Phillies

Takeaways after Phillies hit 5 homers — including a wacky one — in win over Braves

Takeaways after Phillies hit 5 homers — including a wacky one — in win over Braves

BOX SCORE 

The Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves at their own game Tuesday night.

The Phillies matched a season-high with five home runs and those long balls accounted for all their runs in a 6-5 win in front of just 24,220 at Citizens Bank Park.

The homers came early and often for the Phillies. J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Corey Dickerson all went deep in the first inning as the Phillies build an early 4-0 lead.

After the Braves tied the game, Scott Kingery smacked an inside-the-park homer in the third inning to give the Phillies a lead. Ultimately, the Phils needed Dickerson’s second homer of the night, a solo shot in the sixth, and lots of good relief pitching, to hold off the Braves.

The Phillies entered the game ranked 11th in the NL with 186 homers. The Braves were second with 229. The Phils ended up out-homering the Braves, 5-1.

The standings

With 18 games left, the Phillies are still alive in a crowded NL wild-card race. They entered the day three games out and could pick up a game depending on the outcome of the Chicago Cubs game in San Diego.

Two extremes of pitching

Phillies starter Jason Vargas struggled. He could not hold a 4-0 lead. He lasted just three innings and threw 77 pitches, only 39 of which were strikes.

Vargas’ mates got him the lead before he officially left the game, then the bullpen did a terrific job protecting that lead. Gabe Kapler used five relievers and they racked up six innings of one-run ball to seal the win.

Jared Hughes had one of the biggest outs when he got dangerous Josh Donaldson to ground into a double play to end the top of the seventh. He then allowed a homer to make it a one-run game in the eighth.

Hector Neris protected the lead for the save.

Blake Parker pitched two scoreless innings.

Oh, what a catch! … No wait!

With two outs in the third inning and the game tied at 4-4, Kingery drove a high fly ball to center. The ball cleared the wall, but Atlanta centerfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. was able to leap and get his glove in the ball. He had the ball in the pocket of his glove and brought it back onto the field but could not hold on to it for a catch. Robbed of a conventional homer, Kingery alertly continued to run and he made it all the way around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.

Kingery’s 19th homer gave the Phils a 5-4 lead.

Heck of a pickup

General manager Matt Klentak has taken much criticism for not doing enough to fortify the pitching staff at the trade deadline, but he picked up a difference-making bat. Dickerson has eight homers and 34 RBIs in 33 games with the Phillies.

Defense shines

Phillies starter Vargas allowed six base runners and four runs as the Braves erased a four-run deficit in the third inning. The damage could have been worse if it weren’t for Kingery and Harper. They both made defensive gems in the inning, Kingery a diving catch in the alley with the bases full and Harper a long throw from right field to third base to cut down a runner.

The strong defense continued in the top of the sixth when Realmuto gunned down Acuna Jr., trying to steal second with two outs. Realmuto has thrown out 36 runners trying to steal this season.

Health check

Reliever Seranthony Dominguez continues to test his injured elbow. He will toss out to 90 feet this week and is tentatively scheduled to throw off a bullpen mound on Sept. 20. Dominguez has been down since early June, but doctors still believe his injury can be treated non-surgically.

Pat Neshek, who was already out for the season, had surgery to repair a torn hamstring on Tuesday.

Up next

Zach Eflin (8-11, 4.31) opposes Dallas Keuchel (7-5, 3.47) in the third game of the four-game series on Wednesday night. Eflin has pitched well in his last three starts. He has allowed just five earned runs and 15 hits in 18 innings while striking out 11 and walking just one over that span. Eflin’s recent success has coincided with his increased use of his two-seam fastball.



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At the Yard podcast: Predicting where Top 12 MLB free agents will sign

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At the Yard podcast: Predicting where Top 12 MLB free agents will sign

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman predict where the top 12 MLB free agents will land in Monday's At the Yard podcast.

• Anthony Rendon

• Gerrit Cole

• Stephen Strasburg

• Zack Wheeler

• Madison Bumgarner

• Josh Donaldson

• Mike Moustakas

• Rick Porcello

• Cole Hamels

• Hyun-Jin Ryu

• Nick Castellanos

• Didi Gregorius

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Matt Klentak's 'Time to win' comment makes this a crucial offseason for Phillies and it begins this week

Matt Klentak's 'Time to win' comment makes this a crucial offseason for Phillies and it begins this week

Throw a log on the hot stove.

Major League Baseball general managers will assemble in Phoenix for their annual meetings on Monday. The event, which ends Thursday, serves as the de facto starting point of the offseason and this will be a busy one, locally and industry wide.

