Phillies

Scott Kingery saves the day — takeaways from Phillies' exciting win over Mets

Scott Kingery saves the day — takeaways from Phillies' exciting win over Mets

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When the Phillies' starting pitcher gave up one run on Friday night, the bullpen allowed 10.

When the Phillies' starting pitcher gave up one run on Sunday night, the bullpen blew another late lead but was picked up by Scott Kingery.

It appeared that so, too, was manager Gabe Kapler after an apparent questionable, costly decision to pull a locked-in Zach Eflin after seven innings and 84 pitches.

That decision made a little more sense after hearing from Eflin postgame. The right-hander said his arm felt fine but that he had been dealing with oblique tightness in recent days and it crept back up in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

"I respect the decision Kap made," Eflin said. "Arm felt great at 84 pitches. Going into my next outing, I'm hoping for no limitations."

The Phils avoided a sweep with the 5-2 win on Sunday Night Baseball. Kingery delivered the night's biggest moment, a bases-clearing double with one out in the eighth off Jeurys Familia after Cesar Hernandez was intentionally walked ahead of him. The Phillies, struggling for two months with runners in scoring position, had stranded a man in scoring position with no outs the previous inning. Huge spot.

"This year, having been through it, it helps a lot," Kingery said of the mental approach to those high-leverage spots. "Probably put too much pressure on myself last year."

September began with a win but the Phillies will need to play worlds better than they did this weekend to remain in the wild-card race. They are 70-65 and on an 84-win pace, as they've been nearly every day for a month.

1. Updated playoff picture

The Phillies' win Sunday coupled with the Cubs' loss trimmed the deficit to 2½ games back of the second wild-card spot. The Cubs lost two in a row to the Brewers this weekend.

The Phils are a half-game ahead of the Brewers and 1½ games ahead of the Mets and Diamondbacks.

September schedules could play a large role in deciding this thing. The Cubs play 15 games against teams with losing records in the final month. The Phillies play seven — the first four in Cincinnati and the final three at home against the Marlins.

2. Stroman so-so so far

Eflin outdueled Marcus Stroman, the Mets' trade deadline prize. Stroman pitched well in this game but has not overall in a Mets uniform. He's made six starts with New York and has a 4.55 ERA with a 1.64 WHIP. He's been hittable, and he's surprisingly allowed six home runs already after surrendering just 10 in 21 starts with the Blue Jays. Unexpected considering Stroman was traded to the lesser offensive league and from a hitter's park to a pitcher's park.

The Mets traded two of their top pitching prospects, Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson, to acquire Stroman from Toronto. They could prove to be two significant pieces. 

Stroman found success earlier this season in some ways that looked unsustainable. His strand rate and opponents' batting average with men on base were both much better than the league average. Those numbers don't always regress but tend to over a full season. Stroman's ERA indicators have been about a half-run higher than his actual ERA most of the year.

3. Eflin efficient again

Two starts in a row, Eflin has been through six innings in under 80 pitches. On Sunday night, he encountered trouble in only one inning, the fourth. 

Five of Eflin's seven innings were 1-2-3. He allowed a solo home run to Pete Alonso in the first inning — hard to believe but Alonso's only homer and only RBI in 10 games at Citizens Bank Park this season — and put three men on base in the fourth but got a double-play ball.

Eflin has allowed three runs over 13 innings in his last two starts. These are the best back-to-back outings he's had since June 12 and June 19. Eflin is at his best when he's pitching the way he is now, generating early outs on the ground with his sinker. 

Eflin would be a more complete pitcher with a more consistent four-seam fastball, but if he has to use that pitch sparingly to get deeper into games, so be it given the current state of the Phillies' rotation.

Kapler pinch-hit for Eflin in the seventh inning of a one-run game. Eflin was at only 84 pitches but Kapler went with offense after Adam Haseley opened the seventh with a double. Jay Bruce grounded out and the Phillies ultimately stranded Haseley at third.

4. More professional ABs from Dickerson

What do you know, another multi-hit game from Corey Dickerson. He doubled to begin the bottom of the first and hit a two-out, RBI single to put the Phillies ahead in the second.

Dickerson has 25 RBI in 24 games as a Phillie, is hitting over .300 and has gone 12 for 34 (.353) with runners in scoring position. He uses all fields, can handle the ball low, high, inside or outside, and so far has even been a pleasant surprise vs. lefties.

Now, the Phillies are off to Cincinnati. Here are the pitching probables:

Monday afternoon at 2:10 — LHP Drew Smyly (2-6, 6.95) vs. Anthony DeSclafani (9-7, 4.05)

Tuesday night at 6:40 — Vince Velasquez (6-7, 4.86) vs. LHP Alex Wood (1-3, 5.80)

Wednesday night at 6:40 — Aaron Nola (12-4, 3.45) vs. TBA

Thursday afternoon at 12:35 — LHP Jason Vargas (6-7, 4.31) vs. TBA.

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Watch Phillies Alec Bohm's loved ones' amazing reaction to his first career at-bat

Watch Phillies Alec Bohm's loved ones' amazing reaction to his first career at-bat

Phillies star prospect Alec Bohm made his major league debut at third base on Thursday night, a pretty big moment for the future of the organization. 

