The Phillies got out of Dodger Stadium with a victory Wednesday night, which, given their recent history in the ballpark, and the guy they were facing on the mound, was a solid accomplishment. They are back at .500 as they head up the California coast for another difficult test, three games with Gabe Kapler’s rockin’ San Francisco Giants beginning Friday night at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. The Giants woke up Thursday with a 43-25 record, tied for the best in baseball.
The Phillies are 33-33 after squeaking out a 2-0 win over the Dodgers and three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and salvaging a game in a series in which they were a hard-to-believe 2 for 30 with runners in scoring position over three games.
It was a bounce-back victory for the team and several players.
Rhys Hoskins, who carried the club in May then turned into an iceberg in June, broke out of a painful 0-for-33 slump with a first-inning home run against Kershaw.
On the mound, the Phillies received another good one from Zack Wheeler — six shutout innings despite four walks — but he needed some help and got it from two sources in need of a rebound.
Wheeler pitched eight shutout innings against Atlanta in his previous start but was denied a win when Hector Neris blew a save in the ninth. Jose Alvarado was a nightmare in the 10th inning of that game. He had no idea where the ball was going and allowed two runs. The Phillies ended up winning the game with three runs in the bottom of the 10th and everyone danced off the field. But deep down inside, Neris and Alvarado probably weren’t feeling overly triumphant. They made it all a lot harder than it had to be. And, in Neris’ case, he blew another save in the Phillies’ next game, Saturday against the Yankees.
Alvarado had not pitched in five days, since walking three and throwing a wild pitch against the Braves. Manager Joe Girardi knew he had to get the left-hander some work and this was the night. Girardi asked Alvarado to protect a 2-0 lead in the seventh and the pitcher was so efficient with his darting, triple-digit fastball that the manager asked him to get three more outs in the eighth.
Five days earlier, Alvarado threw 29 pitches, 15 of which were balls, and was booed off the mound in Philadelphia. On Wednesday night, he threw 22 pitches in two scoreless innings and 18 were strikes. Alvarado did not walk a batter. He struck out four.
Girardi likes to say Alvarado gives you three things — ground balls, walks and strikeouts. Girardi, a patient man, says he can live with the bad as long as he gets enough of the good. He got it Wednesday night.
Neris was his typical adventurous self, twice bringing the potential tying run to the plate when he hit batters, first with no outs, then with two outs. He got a huge double play, started nicely by second baseman Luke Williams, who filled in for injured Jean Segura and made like Segura with three hits, before registering the save.
Who could have blamed Neris if he ran to the airport to get out of Los Angeles after the game? He carried a lifetime ERA of 11.81 at Dodger Stadium into the game and had been torched for five homers in 5 1/3 innings, including three on three swings of the bat by Yasiel Puig, Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner on one particularly gruesome night, April 29, 2017 — the boom-boom-boom, out-go-the-lights game.
And who could have blamed the Phillies if they ran to the airport to get out of Los Angeles? Dodger Stadium has not been kind to them in recent years. They have won just five of their last 20 games there.
After the game, Girardi was asked if he believed Neris in particular, and the team in general, had exorcised a few demons with Wednesday’s win.
“Hopefully, that’s gone,” he said. “Eventually, everyone gets over everything, I believe.”
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