PHILS INSIDER

Phillies try hard to blow another one but hold on for win over Marlins

PHILS INSIDER

What's more unbelievable, Vince Velasquez pitching seven shutout innings and not walking a batter or the Phillies' bullpen not blowing the save?

Oh, what does it matter?

It happened Tuesday night and the Phillies are sure glad it did.

They opened a six-game homestand with 4-3 victory over the Miami Marlins in front of 18,079 at Citizens Bank Park. It was a much-needed win for the Phillies, who had seen their incendiary bullpen rack up seven blown saves in the previous six games, including a hellacious one Monday night in Cincinnati.

Manager Joe Girardi went to Neftali Feliz with a two-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning in that game and Feliz gave up a grand slam as the Reds erupted for 10 unanswered runs over two innings for a 12-4 win.

One night later, with the taste of that implosion still on their tongues, the Phillies were up, 2-0, when Girardi pinch-hit for Velasquez in the bottom of the seventh. The right-hander had thrown 96 pitches and Girardi was going to entrust the final six outs to the bullpen.

Brave man.

"Vinny was near 100 pitches and it's really hot tonight," Girardi said afterward. "That's the decision. It was the hottest game we've played. That was the best performance Vinny has given us all year and we needed it."

The offense gave the bullpen a little cushion when it rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh to push the lead to 4-0. But Connor Brogdon walked two batters in the eighth to make it a save situation.

 

Gulp.

Girardi went to Jose Alvarado with two outs and two men on in the eighth. He walked a batter to load the bases then wild-pitched home a run. Boos rang down from the rafters before Alvarado got dangerous Starling Marte to ground out to end the frame.

Alvarado stayed on for the ninth and things got tense again. The hard-throwing left-hander allowed a hit and a two-run homer to Adam Duvall with no outs to make it a one-run game before settling down and getting three outs to end it. His final out was a strikeout of Jorge Alfaro on a full-count pitch.

It was one of the ugliest saves you'll ever see, but a save, nonetheless, and Girardi wasn't about to throw it back, not after the week he'd witnessed.

"The way I look at it is we would have lost this game last week or on the road trip," Girardi said. "We won the game tonight so that's the bright spot of it.

"The big thing is the free baserunners. That's what's hurt us the most -- more than base hits when you look at some of the games we've lost -- and that's what has to be taken care of."

The win left the Phillies at 37-40, still five games back in the NL East.

The Phils have gotten excellent starting pitching from Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Matt Moore and Zack Wheeler this last time through the rotation.

Velasquez followed suit in this one. He allowed just two hits over his seven walk-free innings. He struck out seven. It was the first time that the enigmatic right-hander had gotten an out in the seventh inning of one of his starts since August 2019.

Was Velasquez nervous about handing his lead to the leaky bullpen?

"No," he said. "I have confidence in our guys. Even though we've had some hiccups, I think there's a lot of light at the end of the tunnel. There's a lot of optimism.

"We had a tough loss yesterday in Cincinnati, but today felt like a clean slate. We're turning the page. This is the day we needed to start over."

Phillies starters have allowed three earned runs (0.83 ERA) in 32⅔ innings the last six games. (The Phils are 3-3 in those games.) Subtract Spencer Howard's last start and it's one earned run in 30⅓ innings. Howard was sent to the minors on Tuesday.

Velasquez received offensive support from smoking-hot Andrew McCutchen, whose RBI single with two outs in the first inning gave him 20 RBIs for the month of June, and Rhys Hoskins, who broke an 0-for-23 skid that included nine strikeouts with a two-out solo homer in the sixth.

One night after making a baserunning mistake in Cincinnati, Odubel Herrera did not start against Miami lefty Trevor Rogers. Herrera came off the bench with an RBI double to key a two-run seventh. With this bullpen, those runs proved huge.

 

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