Things went wrong basically all night for the Phils - of course! - but the 24-year-old managed to smack his first career at-bat down the third base line for a double, quite a way to begin a career.

While his parents and girlfriend couldn't be in attendance at Citizens Bank Park because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they were certainly watching. And, thanks to technology, we can watch their reactions to Bohm's first hit.

Here's what an MLB debut hit looks like in 2020:

Man, that's just the best. 

So much to love in a 41-second clip - Bohm's dad keeping his cool and noting the double; his mom's absolute exuberance; his girlfriend commenting on Bohm's smile - but my favorite part is the quote from his mom at the very end.

"Go baby go!"

Fantastic.

After an otherwise brutal night for the Phils, I'm going to just keep watching this video on repeat. At least one thing went right.

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Are the Phillies this bad? Phils 5-9 after being swept by Orioles at home

Are the Phillies this bad? Phils 5-9 after being swept by Orioles at home

For the third straight night, the Phillies blew a multi-run lead against the Orioles in the middle innings. And for what feels like the 30th straight night, the Phillies' putrid bullpen didn't come close to keeping the game close.

It resulted in another loss as the Phillies were swept at home by the O's, losing 11-4 Thursday with seven of those runs coming against the Phils' bullpen.

Jake Arrieta had been cruising and the Phils built a two-run lead on J.T. Realmuto's opposite-field home run in the bottom of the fourth. But the next half-inning, Arrieta lost his command and couldn't pick up the final out with the bases loaded.

The Orioles scored four times in the fifth inning, the biggest hit a bases-clearing double from outfielder Anthony Santander.

Baltimore tacked on seven more runs against the Phillies' bullpen, which has a 10.13 ERA. Phillies relievers have allowed 48 earned runs in 42⅔ innings, which seems almost impossible.

"You have to be able to pitch to win games in this league, and quite frankly we just haven't thrown the ball well," Realmuto said. "We haven't done well late in games, in particular, when we've needed it. To win a division and to get to the playoffs, you need a really good bullpen. That's an area where we haven't done that well so far. We've got the guys to do it, we've just got to get better."

The Phillies are 5-9. They have the second-worst winning percentage in the National League, ahead of only the Pirates.

"It's concerning," Realmuto said. "With this shortened season, we've got to get it going quicker. It's definitely being talked about in the clubhouse. We're trying to pick each other up and stay positive. If you have one good week, you're back in it. Especially in our division, nobody is really running away with it yet."

Bohm's debut

Making his MLB debut, third baseman Alec Bohm's first major-league plate appearance ended with a double down the third-base line. He struck out looking in his second at-bat and flew out to a step in front of the warning track in right field to strand two runners in his third AB. In his final at-bat, he drilled a ball to the warning track in right-center for a flyout.

Bohm was also involved in Baltimore's fifth-inning rally. Pedro Severino rocketed a ball right under his glove at third base. It was the second-hardest hit ball of the night to that point and was a tough play but still probably one a big-league third baseman has to make.

Prior to the game, Phillies GM Matt Klentak described the team's plans to integrate Bohm into the everyday lineup.

Bryce and J.T. do it again

The Phillies are 5-9 but they might be something like 2-12 without their best two players. Realmuto hit a pair of two-run homers Thursday night, giving him 7 HR with 17 RBI on the season. Both home runs came after an extra-base hit from Bryce Harper, who doubled and tripled.

Harper is hitting .356 and leads MLB with a 1.202 OPS. Realmuto is hitting .292 and slugging .729, third to only Mike Trout and Aaron Judge. Realmuto has three more home runs than any other big-league catcher despite the Phillies having played a handful fewer games than most of the league.

There is a very good chance this is the hottest Harper and Realmuto will be in 2020. It would be hard to be hotter. If that's the case, the Phillies wasted all of this production.

Arrieta's night

Arrieta appeared to be on his way to another strong start before that fifth inning. He followed six shutout frames against the Braves with four zeroes Thursday night, extending his scoreless innings streak to 12 before the Orioles broke out.

"There's no reason I shouldn't have been able to throw at least seven innings in that game," Arrieta said. "A couple of runs should have been enough. Giving up four in the fifth kind of took the wind out of our sails. That one's completely my fault. I had multiple opportunities to make a pitch and get out of that inning. Just wasn't able to do it."

Through three starts, Arrieta has a 4.02 ERA with 14 strikeouts and two walks in 15⅔ innings.

More bad bullpening

Debuting Connor Brogdon was welcomed to the Phillies' bullpen by allowing two homers and three runs in 1⅓ innings. The Phillies have nine relievers with an ERA over 8.00 and ended up using position player Neil Walker for the final two outs.

Up next

The Phillies welcome the Mets to town for a three-game series this weekend. Jacob deGrom is scheduled to pitch for the Mets in Game 1. The Phillies will go with Spencer Howard for his second major-league start.

Aaron Nola starts for the Phillies Saturday, while Zack Wheeler faces his old team Sunday.

After the weekend, the Phillies play 10 straight games and 20 of their next 29 on the road.

"We obviously haven't performed up to our standards, that's for sure," Arrieta said. "There's really no time to worry about it. We just have to play better. We already have to catch up quite a bit."

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