Phillies

Victor Arano finds his slider as Phillies come home from Miami with a series win

Victor Arano finds his slider as Phillies come home from Miami with a series win

MIAMI — The last time Victor Arano was in Florida, he couldn’t get anybody out.

This time …

Different story.

Arano was one of many pitching stars in the Phillies’ marathon win over the Miami Marlins on Sunday afternoon. The Phils prevailed, 3-1, on the strength of Jean Segura’s two-run home run in the top of the 14th inning (see observations). They are 9-5.

While Segura’s first homer with his new club put the Phillies over the top, it was the work of the pitching staff that gave the team life and saved it from the ignominy of losing a series to the lowly Marlins on a day when the offense sputtered.

“I really think pitching is the story today,” manager Gabe Kapler said after the game. “We came out and really threw the ball well.”

Fourteen innings. One run. Yeah, very well.

Vince Velasquez — six innings, one run — had his second straight positive start and the bullpen came through with eight scoreless innings. David Robertson and Arano both pitched two scoreless frames. Arano struck out all six batters he faced in the 12th and 13th innings and got the win after Andrew McCutchen preceded Segura’s homer with a triple.

“Arano was kind of the star of the show,” Kapler said. “Him giving us some length right there was huge.”

Arano got burned badly the last time he was in the Sunshine State. That was during spring training. Unable to find his slider, he was tagged for an ungodly 17 hits and 20 runs in just four innings of work. Arano pitched well for the Phillies last season (2.73 ERA in 60 games) and club officials wanted to keep him on the roster. But given the way he pitched in spring training, there was no way they could. He was sent to Triple A in the final week of camp to try to find the slider that made him so effective last season.

Arano found the pitch quickly. He pitched four scoreless innings at Triple A and struck out seven. He was recalled before Friday night’s game against the Marlins and, similarly, racked up four scoreless innings and seven strikeouts in the series.

Catcher Andrew Knapp described Arano’s slider as electric after Sunday’s win.

“I think he threw maybe three fastballs,” Knapp said. “The slider was dropping off the table.”

Arano could not argue with the Phillies’ decision to send him to Triple A at the end of spring training.

“I knew I needed to get my slider back to where it was last year,” he said through translator Diego Ettedgui. “That was my main focus.”

He said he was able to figure out that he needed to strengthen his grip a little on his slider, add a little finger pressure. He also watched video and determined that his front shoulder was flying open. With the help of Lehigh Valley pitching coach Steve Schrenk, Arano made the adjustments and — welcome back, slider.

If Arano can continue his effectiveness, it will be huge for this team. Ditto, Velasquez. He gave up just two hits and a run over six innings, walked three and struck out four. He did not allow a hit until Brian Anderson’s homer on a first-pitch fastball in the sixth. He was economical with his pitches, throwing 81.

In two starts, Velasquez has given up just six hits and three runs in 11 innings.

“Vince came out and attacked the strike zone really well,” Kapler said.

The offense has been inconsistent lately. It was held to three hits and a run in Wednesday night’s loss to Washington. It scored nine runs in Friday night’s win over the Marlins then didn’t score until the ninth inning in Saturday night’s 10-3 loss. On Sunday, the Phils got on the board with a Cesar Hernandez homer in the fourth inning then went nine innings without a run.

Good thing the pitching showed up.

The offense will need to pick it up because the tests get tougher this week, first with the Mets coming to town for three games starting Monday night. The Phils are 50-82 against the Mets over the last seven seasons.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Frustration mounting for Phillies after series loss to Orioles

Frustration mounting for Phillies after series loss to Orioles

The Phillies suffered their fourth defeat in the last five games when they were beaten by the Baltimore Orioles, 5-4, on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The Orioles, who hit three home runs, have beaten the Phillies two nights in a row and will go for a series sweep Thursday afternoon.

The Phillies are 5-8 and frustration is mounting. Struggling Rhys Hoskins became the first Phillie in 10 years (Placido Polanco did it in 2010) to hit into three double plays. After the second one, he smashed his helmet to the ground and the sound echoed all over the empty ballpark.

For the season, the Phils are a combined 1-4 against Miami and Baltimore. Those two clubs lost 105 and 108 games, respectively, last season.

Eflin's night

Right-hander Zach Eflin struck out a career-high 10 batters but could not hold a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning. He allowed seven hits, two of which were homers, and four runs over six innings. 

Eflin once again featured his bread-and-butter sinker. He got hurt on three breaking balls, a 1-2 slider that Anthony Santander hit for a homer in the third inning, an 0-1 curveball that Chance Sisco blooped for a two-run single with two outs in the fourth, and a 2-2 slider that Rio Ruiz hit for a homer with two outs in the fifth. Ruiz's homer to center traveled 405 feet and gave the O's a 4-3 lead.

Bullpen blues

The Orioles built their lead to 5-3 on a solo homer by Sisco against reliever Adam Morgan in the seventh. Sisco hit an 0-1 breaking ball. 

Morgan threw just three fastballs out of 17 pitches and it averaged just 91 mph. That would seem to be a concern and something worth watching as Morgan missed significant time last year with an elbow injury and is one of the veterans the Phils are counting on out of the 'pen this season.

The Phillies' bullpen remains the worst in baseball. It has allowed 41 earned runs in 38⅓ innings for a 9.63 ERA.

