Phillies

Phillies steal a win from the Pirates in series opener with a walk-off from Sean Rodriguez

Phillies steal a win from the Pirates in series opener with a walk-off from Sean Rodriguez

Box Score

The Phillies began a six-game homestand with a dramatic 6-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in 11 innings on Monday night.

Sean Rodriguez won it for the Phillies with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the 11th.

Rodriguez had previously been 1 for 20 with 11 strikeouts in the month of August.

Rodriguez hit a 1-2 slider from reliever Michael Feliz. Rodriguez had swung through the previous two pitches, both sliders.

The Phillies entered the day 1 ½ game back in the NL wild-card race. They are 68-62.

What a miss

The win came after some wasted chances late in the game.

The Phillies got two walks and a base hit from pinch-hitter Andrew Knapp to load the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning for the top of the order.

A fly ball would have won the game, but Rhys Hoskins popped up to second base against reliever Chris Stratton.

Bryce Harper then came up, worked a full count and struck out swinging to end the threat.

In the 10th, the Phillies got the first two runners on base and came up empty after J.T. Realmuto was doubled off second on liner to centerfield by Jean Segura. Segura’s liner looked like a potential game-winning hit off the bat, but Pirates’ center fielder Starling Marte made a terrific catch at his shoe tops and fired to second to get Realmuto.

Hoskins hears it

Hoskins is in a hellacious slump. He is just 9 for 78 (.115) this month and 23 for 140 (.164) since thee All-Star break. He was 0 for 5 in this game with three strikeouts. He heard a smattering of boos after striking out in the eighth. He heard a lot of loud boos after popping out in the ninth.

Yo, daddy

The Phillies worked some two-out magic in coming from two runs down to take a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth. Harper, just back from paternity leave, homered and Corey Dickerson belted a two-run homer against his former team to give the Phils the lead.

The lead did not last long as Hector Neris gave up a solo homer to Josh Bell in the top of the ninth.

Big impact

The lefty-hitting Dickerson has made a huge impact with his bat recently for the Phillies. He has 11 RBIs in the last six games.

Big impact II

Realmuto legged out an infield hit to keep the eighth inning alive for Dickerson and his two-run homer. The Phillies’ catcher also gunned down two Pirates trying to steal second in the late innings. Realmuto has thrown out 32 runners this season.

Vargas’ night

Phillies starter Jason Vargas pitched one-run ball over the first six innings and took a 2-1 lead to the mound in the seventh. He allowed the first three batters of the inning to reach base on a single, an RBI double and a walk. Manager Gabe Kapler went to the bullpen and Jared Hughes gave up two-run single as the Pirates took a 4-2 lead.

Musgrove tough again

Pittsburgh starter Joe Musgrove held the Phils to two runs over six innings, both coming on a long homer by Brad Miller. Musgrove has given up just two earned runs in 12 innings against the Phils this season.

Benched

Cesar Hernandez did not start. The move was “a response, not a punishment,” to Hernandez’ not running out a ball in Sunday’s game (read more). Hernandez did enter the game in the top of the seventh inning when Scott Kingery exited with what the team called abdominal soreness.

Health check

Jay Bruce’s elbow strain has improved to the point where he’s taking batting practice. He took some big swings and showed power in early hitting Monday. Manager Gabe Kapler said Bruce would play for Double A Reading in Trenton on Friday and Saturday. He could be activated from the injured list as soon as Sunday. Bruce will likely be used just as a bat off the bench, and DH, in September. That bat could be valuable.

Up next

The Phillies send another lefty to the mound on Tuesday night when Drew Smyly (2-6, 6.99) takes on Pittsburgh lefty Steven Brault (3-3, 3.98). Smyly pitched six innings of one-run ball against the Pirates in July.

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This indefinite delay may be frustrating for these five Phillies

This indefinite delay may be frustrating for these five Phillies

Everyone is disappointed that the 2020 MLB season didn't start on time — owners, executives, managers and coaches, players and of course the fans who have been longing for baseball's return. There are so many intriguing storylines surrounding the Phillies. We were all so excited to watch this season play out.

The players themselves are all undoubtedly bummed. But this indefinite delay has to be especially frustrating for these five Phillies.

Rhys Hoskins

I can't imagine anyone was more anxious to get back to work in 2020 than Hoskins. The second half of his 2019 season was brutal. He hit .180 with just nine HR and 26 RBI in 71 games following the All-Star break. You could see that prolonged slump taking its toll on Hoskins. He wore the frustration outwardly on a nightly basis. For a guy who has experienced success at every stop of his baseball career, his struggles last season had to be confusing. What am I doing wrong? How can I get this fixed? Will I ever break out of this slump?

Hoskins spent a lot of time in the offseason adjusting his mental and physical approach at the plate. He admitted he was thinking too much last year. He worked with new hitting coach Joe Dillon, lowering his hands and opening his stance. He was eager to get back to being a force in the middle of the Phillies batting order, eager to prove that the second half of 2019 was a fluke. He wanted to get back to being one of the premiere sluggers in the National League.

But now Hoskins waits just like the rest of us to find out when (or if) he'll get that opportunity.

