Phillies

2 buddies and the Bamboo Man keep Phillies loose and in the win column

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2 buddies and the Bamboo Man keep Phillies loose and in the win column

A toweled Hector Neris entered the Phillies' clubhouse, saw a group of reporters congregating around Maikel Franco, looked over and gave his buddy a quick message.

"Franco,” the perpetually grinning Neris said, “make sure to say something funny.”

Neris and Franco, two friends who have been through a hell of a lot together as Phillies. They've seen years with no expectations and high expectations. They've played important roles and lost their roles. They've been key cogs and been demoted. 

On Tuesday night, both were instrumental in another Phillies comeback win over the Mets. Franco hit the game-winning two-run homer in the sixth inning of the 7-5 victory, a night after also delivering the decisive two-run homer in the middle innings.

Neris picked up four huge outs for his 16th save in 17 chances. With the tying run on base and one out in the ninth, Neris struck out young lefty Dom Smith and got veteran righty Wilson Ramos to ground out to second base.

Smith and Michael Conforto in particular, were fooled by Neris' trademark splitter. They both expanded the strike zone and looked bad doing it. Neris feasts on over-aggressive hitters who can't lay off the split.

"It's a very unique pitch," manager Gabe Kapler said, "one that it doesn't matter how many times you see it, it still doesn't give you an advantage."

Kapler was ejected in the sixth inning when he argued a warning from umpire Joe West after Scott Kingery was hit by a pitch near the head. The manager was still in a good mood after the win and didn't necessarily think the Rhys Hoskins-Jacob Rhame episode two months ago played a role.

After the Phillies' win Monday, Jean Segura had called Franco one of the Phillies' key bats. Segura talked about how much he enjoys relying on Franco on the left side of the infield. He mentioned how Franco can change a game with one swing and how when he, in particular, is going right, the Phillies' offense is just a lot better. 

It's true. Franco offers offensive upside that veteran utilityman Sean Rodriguez does not. Franco can pop one at any moment. He can pound a mistake. He can also pound a hittable pitch into the ground to the left side, as he had done far too frequently the last six weeks, but when Franco is on and feeling confident, he's dangerous.

"It makes me feel great," Franco said of Segura's comments last night. "I've been around good teammates. They've been great and supporting me. That makes me push myself every single day and perform and do everything I can to get better and make adjustments."

After one of the Phillies’ four home runs, Franco and Segura were on the field to do their handshakes with Rhys Hoskins. As Segura turned back toward the dugout, Franco took a couple hops toward him and gave him a hard noogie. 

This team is not playing tight. 

The Phillies picked up their starting pitcher for the second straight night. Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin have combined to allow 11 runs in 11 innings against the Mets but both have received wins because the Phils' bats came alive during the half-innings they were pinch-hit for.

The Mets held early leads in both games. The Phillies could have gone into a shell after the seven straight losses that preceded this series. Instead, the lineup finally looked the lineup it was supposed to be.

"It was exactly what we needed the last couple nights," Arrieta said. "It wasn't ideal from a pitching perspective the last couple nights from me and Zach, but sometimes that's what you need. The guys picked both of us up. Would have loved to have thrown the ball better. There were some really good things that happened, and some not so good. But we were able to kind of put it behind us in a positive way with a win and a chance to get a couple more before we go on the road. So the guys are feeling good about it."

The guys are also feeling good about these bamboo plants. First, one was in Brad Miller's locker Monday. Then a giant bamboo plant was on the table in the middle of the clubhouse Tuesday. Arrieta said Tuesday night he might put one in his locker tomorrow. Kapler said there might be one in every locker. 

Miller is doing more than keeping the mood light. He gave the Phils insurance with a pinch-hit solo shot Tuesday and is 3 for 4 with two extra-base hits as a pinch-hitter.

"They're going to think I'm crazy going back to that place tomorrow for the third day in a row but I told them I would see them tomorrow," Miller said. "They're going to keep hiking the prices up on me. It was worth it.

"Everyone has been awesome from Day One. I showed up and we went through a tough stretch, but nobody seemed to panic or anything. The first night, I saw a bunch of guys out at dinner and tried to join in and work hard and earn their respect and get to the party and enjoy it. It's been fun."

 

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Watch: Relive the Phillies’ wild 9th inning against the Dodgers

Watch: Relive the Phillies’ wild 9th inning against the Dodgers

The Phillies were going to win, then they were going to lose and then, holy bleep, they won with a walk-off!

