The Phillies' beleaguered bullpen got the job done in a 5-4 win over the New York Yankees on Thursday night.
The taut victory gave the Phillies a split of the four-game, home-and-home series with the Yankees, who had won nine of their first 11 games.
The Phillies are 3-4 after seven games. They play their next four in division against the Atlanta Braves.
The Phils got a promising start from Zach Eflin in winning the series finale against the Yankees. They got a three-run homer from J.T. Realmuto and another big hit from Phil Gosselin. But the star of the game might have been closer Hector Neris. He highlighted a good night for the bullpen with a four-out save that included a huge strikeout of one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball with a runner on base in a one-run game in the eighth inning.
The right-hander did a lot of good things against a powerful lineup in his season debut.
He worked four innings and gave up two runs, but both were unearned after a Scott Kingery error extended the second inning. The error, on a possible double-play ball, caused Eflin's pitch count to soar and that prevented him from going another inning and qualifying for the win. Eflin threw 77 pitches, many of them his bread-and-butter sinking fastball. He allowed just four hits, one walk and struck out five.
The Phillies need Eflin to be a consistent contributor this season. This was a good place to start.
Hold your breath
Eflin's pitch count was being watched carefully because he's still building his workload after a July back injury. After Eflin left the game with a 5-2 lead, manager Joe Girardi had to hope that his struggling bullpen could get 15 outs against possibly the best lineup in baseball to preserve the lead.
But it did.
Deolis Guerra, who failed to keep Monday night's game in New York close, enjoyed some redemption with a scoreless fifth inning.
Nick Pivetta worked the next two innings and allowed a two-run homer to Gary Sanchez in the seventh as the Yanks made it a one-run game.
Things got hairy in the top of the eighth as Giancarlo Stanton doubled against Jose Alvarez with one out and moved to third on a ground out.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone sent up Aaron Judge (he did not start) to pinch-hit and Girardi countered with right-handed closer Neris. In a dramatic showdown with the game on the line, Neris struck out Judge on five pitches to end the threat and preserve the lead.
Judge leads the majors with seven homers and 17 RBIs in 12 games. Neris got him swinging over a splitter. It was the biggest out of the season so far for the Phillies.
Neris survived a pair of two-out singles in the ninth for the save. It was a nervous save as Yankee slugger Luke Voit sent one to the warning track in center for the final out.
Uncle Larry warms up
Before the game, Girardi expressed faith in leadoff man Andrew McCutchen, who had started off 1 for 18 with two walks. McCutchen lined out to shortstop in the first inning but singled and doubled later in the game. His double in the seventh likely would have scored Roman Quinn from first base hadn't Quinn been picked off with his team up a run.
Realmuto stays hot
With a vocal group of fans shouting "Sign J.T." from beyond the centerfield gate, Realmuto homered for the second straight night. His three-run homer in the first inning came against Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery. Rhys Hoskins (walk) and Bryce Harper (single) were on base.
Realmuto leads the Phils with three homers and eight RBIs.
Realmuto also made a huge defensive play, gunning down a runner trying to steal second base in the fourth to complete a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play.
Also on the hot list
Phil Gosselin got the start as the designated hitter and doubled home two runs in the third to give the Phils a 5-2 lead. Gosselin is 6 for 10 on the season with six RBIs.
The Phillies open a four-game series with NL East rival Atlanta on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. Vince Velasquez (0-0, 12.00) will oppose right-hander Kyle Wright (0-1, 7.50) in the first game of the series. Jake Arrieta pitches Saturday night for the Phillies and it's possible that prospect Spencer Howard could get the call on Sunday afternoon.
Subscribe and rate the Phillies Talk podcast:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19 / YouTube
More on the Phillies