Phillies

Tonight's lineup: J.P. Crawford bats second in penultimate game

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Tonight's lineup: J.P. Crawford bats second in penultimate game

Pete Mackanin won't be writing the lineup in 2018, but many of the same names who have flashed potential in the second half of the season should be in there on opening day.

One of those players is J.P. Crawford, regardless of what position he plays. On Saturday night, Crawford plays shortstop. He also hits second for the second time as a major leaguer. Crawford has struggled recently at the plate and sat Friday. He has only one hit in his last 17 at-bats. 

Maikel Franco, tied with Tommy Joseph for the team lead in homers at 22 after his two-run blast Friday, looks to finish a solid month of September strong. Franco is hitting .280 with four homers and 10 RBIs in September.

Henderson Alvarez starts for the Phillies. In his last start, Alvarez pitched five shutout innings, though the Phillies' bullpen couldn't hold a lead against the Braves. 

Seth Lugo starts for the Mets. His one start this year against the Phillies was way back on Aug. 11, when Rhys Hoskins was still searching for his first major league hit. He threw 5 1/3 innings in that outing, allowing eight hits, four walks and five earned runs.

The Phillies' lineup can be found below:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. J.P. Crawford, SS
3. Aaron Altherr, LF
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
5. Nick Williams, RF
6. Odubel Herrera, CF
7. Maikel Franco, 3B
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Henderson Alvarez, SP

Hector Neris optioned to Triple A; Phillies bring up LHP Austin Davis

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Hector Neris optioned to Triple A; Phillies bring up LHP Austin Davis

The Phillies have sent struggling reliever Hector Neris to Triple A and called up left-handed reliever Austin Davis.

Neris, 29, was the Phillies’ primary closer last season, racking up 26 saves in 74 games. He pitched in 79 games in 2016.

The workhorse right-hander has struggled this season, pitching to a 6.00 ERA in 30 games. Neris allowed four hits and four runs in the ninth inning Sunday at Milwaukee. The Phillies held on for a 10-9 win with Jake Thompson coming on for the save.

Davis, 25, was selected by the Phillies in the 12th round of the 2014 draft. He had a 2.70 ERA and a 0.982 WHIP in 26 games at Double A Reading and Triple A Lehigh Valley this season.

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Phillies score 10 runs and win but still leave behind a sour taste

Phillies score 10 runs and win but still leave behind a sour taste

Such an enigmatic group, these Phillies.

How crazy is it that on an afternoon when the Phils scored 10 runs to finish off an unlikely series victory, the leftover taste was a sour one because of the bullpen.

Gabe Kapler tried to show confidence in Hector Neris in the ninth inning for the second straight game. It worked Saturday but not Sunday.

After needing eight pitches in a 1-2-3 save Saturday, Neris allowed four runs and two homers in two-thirds of an inning to turn a 10-5 lead into a 10-9 game (see first take)

Kapler was forced to turn to Jake Thompson, who threw one pitch to get the save.

At this point, how can Kapler go back to Neris late in a close game? He attempted to use Neris in low-leverage situations — prior to Saturday, each of his last six outings came in games well in-hand — but it hasn't worked. 

Neris has a 6.00 ERA and has allowed eight home runs in 27 innings. To put that in perspective, Aaron Nola has allowed six home runs in 95⅓ innings. 

Neris' velocity was crisp Sunday, reaching as high as 98 mph. But the location, again, was off. Too many pitches in the middle of the plate.

The Phillies have a 4.56 ERA in the ninth inning. That's fourth-worst in the majors and second-worst in the NL, ahead of only the Marlins. Remove Neris from the equation and the Phils' ninth-inning ERA is 3.52.

The Phillies' bullpen was supposed to be a strength. But Pat Neshek hasn't pitched, Neris has fallen flat, Tommy Hunter is only starting to get into a groove and Luis Garcia is on the DL after several rough outings in a row.

Kapler must be careful of overusing Seranthony Dominguez, who factors into their ninth-inning plans far beyond this year. But aside from Dominguez, the only relievers the Phillies have who've been reliable more often than not are Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano. 

It's a precarious position to be in, yet the Phils are 12-6 in one-run games this season. Only the Mariners, Yankees, Brewers and Braves have a better winning percentage in such games. 

Nick Pivetta is on the hill Monday at home against the Cardinals. The Phillies badly need a long outing from him after their starters accounted for just 57% of the innings in Milwaukee.

It would be the perfect time for Pivetta to get back on track after allowing 13 runs in his last 14 innings and failing to pitch into the sixth four starts in a row.

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