Jake Arrieta

This is the final year of the three-year, $75 million contract that Arrieta signed with the Phillies prior to the 2018 season. He'd be the first one to tell you that the Phillies haven't gotten their money's worth on that deal. Arrieta battled injuries and inconsistency in his first two seasons in Philadelphia. He pitched through a knee injury that required surgery in 2018, finishing that season with a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts. His 2019 season was cut short due to surgery in August to clean out a bone spur in his right elbow. He posted a 4.64 ERA in 24 starts before he was shut down.

The 34-year old Arrieta has hardly resembled the guy who won a World Series and Cy Young Award with the Cubs. But this spring he said he's 100 percent healthy and ready to make the type of impact the Phillies bargained for when they signed him to that big contract. Arrieta looked sharp in spring training. He was going to slot into the third spot in the rotation behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. A big year from Arrieta would do wonders for the Phillies' playoff chances. It would also put him in a great position as he ventures back into free agency following the 2020 season.

Bryce Harper

A lot of signs pointed to Harper having a monster 2020 season. He had a full offseason and spring training to focus solely on baseball as opposed to a year ago when he didn't know which team he'd be playing for or where his family would be living until the end of February. He was settled in playing with his new team and living in his new city. And perhaps maybe most telling, he was tearing the cover off the ball in spring training. Harper hit .500 with three doubles, three HR and 11 RBI in eight exhibition games. He was locked and loaded for the regular season.

But now Harper's potential MVP caliber season has been put on hold. If there is a 2020 season, it almost certainly won't be 162 games. Which means we won't find out what numbers he was capable of putting up in his second season with the Phillies. At 27 years old, Harper still has plenty of his prime years ahead of him. But this one could have been special. Hopefully it still can be.

Zach Eflin

Of all the Phillies starting pitchers, Eflin may be best positioned to make 'the leap' in 2020. The righthander is coming off an uneven 2019 season, posting a 10-13 record with a 4.13 ERA. It was a year full of ups (a pair of complete games) and downs (a July demotion to the bullpen). Eflin's skill set didn't mesh with how former pitching coach Chris Young wanted pitchers to attack hitters. Young stressed the importance of throwing fastballs up in the zone. Eflin is most effective when he relies on his sinker.

New pitching coach Bryan Price wants Eflin and the rest of the Phillies starters to pitch to their strengths. Price preaches efficiency, he wants Eflin to use his sinker early in the count to get ground ball outs. This appears to be a perfect union of coach and player. Eflin turns 26 on Wednesday, he enters his fifth big league season with 74 career starts under his belt. A lot of evidence suggests he may be poised for a career year.

Scott Kingery

After bouncing all over the diamond during his first two seasons with the Phillies, it looks like Kingery will finally get the chance to settle in at his natural position of second base this year. He played mostly shortstop, center field and third base in his first two major league seasons with cameos at second base, left field and right field. He's been valuable in that super utility role but he's mentioned his desire to play second base regularly. With Didi Gregorius at shortstop and Jean Segura playing third base during spring training, Kingery appears to be penciled in as the starter at second base.

Kingery's offensive numbers improved significantly from 2018 to 2019. He hit .258 last season with 34 doubles and 19 home runs, up from .226 with 23 doubles and eight HR in 2018. Being more comfortable at his natural position in the field should only enhance his production at the plate. Kingery bulked up in the offseason in hopes of taking his game to the next level. Time will tell if he gets the chance to do so.

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How Jean Segura's heroics vs. Mets in 2019 further debate on his future

How Jean Segura's heroics vs. Mets in 2019 further debate on his future

There’s few things Phillies fans enjoy more than a comeback, walk-off win against the Mets. So make sure to give yourself a smile by watching just that on NBC Sports Philadelphia today. 

Specifically, we’re bringing you a 5-4 win from June of last season that ended with a Jay Bruce RBI double in the bottom of the 10th. But it was the play of Jean Segura that night that got the Phillies into a position to win it. The then-Phillies shortstop hit a solo home run off future and past teammate Jason Vargas (what a Phillies career he had) in the bottom of the 6th to cut the deficit to 4-1. In the 7th, Segura connected off Seth Lugo for a game-tying 2-run single.

That game proved to be a positive moment in a below-average season for the veteran infielder. In his 1st campaign with the Phillies, the walk and strikeout averse Segura hit .280. That’s 24 points lower than he batted with the Mariners the year before. His home runs only improved from 10 to 12, despite moving from cavernous T-Mobile Park to the much more long-ball conducive Citizens Bank Park.
    
All signs point to Segura moving from shortstop to 2nd base when regular season baseball takes place with Didi Gregorius signed in the offseason to play shortstop. While the returns on the infield realignment remain to be seen, Segura’s impact needs to be most felt at the plate and in the Phillies lineup.
    
So was last season the beginning of a decline for the recently-turned 30-year old Segura? Or just a slight dip for a player that hit .300 or better in each of the previous three seasons? 
    
A reason for optimism is Segura’s assertion that he entered spring training in February in much better shape than the previous season. That said, we don’t definitively know how this current hiatus will impact that physical conditioning. Pessimists will point out that history (not including the late 80s to the early 2000s) suggests players don’t get better as they enter their 30s.
    
Ultimately, it will add to the degree of difficulty for the Phillies to get where they want to go this season if Segura is not a .300 hitter that sets the table for the heart of the lineup.

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