedule so difficult.

The Phils play Boston, the best team in the majors, on Tuesday and Wednesday at home. The Phils split a two-game series in Boston last week, but it took exceptional pitching for that to happen because the Red Sox's pitching held the Phils to four runs in two games. The Phils will miss Chris Sale for the second time and that’s a good thing. The way things line up, the Phillies will be looking for Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez to stop the majors’ most high-powered offense.

On paper, the schedule looks to briefly soften up after the Sox leave town and the New York Mets come in for a five-game series that includes a Thursday doubleheader. But make no mistake, that won’t be an easy series for the Phillies. They are scheduled to see both Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom and those two can handcuff any opponent.

After the Mets, nine of the Phillies’ next 12 games will be against Washington and the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs.

So the Phillies are in for a big test as the schedule is about to get really tough.

Better get some wins in San Diego.

***

The Phillies began their current six-game road trip by losing two of three in Arizona.

Offense was a big problem for the Phils in Phoenix as they scored just seven runs in three games and were shut out on four hits on Wednesday. The Phils faced three formidable arms — Zack Godley, Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin — in Arizona. They will not face that caliber of pitching in San Diego. In fact, the pitching matchups dramatically favor the Phillies, who need to come out of Petco Park with a series win.

The Padres will use three rookie starters in the series. They will send Jacob Nix to the mound Friday night for his big-league debut against Zach Eflin. Walker Lockett will make his third big-league start on Saturday night. He will face Aaron Nola. In his first 10 2/3 innings in the majors, Lockett has allowed 17 hits, eight walks and 11 runs. Rookie Joey Lucchesi goes against Jake Arrieta in the series finale Sunday. Lucchesi pitched well — 5 2/3 innings, two earned runs, zero walks, nine Ks — in beating the Cubs his last time out. Arrieta has been on a roll. He has allowed just 14 hits and three earned runs over 21 innings in his last three starts.

***

Eflin is really looking forward to Friday night’s start. He is coming off eight innings of three-run ball in a win over the Marlins. And he will be facing for the first time the team that drafted him in 2012 and traded him away in December 2014. In that trade, Eflin was funneled through the Dodgers and ended up with the Phillies in a Ruben Amaro Jr. deal that sent Jimmy Rollins to Los Angeles. Eflin was actually the first trade of a Phillies’ rebuild that is just now bearing fruit.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Eflin said of facing the Padres. “I’ve been wanting to throw against them for three years. It’s a competitive thing. You want to face the team that traded you away. I’m looking forward to it.”

***

A word on Hector Neris: He is gradually rebuilding his shattered confidence at Triple A. Since being sent to Triple A on July 3, he has pitched in 16 games and allowed just nine hits and three runs in 15 2/3 innings over that span. All the runs came in one outing. He has 26 strikeouts and nine walks.

Neris struggled mightily with the big club in late May and June and needed to go down to work on command of his splitter and get his confidence back.

Turns out he needed to work on something else: The club believes Neris was tipping his pitches through the positioning of his hands and that can spell disaster when a hitter can eliminate 50 percent of a two-pitch pitcher’s repertoire. Neris has addressed the flaw. In September, both he and Edubray Ramos will deepen a bullpen that has been stellar since July 1. 

***

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of Rhys Hoskins’ major-league debut. In 155 games, he has hit .257 with a .371 on-base percentage and a .504 slugging percentage. He has 35 doubles, 40 homers and 120 RBIs.

That’ll play, right?

***

The Phillies will have a decision to make on prospect Jose Pujols this fall. It is a much different one than they contemplated last fall.

Pujols hit just .194 with a .552 OPS and 150 strikeouts in 325 at-bats at High A Clearwater season. Pujols was eligible for the Rule 5 draft last winter, but the team didn’t even think about protecting him on the 40-man roster. Releasing him was more of a consideration.

The Phillies gave Pujols a $540,000 signing bonus in the summer of 2012. That kind of money buys a player a little more time and Pujols has capitalized. The 22-year-old rightfielder from the Dominican Republic has shown signs of maturing as a person and a hitter and put himself back on track with one of the best offensive seasons in the organization. He was leading the Florida State League in hitting (.301) and OPS (.887) and was third in homers (18) and RBIs (58) when he was promoted to Double A Reading last week. He took right to the new level with eight hits, including two homers (one was a grand slam), in his first 18 at-bats.