The free-agent market is led by three stars of the recently completed World Series — starting pitching studs Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg and hard-hitting third baseman Anthony Rendon. Strasburg and Rendon were part of the World Series champion Washington Nationals club and Cole starred for the American League champion Houston Astros. All three players are represented by super-agent Scott Boras, who a year ago used the general managers meetings as a pulpit to announce that “Harper’s Bazaar” had opened for business. Three and a half months later, Bryce Harper signed a mammoth, 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies.

Harper led the Phillies in OPS (.882), homers (35) and RBIs (114) in his first season with the club, but the Phils, who led the NL East at the end of May, faded in June and again in September to finish in fourth place in the National League East, 12 games behind the second-place (and wild card) Nationals and 16 behind the division-winning Atlanta Braves.

The Phillies have not had a winning season (they finished .500 in 2019) or made the playoffs since 2011 and impatience is raw from the fan base to the ownership level. Managing partner John Middleton ordered the ouster of manager Gabe Kapler, proven winner Joe Girardi is now at the helm and normally guarded general manager Matt Klentak is on record as saying, “No questions asked, it is time to win right now.” That statement makes this a crucial offseason for Klentak and the Phillies because this team must fill some serious holes if it is going to win right now.

The most glaring hole — or holes — reside in the starting rotation where the Phillies currently have just one dependable starting pitcher on their roster. After Aaron Nola, the Phils have reason to believe that a healthy Jake Arrieta (he had elbow surgery in September) and an inconsistent but promising Zach Eflin can contribute in 2020, but neither are a sure-thing and even if they make an impact, the Phils will need a lot more starting pitching than that, from the top of the rotation to the back end.

You can bet the Phils will be in on all the top arms on the free-agent market. Boras, who during Harper’s Bazaar built a chemistry with Middleton, will make sure of that. 

The Phillies will at least start the offseason in the sweepstakes for Cole and Strasburg and see where it takes them. Cole seems to have his eye on the West Coast and Strasburg could end up back in Washington, but the deep-pocketed Phils cannot be ruled out, especially this early in the offseason. The Phils will be in on other top starters such as Madison Bumgarner and Zack Wheeler. Signing any one of these four would require the Phillies to forfeit their second pick in the 2020 draft. The Phils, with a new scouting director (Brian Barber) and a need to add talent to their prospect pipeline, are not keen on losing high-round selections, but their need for starting pitching is so acute and their thirst to win so desperate that it would not be surprising to see them sacrifice a pick for an impact arm.

Given the lack of depth in the rotation, the Phillies will cast their net in the lower end of the free-agent pool, as well. Cole Hamels has long spoken of a desire to finish his career in Philadelphia. Rick Porcello and others could also boost the back end of the rotation.

As nice as Rendon’s bat would look at third base — where there is a need — the Phils probably have to allot the bulk of their financial resources on starting pitching, not to mention locking up catcher J.T. Realmuto to a contract extension. The Phils have been linked to third baseman Mike Moustakas, yet another Boras guy, the last two winters and this might be the time to try to grab him on a one- or two-year deal. He won’t cost nearly as much as Rendon and shouldn’t cost as much as free-agent Josh Donaldson, who is also expected to cost a draft pick after being extended a qualifying offer.

With Andrew McCutchen set in left field and Harper in right field, the Phils could pursue a short-term fit like Brett Gardner in center field, but they also could look to re-sign corner man Corey Dickerson, a good lefty stick, and try to get enough out of a McCutchen-Adam Haseley combination in center field. 

As for Odubel Herrera, it’s too early to tell if he will ever suit up for the Phillies again. The guess here is that he will not, but the Phillies still have several months to make that call. Only the need for a roster spot (the team currently has five openings) or the arrival of spring training will create urgency to make a decision on Herrera, if it already has not privately been made.

It’s kind of fitting that the GM meetings are being held in the Phoenix area. That is Scott Kingery’s hometown and he sits in the middle of this Phillies offseason. Depending on how the team maneuvers its way through the winter, Kingery could open the 2020 season at third base, shortstop, second base or center field. He could play third if the team does not bring in someone from the outside, shortstop if Cesar Hernandez moves on and Jean Segura moves to second base, as has been discussed internally, or second base if the team wants to play him at his best position. He also improved greatly in center field last season and could fill that spot, depending how this offseason shakes out.

There are many possibilities for this team that says it's time to win now.

Throw a log on the fire. The hot stove is warming. Baseball’s offseason gets chugging this week.

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