Phillies win wild one thanks to Trevor Plouffe's bomb and the majors' best bullpen in July

Phillies win wild one thanks to Trevor Plouffe's bomb and the majors' best bullpen in July


The Phillies’ front office lost out on another bullpen trade target when the New York Yankees landed Baltimore closer Zach Britton on Tuesday night. The Phils had coveted the left-hander and tried to swing a deal for him. They also liked Brad Hand, another left-hander who went from San Diego to Cleveland.

It’s no secret that general manager Matt Klentak would like to add a bullpen weapon for the stretch drive.

But if you listen to the men in the clubhouse, no addition is really needed.

“Our bullpen is nasty,” Austin Davis said early Wednesday morning. “I mean, everyone from top to bottom is gross. I don’t know what the narrative is out there, but our bullpen is disgusting.”

Nasty. Gross. Disgusting.

These are superlatives in today’s pitching world. And the Phillies’ bullpen earned every one of them with the job it did Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. It racked up 11 innings of one-run ball — and the last 10 in a row were scoreless — in leading what might have been the win of the season, a wild, 7-4 victory in 16 innings over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park (see first take).

The stingy performance left the bullpen with a 2.54 ERA for the month of July.

That is the best in baseball.

Opposing batters are hitting just .201 against the Phillies’ bullpen in July. That’s the second-lowest mark in the majors.

“It's interesting,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We rewind six weeks or so and it was a big question mark. We were struggling. We had some really heartbreaking losses and a lot of that was pinned on our bullpen. There was some validity to that. At the same time, our bullpen has performed admirably since that time period. It's kind of been the next-man-up thing. It's been sensational. We've had a lot of different people step up.”

The Phillies trailed 3-0 early in the game, tied it on a booming, two-run homer by Jorge Alfaro in the seventh and won it on newcomer Trevor Plouffe’s three-run home run against the Dodgers’ ninth pitcher of the game, infielder Kike Hernandez, with one out in the bottom of the 16th.

The victory, which took five hours and 55 minutes to complete, left the clubhouse rocking at 1:30 a.m., and Brother Gabe gushing about his club, which leads the NL East by a game over Atlanta.

“The most notable performance was just the group, right?” Kapler said. “It was not one person individually. It was the bullpen. It was the big hits. It was the fight. It was the tenacity. It was the grind. It was the drive. It was the character.”

The Dodgers used Hernandez even though they had a starter, Rich Hill, warming in the bullpen. After the game, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he was saving Hill for a potential save situation. That never materialized.

Hernandez walked two batters before Plouffe came to the plate thinking of one thing: Win the game. Facing a soft-tossing infielder is not easy for a hitter who is wired to see hard stuff. Plouffe took a less-is-more approach and drove the ball over the wall in right-center for the win.

“It's tough,” said Plouffe, a former regular with the Minnesota Twins who was signed as a minor-league free agent earlier this season and had been playing at Triple A before coming up earlier this month to help on the bench. “You really have to tell yourself to slow down. They're throwing below the hitting speed usually, so I just tried to have a good at-bat. I was up there at that point trying not to strike out or hit into a double play.

“All I want to do is contribute to victories here. I love being on a winning team. I haven't been on many in my career. But they're amazing. They're fun. That's it. I just want to contribute. Tonight it was my chance to come off the bench and do it. I'm happy.”

Plouffe put much of the credit for the win where it belonged.

“Our bullpen won the game for us,” he said.

Starter Aaron Nola was hurt by poor defense and left the game after five innings. Adam Morgan allowed a homer in the sixth, but the bullpen pitched scoreless ball the next 10 innings. Victor Arano, Luis Garcia and Davis, an unheralded rookie who has racked up 24 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings, all pitched two scoreless innings apiece. Vince Velasquez was pressed into duty and got the win thanks to a big strikeout with runners on second and third and two outs in the top of the 16th.

Davis struck out three in his two innings of work. He also got to dig into the batter’s box against Dodgers All-Star closer Kenley Jansen. Davis struck out in the at-bat, but it did not dampen his enthusiasm for the events of the evening.

And morning.

“When you win games like that, it makes it fun,” he said. “And we’re going to be ready to come tomorrow and, you know, beat them again.”