Pujols is 6-5, 205 pounds. He has a plus arm in right field and power to all fields. At his age, with his tools and the numbers he is putting up this season, it is difficult to imagine the Phillies not protecting him on the 40-man roster this winter and buying some more time to see just what they have. Right now, it looks pretty good.

More on the Phillies

Rhys Hoskins delivers again, says Tigers pitcher Matthew Boyd would look 'great' in red pinstripes

Rhys Hoskins delivers again, says Tigers pitcher Matthew Boyd would look 'great' in red pinstripes

DETROIT — They struck out 18 times.

They had one hit in nine chances with a runner in scoring position.

They went 12 straight innings without scoring a run.

Plenty went wrong for the Phillies on Tuesday night.

But plenty went right, too.

The Phils got a good start from Aaron Nola, great work from the bullpen, a huge defensive play late in the game and even the mostly anemic offense came up big in the 15th inning. Yes, the 15th inning. The Phils’ 3-2 win over the lowly Detroit Tigers in 15 innings left them at 53-48 for the season and scurrying back to the team hotel to sleep fast before Wednesday afternoon’s 1:10 first pitch (see observations).

Tuesday night’s game ended at 12:17 a.m.

But even at that hour, there was a lot of life in the clubhouse because a win is a win even when you have to work past midnight to beat the second-worst team in baseball.

“It definitely would have been a lot worse to go that long and lose,” said Nola, who pitched seven innings of two-run ball. “It’s a lot sweeter when you win a game like that. It was a good, all-around team win.”

The bullpen, led by Nick Pivetta’s 3 2/3 scoreless innings and five strikeouts, and Jose Alvarez’s strong work in the final two innings, accounted for eight scoreless innings.

“Any time you get pitching like we did, you want to win that game,” Rhys Hoskins said.

The Phillies’ offense remains a big concern. The team has scored just six runs in the last three games. If that famine continues, the Phils won’t stay in the playoff race.

Despite the poor offense, however, the Phils have won two straight one-run games in extra innings. Hoskins has knocked in the go-ahead run in both. He homered in the 11th to lead a 2-1 win in Pittsburgh on Sunday. He followed that with an RBI single in the 15th Tuesday night. The hit scored Scott Kingery, who had led off the frame with a triple after striking out four times earlier in the game.

“You’ve always got to want that next at-bat,” Hoskins said. “Props to Scott.”

The big hits by Kingery and Hoskins came moments after leftfielder Brad Miller, who had entered the game in the 12th, made the defensive play of the game, gunning down Nicholas Castellanos at the plate in the bottom of the 14th. Catcher J.T. Realmuto made a nice play to sweep back across the plate and get Castellanos as his hand was about to touch the plate. An inch either way and Castellanos scores and it’s game over, awful loss.

Instead …

“We didn’t have another chance,” Hoskins said. “I don’t know if people realize how tough that is, sitting for 12 innings then coming in and making a play like that. It was just outstanding.

Miller knew Castellanos would try to score from second on the hit by Brandon Dixon.

“What it is, midnight?” Miller said. “You have to send him. Luckily it was hit right at me and J.T. made a hell of a tag.”

Detroit’s pitching was pretty good, too. (Or was it that the Phillies’ offense was just that bad?) Tigers’ starter Matthew Boyd held the Phils to two runs over six innings. Both came on a two-run homer by Roman Quinn in the second inning. Boyd struck out eight. The lefty is one of the most coveted arms on the trade market and the Phillies are interested, along with many other clubs. Phils general manager Matt Klentak attended the game, but said his trip to Detroit was long planned and only coincidental with Boyd making the start.

“It’s a little overblown that Matt Klentak is in here to scout Matthew Boyd,” Klentak said before the game. “I think that is probably unfair to our scouts who scout these guys year round to think that I could come in and do something that they do. This trip has been planned since spring training. I’ll watch the game just like everybody else, but I am not here specifically to watch any [trade] targets or future targets.”

The Tigers have set a high price for Boyd — multiples of top, young talent — and the Phillies intend to be protective of their best prospects. So it seems like Boyd will end up somewhere else, though you never know. It did not appear Realmuto would be a Phillie last winter until he was.

“He’s got good stuff,” Hoskins said of Boyd. “I can see why he’s had the success he has.”

And how would he look in red pinstripes?