If you had a hard time going to sleep last night, the ninth inning of the Phillies’ 9-8 win over the Dodgers was probably why. Talk about a full range of emotions. 

Watch the video above to relive the entire ninth inning, which was about as wild as any you’ll ever see. 

And here’s a recap of the inning, courtesy of STATS

Top of 9: 

Dodgers ninth. Neris pitching. Muncy walked on a full count. Pollock singled to left, Muncy to second. Seager struck out. Beaty pinch-hitting for Barnes. Beaty homered to center on a 1-0 count, Muncy scored, Pollock scored. Freese was hit by a pitch. R.Suárez pitching. Martin pinch-hitting for García. Martin grounded into a double play, second baseman Hernández to first baseman Hoskins, Freese out.
Runs: 3, Hits: 2

Bottom of 9: 

Phillies ninth. Martin in as catcher. Jansen pitching. Haseley grounded out, pitcher Jansen to first baseman Freese. Knapp pinch-hitting for R.Suárez. Knapp doubled to right. Hernández singled to right, Knapp to third. Kingery singled to center, Knapp scored, Hernández to second. Harper doubled to center, Hernández scored, Kingery scored.
Runs: 3, Hits: 4

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It wasn't just him, but this was a Phillies win that showed Bryce Harper's full value

It wasn't just him, but this was a Phillies win that showed Bryce Harper's full value

A 458-foot, three-run home run on a 98 mph fastball.

A walk-off two-run double against one of baseball's most accomplished closers of the last decade.

This was the kind of night that shows you why Bryce Harper is valued the way he is.

The Phillies were two outs away from yet another game that could have been classified as their worst loss of the season. What was once a five-run lead had turned into a two-run deficit when Hector Neris was victimized again by the Dodgers. This time it was rookie Matt Beaty with a three-run, pinch-hit home run off Neris in the ninth.

Another late-game implosion, especially following Monday's 16-2 embarrassment, would have taken the Phillies to a point even below rock bottom. It would have been another harbinger of doom. One walk-off win does not change the events of the last six weeks, but it does at least show these Phillies that they can beat the Dodgers. They can beat a good closer. They can respond even after the most deflating of circumstances.

"You live for those moments," Harper said. "That's what it's all about. Going in there, Jansen, one of the best closers in all of baseball, Dodgers-Phils. When you're facing the best in baseball, it's always a blast."

Don't get it twisted — they haven't done it enough, the Phillies as a group or Harper as an individual offensive player. This team should be better than 49-46. Harper's OPS should be higher than .850.

But this was the kind of win that can give a team some swagger. The Phillies hit Walker Buehler and they hit Kenley Jansen.

And in a game that was also televised nationally, the Phillies' brightest star delivered in his team's highest-pressure moment in weeks.

"It was a huge moment for Bryce and you could see it coming off the field after everybody was celebrating on the field, how important that was to him," manager Gabe Kapler said. "It meant a lot to him. He was clearly emotional and I understand there had been a lot of buildup that led to that moment. It was quite a release for him."

This felt like Harper's second really big moment with the Phillies, the first being his poetic blast at Nationals Park in his first game back in D.C. But this win went beyond him. The much-maligned Andrew Knapp, who entered with a .155 batting average, began the rally with a double. It came one batter after Adam Haseley hit a ball off Jansen's ankle. After the game, Jansen told Dodgers reporters that if he could have done it again, he would have exited the game.

Prior to Harper's game-winning double, Scott Kingery trimmed the deficit to one with an RBI single. Earlier in the night, Kingery homered on a 96 mph fastball up in the zone from Buehler.

The Phillies as a team have struggled with velocity this season but Tuesday was not an example of that.

"To see Scott go up to the top of the zone and hit 96-plus out to left field, that was pretty impressive because that's been the book on him," Kapler said. "Sliders off the plate away and then you run the heater up because he has such a good plane to his swing that he's good at getting underneath it. When you have a good four-seam fastball, you want to get above his barrel. So that was a really good sign.

"It's encouraging to see our guys catch up to velocity. We all have a lot of respect for Walker Buehler, he's been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year. To put that kind of number up on him says a lot about our club and the grind in our at-bats today.

"After yesterday's loss, how brutal that was for us, and in some ways embarrassing ... nobody quit. I think that's the calling card for our team. We get knocked down, we get back up."

The Phillies have indeed responded well after awful losses this season. They just haven't yet turned it into a prolonged stretch of good baseball.

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