Brooks Ruiz

The Phillies made it a one-run game when Andrew Knapp (three hits, two RBIs) drove home a run in the eighth. The Phillies continued to threaten in the inning, putting runners on first and second for Andrew McCutchen with two outs.

McCutchen scorched a ball between short and third that had game-tying single written all over it. But Ruiz, Baltimore's third baseman, made a diving play to halt the hot smash and from his sprawled position rolled the ball to second for the third out.

Frustration city

Hoskins, who entered the game hitting .211 with no homers and one RBI, grounded into three 5-4-3 double plays, the second of which came with two men on base in a tie game in the fourth. 

Hoskins hit just .180 after the All-Star break last season and frustration is clearly building. After hitting into the double play in the fourth inning, he crossed first base and slammed his helmet (loudly) into the ground. It was an unusual show of anger/frustration for the usually even-tempered Hoskins, who also walked and struck out. He's hitting .190.

Kingery sits

Scott Kingery, 4 for 40 with 10 strikeouts to start the season, was held out of the starting lineup. Kingery struck out twice late in Tuesday night's game, both on pitches out of the strike zone. 

Phil Gosselin got the start at second base.

Gosselin entered the game 9 for 18 (.500) with a .591 on-base percentage. Though Gosselin did not reach base in the game, he saved a run with an excellent defensive play in the first inning.

Manager Joe Girardi has said he's committed to getting core guys like Kingery ample opportunity to get going, but the season is moving fast — more than 20 percent is gone — and Girardi has to balance patience with urgency.

Not the same

McCutchen has been slow starting at the plate. He entered the game with just five hits in his first 34 at-bats (.147) and his on-base percentage was just .211.

It was a good sign that McCutchen came out of the gate with a pair of line-drive hits in his first three at-bats. He continued to hit the ball well late in the game and was robbed of a hit.

But McCutchen, who missed four months last season after tearing the ACL in his left knee, is still not moving well on the bases or in left field. This is something worth watching — either way. Maybe McCutchen will start moving better as he gets further away from the injury. Or maybe this is what he is at age 33 with two serious knee injuries on his chart.

Cut the shift

For the second time in the young season, Bryce Harper beat an extreme shift with a bunt base hit toward third base. It came with no outs in the third inning and Hoskins (walk) on first base. Both Hoskins and Harper ended up scoring on a hit by J.T. Realmuto and a sacrifice fly by Didi Gregorius as the Phillies took a 3-1 lead.

Up next

The series concludes Thursday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. Former Phillies prospect Tom Eshelman pitches for the Orioles against Jake Arrieta, who is coming off six scoreless innings against the Braves.

Subscribe and rate the Phillies Talk podcast:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19 / YouTube

 

More on the Phillies

Phillies continue to invent ways to lose to teams they should dominate

Phillies continue to invent ways to lose to teams they should dominate

Updated, 10:30 p.m.

Needing to capitalize on every game against a bad team in a 60-game season, the Phillies are off to a 1-4 start against the Marlins and Orioles. They have one more game with the Orioles Thursday, then seven straight games against the Marlins from Sept. 10-14 in Miami.

The Phillies have dug themselves a hole in which even going 6-2 in those remaining games against two of baseball's least talented teams would result in them finishing just 7-6 against the Marlins and Orioles. NL East and AL East teams entered this season knowing they'd need to clean up on Miami and Baltimore given the strength of the other eight teams, ranging from World Series contenders like the Yankees to clubs in the 85-win range like the Phillies, Mets and Blue Jays.

The Marlins and Orioles have just been better than the Phillies pitchers they're facing. It's the biggest reason why the Phils continue to struggle against bad teams. Do they have better players? Of course. But the gap in talent shrinks when you're forced to use some of your least reliable players (e.g. relievers) every night. You need your bullpen every night. You can't hide it. The Phillies continue to lose these games in the middle innings.

In the five games against the Fish and O's, Phillies starting pitchers have a 5.33 ERA. The bullpen has an 8.05 ERA ... which is actually lower than the bullpen's overall ERA this season. The Phillies' offense has averaged 5.6 runs, homered eight times and has an OPS in the mid-.800s in those five games. It's not at all on the offense, which last season averaged more than 5.5 runs per game against the Marlins and lost the series. The Phillies have already lost games this season when scoring six and nine runs. Even the two times the Phils scored double-digit runs, they had to sweat it out a bit, allowing seven and eight.

That late-season seven-game series in Miami will be another challenge. Because of the postponements, the Phillies will end up playing seven of the 10 games against the Marlins on the road, even if they'll spend a few as the home team in a road park. That seven-game series is smack-dab in the middle of a stretch when the Phillies play 33 games in 29 days. Some of these guys will be running on fumes. Think of how frequently Hector Neris will have to appear in games for the Phillies to hold on to victories.

The Phillies went 33-29 last season against teams under .500. That's OK but not good enough and certainly not an indicator of a contending team. The Marlins and Orioles are actually both over .500 right now, as is every team the Phillies have faced so far. 

More than one-fifth of the Phillies' season is complete and they are 5-8. You simply need to play .500 baseball to make the playoffs this season. The top two teams in each division, plus the teams with the next two best records in each league make the postseason in this year's 16-team field. Right now, the final team in the NL would be the Brewers at 7-9. The final AL team would be the Indians at 10-9.

Subscribe and rate the Phillies Talk podcast:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19 / YouTube

 

More on the Phillies