“I think he’d look great,” Hoskins said.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Phillies 3, Tigers 2 (15 innings): Scott Kingery, Rhys Hoskins, Brad Miller and the bullpen save the day

Phillies 3, Tigers 2 (15 innings): Scott Kingery, Rhys Hoskins, Brad Miller and the bullpen save the day

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — On a night when they struck out 18 times and went 12 straight innings without scoring a run, the Phillies benefited from a lot of good pitching from starter Aaron Nola and the bullpen to pull out a 3-2 win over the Detroit Tigers in 15 innings Tuesday night at Comerica Park.

Scott Kingery led off the 15th with a triple off the right field wall and scored the go-ahead run on a base hit by Rhys Hoskins.

The Phils have scored just six runs in their last three games. They have managed to win two of those games on late hits by Hoskins.

Defense was huge in this win. Brad Miller, who entered the game late in left field, gunned down Nicholas Castellanos at the plate in the bottom of the 14th to keep the Phillies alive.

Nola pitched seven innings of two-run ball and the bullpen pitched eight shutout innings.

The Tigers have the second-worst record in the majors. They are 2-9 since the All-Star break. But they got a nice start from lefty Matthew Boyd and the bullpen put up a lot of zeroes against the Phillies’ mostly feeble offense.

The Phils were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position before Hoskins’ hit in the 15th.

The start of the game was delayed 38 minutes by rain and it ended at 12:17 a.m.

The Phils are 53-48.

Nola impresses

Nola went seven innings and allowed just two runs, one of which was unearned after his own wild pitch.

He walked one but hit three batters. He struck out seven.

Boyd impresses

The Phillies got their first look at Detroit lefty Boyd. He is one of a handful of pitchers that the Phillies have trade interest in, though the Tigers’ price on him is extremely high.

Boyd pitched six innings, scattered five hits, struck out eight and left with the score tied, 2-2.

Boyd entered the game averaging 12 strikeouts per nine innings. He threw 101 pitches and got an impressive 19 swings and misses — seven on his fastball and 12 on his slider.

Pivetta impresses

Nick Pivetta pitched 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief and struck out five. Pivetta was recently demoted to the bullpen. He showed a good fastball and an excellent curveball. With the Phillies looking to hold on to prospects, someone like Pivetta could be used in a trade.

Big yard

Comerica Park is one of the biggest parks in baseball. It’s 420 feet to center and 345 feet down the left field line. The dimensions bit the Phillies in the top of the 12th inning when pinch-hitter Jean Segura and Kingery both hit balls to the wall. Both would have been homers in mostly every other park.

Quinn goes deep

With Segura out of the lineup and Kingery playing shortstop, manager Gabe Kapler used Roman Quinn in center field. Quinn has had a tough year. He entered the game with just six hits in 55 at-bats (.109). However, Quinn came up with a big hit when he crushed a two-run homer to left against Boyd in the second inning. Batting from the right side, Quinn leaned on an 0-1 fastball and hit it 434 feet to give the Phils a 2-1 lead.

Horrible inning

Clinging to a 2-1 lead, the Phillies had a horrible inning against Boyd in the sixth. With the help of two Detroit errors, the Phils put runners on second and third with no outs. Cesar Hernandez then popped up on the first pitch. The Tigers walked Maikel Franco intentionally and Boyd got Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn on infield pop outs as the Phils left the bases full. It was a nice threat and it went for naught. In the bottom of the inning, the Tigers tied the game on a pair of doubles against Nola.

Trade talk

Things could change, but at the moment, it doesn’t look like a big trade-deadline move is coming for the Phillies.

Health check

Reliever Tommy Hunter had surgery to repair an injured flexor tendon. He is out for the remainder of the season. He pitched in just five games this season. Hunter’s contract is up after this season.

Segura sat out with a bruised left heel.

Reliever David Robertson will throw to hitters for the second time in Florida on Wednesday. The Phillies are optimistic they could see Robertson in the next couple of weeks, if all continues to go well. He has been out since April with an elbow injury.

Up next

The quick, two-game series ends on Wednesday afternoon with Vince Velasquez (2-5, 4.87) pitching against Jordan Zimmermann (0-7, 7.51).

The Phils have an off day Thursday. They open a three-game series at home against division-leading Atlanta on Friday night. Kapler said Zach Eflin would start one of those games. Eflin complained of his body feeling heavy after his last start in Pittsburgh. Kapler was adamant Tuesday that Eflin was fine and completely healthy. “There’s no issue,” he said.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies