Phillies

Phillies strike out nonstop but J.T. Realmuto picks them up in narrow win

Phillies strike out nonstop but J.T. Realmuto picks them up in narrow win

BOX SCORE

The Phillies struck out nonstop but mustered just enough offense thanks to J.T. Realmuto to win the first of a six-game homestand, 4-2, over the Cubs.

Realmuto scored the Phillies' first run and drove in their next two with a two-out solo home run in the fifth inning and a two-out RBI double in the seventh. The final run of insurance came on Roman Quinn's two-out RBI triple in the eighth.

The home run was Realmuto's 16th. He has not reached the higher offensive gear some expected he would in his first season as a Phillie, but Realmuto is still on track to surpass his career high of 21 home runs.

Realmuto has hit .310/.359/.530 since June 29 with 11 doubles and six homers in 145 plate appearances (see story).

Jason Vargas kept the game close but did not factor into the decision. 

Blake Parker, Mike Morin and Hector Neris combined for three scoreless innings to protect the win, which prevented the Phillies from falling to just a game over .500 for the first time since they were 39-38. Instead, the Phils are 61-58. 

It was not an inspiring offensive performance — the 15 strikeouts were the Phillies' most in a nine-inning game this season and they didn't even bat in the ninth — but they are so desperate for wins that right now, the end result matters so much more than how it was achieved.

Can't hit Q

Jose Quintana entered Tuesday's game with a strikeout rate similar to Jake Arrieta's. Quintana is a contact pitcher who relies on hitting the corners and generating groundballs.

Yet somehow, the Phillies made him look like Justin Verlander. In just six innings, Quintana set a career high with 14 strikeouts, five of which were looking. Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins were a combined 0 for 6 against Quintana with five strikeouts, four looking.

It's not a good look when a pitcher who has averaged 6.75 strikeouts per nine innings since May 1 punches you out 14 times in six innings. Some of the strikeouts were the result of deep counts that ended with a good pitch. Some were just really bad at-bats.

The only earned run allowed by Quintana came on a solo home run from Realmuto, moments after a section of Phillies fans in left field began chanting, "We want Charlie."

The Phillies missed a chance for early runs when Harper grounded out on the first pitch with runners on second and third and two outs in the second inning.

The Phillies are last in the National League with a .213 batting average with runners in scoring position since the All-Star break.

Vargas does his job

For the second time in three starts as a Phillie, Vargas kept his team in the game, allowing two runs over six innings.

Vargas has a 4.15 ERA in his three starts, which sadly represents a massive upgrade for any Phillies starting pitcher not named Aaron Nola.

Vargas didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning. He struck out only one but got 12 outs on the ground or on infield flies.

Ouch

Corey Dickerson, the Phillies' hottest hitter, was forced out of the game in the third inning after taking a pitch to the hand.

Dickerson swung through a 91 mph sinker but on the swing, his hand made direct contact with the ball. After being examined for a few minutes, Dickerson took a practice swing and came out of the game. He was replaced by Sean Rodriguez.

Dickerson was diagnosed with a hand contusion and is considered day to day. If he's forced to miss time, it could be Nick Williams again getting the call-up from Triple A. Williams has been optioned to Lehigh Valley four times and recalled three times already this season.

As a Phillie, Dickerson is 9 for 30 (.300) with a triple, three homers, nine RBI, no walks and 10 strikeouts.

Hittin' season about to begin?

New hitting coach Charlie Manuel will arrive Wednesday to assume the role for the season's final 43 games. 

If Manuel can work his magic, create some looseness in the clubhouse and conjure more confidence for the Phillies' hitters, he can make an impact (see story).

Up next

The much-anticipated Nola-Cole Hamels matchup takes place Wednesday night at 7:05 on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Nola is 10-3 with a 3.67 ERA. Hamels is 6-3 with a 3.09 ERA but is coming off of one of his worst starts. He allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits over three innings in Cincinnati last Thursday.

Hamels was out from June 29 until Aug. 2 with an oblique strain. This will be his first-ever start at Citizens Bank Park as a visitor.

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Phillies 28-man roster: Who might they cut Thursday?

Phillies 28-man roster: Who might they cut Thursday?

Wednesday, the Phillies took part in one of MLB's on-the-fly adjustments to the 2020 season, a 7-inning doubleheader.

Thursday brings another. On Thursday, teams will have to trim their rosters from 30 players to 28. Rosters will remain at 28 players for the rest of the regular season and postseason, according to multiple national reports. 

This is a different process than MLB laid out prior to the season, when the plan was to have teams trim from 30 to 28 after two weeks and then from 28 to 26 after another two weeks. The change is a response to how MLB's first two weeks have gone, with the Phillies, Marlins and Cardinals all sitting entire weeks because of COVID-related concerns. (Unlike the other two teams, the Phillies sat despite none of their players testing positive.)

When the Phillies make their two roster moves Thursday, they'll have played only six games and will have had far less of an opportunity than most of the league to declare which two players on their 30-man roster are most expendable. 

The Phillies have carried 16 pitchers and 14 position players to this point. It is likely that one cut will come from the bullpen and one from the bench. The Phillies' schedule moving forward — 56 games in 54 days beginning Wednesday — and the presence of the DH lessening bench usage would seem to make it more worthwhile for the Phils to keep 15 pitchers.

The Phillies' five bench players are Roman Quinn, Andrew Knapp, Phil Gosselin, Neil Walker and Kyle Garlick. 

Knapp, the backup catcher, isn't going anywhere. 

Quinn is one-half of a centerfield timeshare (at least until someone seizes the job, which Adam Haseley may be doing) and is almost certainly staying put as well. Even if Haseley wins the job outright early this season, Quinn has bench value as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner.

Walker is a switch-hitter who can play five different positions, which is also valuable off the bench.

Gosselin is too hot offensively to lose right now. 

The position player on the bubble is probably Garlick, a corner outfielder with pop and an ability to hit lefties. Garlick, who has options left and could be sent to Lehigh Valley without being removed from the 40-man roster, made his first start as a Phillie in Game 1 of Wednesday's doubleheader, batting ninth as the designated hitter. 

In the bullpen, it's still too early to make out a clear hierarchy. It could be Austin Davis or Cole Irvin, who are clearly behind Jose Alvarez and Adam Morgan among Phillies lefties. It could be Ramon Rosso, who was erratic in his first and only appearance so far this season. The Phillies' lack of right-handed velocity in the bullpen could keep him around, though. The Phillies have played so few games to this point that a reliever could potentially separate himself with a strong showing in the doubleheader.

Stay tuned Thursday.

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Didi Gregorius impacts Phillies in more ways than meet the eye

Didi Gregorius impacts Phillies in more ways than meet the eye

The Phillies will host the New York Yankees in a doubleheader today. Zack Wheeler, the Phils' big offseason free-agent acquisition, will start the first game and Aaron Nola will get the ball in the second game.

Dating back to August, the Phillies are winless in Nola's last eight starts. The trend needs to stop today.

Wheeler, so far, has been everything the Phillies could have asked for when they signed him for five years and $118 million. But, of course, he's only made one start — seven innings, one run in the 1-3 Phillies' only win of the season. Many more efforts like that will be needed from Wheeler over the life of his contract.

But this isn't about Nola, who needs to pitch well over these next two months if the Phillies are going to make the 16-team postseason field in this shortened, 60-game season.

And it isn't about Wheeler, the so far, so good right-hander who also needs to continue his good work if the Phils are to have a chance.

This is about the Phils' other free-agent acquisition this winter.

This is about Didi Gregorius.

Now, obviously the sample size is ridiculously small because, well, you know all about the Miami Marlins and how they forced the Phillies into an unwelcome hiatus after just one weekend of play — but through the first four games, hasn't Gregorius been fun to watch?

He's made all the plays, smoothly, some even with a flare, at shortstop.

He's hit in every game.

He's shown pop with two homers. (And the way he turns on anything middle-in, he'll hit a lot more at Citizens Bank Park.)

And, he's played with a smile under the mask he wears to protect himself and others in this time of COVID-19. Gregorius is committed to wearing the mask because he has an underlying health condition.

Having watched Gregorius up close since the start of spring training back in February, we have been captured by his smile, his energy, his effervescence and love of playing the game. These can be infectious qualities of the most beneficial kind on any team and they have shown on the diamond in Gregorius' next-door neighbor, Jean Segura. 

Over the winter, there were questions about how Segura would deal with coming off of shortstop to accommodate Gregorius. Would he feel slighted, pushed aside? Would he pout? These were legitimate concerns because Segura has always been a little high maintenance.

Well, Segura moved over to third base with nary a protest. He put his head down, started working, and has taken to the new position. Having been a shortstop, Segura has the ability to succeed anywhere in the infield if he puts his mind to it. He's the one who has made the transition. But we believe that Gregorius' encouragement and positivity has played a role in Segura's acceptance of the challenge. Gregorius has bonded with Segura, convinced him of his importance and even gotten him to smile a little bit more. All of this might end up making Segura a better player. It has already helped the team solve the matter of how to get Scott Kingery to his best position, second base.

Over the winter, when the Phillies signed Gregorius, we asked a scout about him. We heard all the expected stuff about Gregorius' play on the field, the pop, the throwing arm that was getting better after surgery. But we also heard something that surprised us.

"He was the leader of that Yankees team," the scout said. "Great makeup."

So far in Philadelphia, we're seeing that. We're seeing that with the connection he has made with teammates, particularly his next-door neighbor, Segura.

But these Phils will need more than leadership and strong teammate behavior from Gregorius if they are going to make the postseason. Intangibles can only take you so far.

So what will the Phils need from Gregorius on the field? That's easy. Sound defense, left-side pop, big hits with men on base, get on base, hit for average. Basically, what every other team needs from its top players if it is going to be successful. Gregorius is just two seasons removed from a career-best .829 OPS with the Yankees. An elbow injury derailed that season. He's healthy now. Maybe a season like that — over a shorter track — is in the cards.

If it is, it won't just help the Phillies, it'll help Gregorius, as well. He signed a one-year, $14 million deal with the Phillies in the offseason and he'll be right back out there on the market this winter.

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