Wednesday’s series finale is set for 12:35 p.m. Sleep fast.

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Phillies pitching prospect Zach Warren has a dirty car but a bright future

Phillies pitching prospect Zach Warren has a dirty car but a bright future

Every one of the 15 minor-league prospects that the Phillies have invited to big-league spring training camp has a story.

Zach Warren’s is unique because (in his heart) he was a Phillie before he was technically a Phillie.

Warren grew up in Vineland, New Jersey, in the “glory era,” as he correctly called it, when the Phillies were racking up National League East titles, going to two World Series and winning one of them. Young Zach rooted for Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, but his eye always drifted toward the work being done by Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, not surprising because Warren was a left-handed pitcher on the rise in those days.

After successful runs at St. Augustine Prep in South Jersey and the University of Tennessee, Warren is still a pitcher on the rise. Three strong seasons in the Phillies’ minor-league system earned him an invite to major-league spring training camp next month in Clearwater.

At the Phillies’ prospect-education seminar last week at Citizens Bank Park, Warren recalled the pinch-me moment when he got the phone call from Josh Bonifay, the Phillies director of player development, telling him he’d been invited to big-league camp, and following up that thrilling news with a phone call to his dad, Geoff.

“I had dropped off my car to be worked on in Vineland the day before,” Zach recalled with a laugh, “and my dad was a little unhappy because it was dirty and had no gas. I told him the news and that cheered him up.”

Warren, 23, is one of a handful of left-handed relievers coming to big-league camp on non-roster invites. Most, if not all, will open the season in the minor leagues, but team officials, including new manager Joe Girardi and new pitching coach Bryan Price, clearly want to get a look at what they have for future reference. The Phillies, under general manager Matt Klentak, have been aggressive running relievers in and out from the minors so it’s likely several of these relievers will get a shot in the majors this season. And if they throw strikes and get outs – well, they’ll stick around.

Warren, 6-5 and 200 pounds, was selected in the 14th round of the 2017 draft. He features a mid-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup. He has racked up double-digit strikeouts-per-nine innings in each of his three pro seasons. He spent the last two seasons working late in the game, including closer, at Lakewood and Clearwater. In 116 2/3 innings the last two seasons, he allowed just 76 hits and 34 earned runs (2.62 ERA) while striking out 180 and walking 66.

The 2020 season will be a prove-it one for Warren. He projects to make the jump to Double A Reading and be an important part of that club’s bullpen. Double A is the level where they separate the men from the boys. Have success at the level and you can rise quickly to the majors.

“I’m not thinking too far in advance, where I’m going to be and things like that,” said Warren, showing a healthy perspective. “All I can control is working on what I need to work on to get better and becoming the best player I can be. My ideal blueprint for this season is to make strides and get better and help my team win games and get to the playoffs.”

First-timers in big-league camp are like sponges. They soak up the experience and try to learn from the players who’ve walked the miles they hope to one day walk. Warren has a healthy respect for Adam Morgan, another lefty reliever and SEC product from the University of Alabama, and is eager to speak with him.

“I want to learn from Adam Morgan,” Warren said. “He was up as a starter and had to go to the minors to learn, adapt and change, and he developed and got back. I think there’s a ton I could learn from someone like that.

“I’m just looking forward to learning from everybody. I think it’s going to be a great experience and I can’t wait to get down there and get going.”

With a clean car and a full tank of gas, of course.


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Brian Dawkins schools Phillies prospects on how to handle boos

Brian Dawkins schools Phillies prospects on how to handle boos

A group of Phillies prospects was in town this week for the organization’s annual prospects education seminar.

One of those lessons came from a legend.

Brian Dawkins, the most motivational athlete this city has ever seen, shared with the group his thoughts on playing in Philadelphia and responding to the passionate fan base.

“Playing in Philadelphia is different,” Dawkins said. “If you get on the field, there is a 99.99 percent chance you will be booed. The thing I always knew though was that you may boo me that one time but I’m not gonna make the same mistake again.”

The group included Alec Bohm, the Phillies’ top offensive prospect, and Cristopher Sanchez, a pitching prospect with a 100 mph arm profiled here by Jim Salisbury.

Check out the video here if you’re seeking some extra juice at the gym or just want to see Weapon X drop some jewels.

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