aaron nola

Phillies 7, Dodgers 6: Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins lead rally and Phillies' split vs. best team in baseball

Phillies 7, Dodgers 6: Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins lead rally and Phillies' split vs. best team in baseball

BOX SCORE 

Would you take a split against the best team in baseball?

Sure, you would.

The Phillies got one against the Dodgers.

They rallied for four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to win the finale of the four-game series against the Dodgers, 7-6, Thursday afternoon at rainy, muggy Citizens Bank Park.

The fans have not given up on the Phillies. A crowd of 38,043 sat through a lot of rain and showed the team a lot of support.

Starter Aaron Nola struggled, but the bats and bullpen bailed him out. Phillies pitching gave up four homers, but survived.

The Phils are 50-47.

Decisive rally

The Phillies trailed, 5-3, entering the seventh inning. Their four-run rally started when Dodgers’ reliever Caleb Ferguson hit a batter and walked a batter with no outs. Jean Segura then drove in a run with a one-out single against Dylan Floro. The Dodgers went to right-hander Joe Kelly and he allowed a game-tying RBI single to Bryce Harper and a two-run single to Rhys Hoskins as the Phillies took the lead.

(Mostly) strong relief

The Phillies’ bullpen allowed two runs in four innings. Rookie Ranger Suarez continued to open eyes. Adam Morgan delivered in the eighth and Hector Neris survived a ninth-inning homer for the save.

Big series for Bryce

Harper, who entered the game hitting .303 over his previous 21 games, singled, doubled and had a sacrifice fly.

He had a very nice series with three two-hit games. He had three doubles and drove in seven runs.

He needs to keep producing big if the Phillies have any chance at the postseason.

Nola’s day

The right-hander was not nearly as good as he’d been over the previous month. He struggled with his command of the strike zone and was hit hard. He gave up five hits and four runs over five innings. It was his shortest outing since June 15 at Atlanta.

Four of the five hits that Nola gave up were for extra bases, including three homers. Matt Beaty and Kike Hernandez hit back-to-back shots in the second and Hernandez smacked a two-run homer that barely cleared the leftfield wall in the fourth as the Dodgers took a 4-3 lead.

Nola had a given up just two homers in his previous five starts. He had allowed just three earned over 35 2/3 innings over that span.

Big defense

The Phillies made a couple of important defensive gems early in the game.

Hoskins, playing in tight with runners on the corners and two outs in the third inning, made a brilliant reaction play on a scorcher off the bat of Cody Bellinger to get Nola out of trouble.

An inning later, centerfielder Scott Kingery made a long run and leaping grab at the wall in right-center to take away extra bases from Austin Barnes.

Transactions

The Phillies added a pair of relievers, Cole Irvin and Fernando Salas, from Triple A before the game. Relievers Austin Davis and Edgar Garcia were sent back to Triple A.

Up next

The Phils begin a three-game series against the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Friday night. Jake Arrieta (8-7, 4.54) pitches the opener against right-hander Jordan Lyles (5-6, 5.16).

Zach Eflin (7-9, 4.16) opposes RHP Trevor Williams (3-3, 5.17) on Saturday night.

Vince Velasquez (2-5, 4.87) faces RHP Joe Musgrove (6-8, 4.31) in the series finale Sunday afternoon.

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Nationals 4, Phillies 3: Juan Soto homers off Hector Neris with two outs in ninth to win it for Nats

Nationals 4, Phillies 3: Juan Soto homers off Hector Neris with two outs in ninth to win it for Nats

BOX SCORE 

The Phillies have done a lot of losing lately.

This was some of the worst.

One out from a one-run victory, Hector Neris served up a single and a two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning as the Washington Nationals rallied to beat the Phillies, 4-3, in front of a sellout crowd on fireworks night at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday.

The Phillies led 3-0 early in the game and wasted a strong start from Aaron Nola.

The Phils have lost 23 of their last 37 games, including two in a row to Washington. The Phils are now 47-45. They are in third place in the NL East, 2½ games behind second-place Washington. They entered the night 7½ games behind first-place Atlanta.

Nola’s night

He ran a high pitch count so he was out of the game after six innings. But in those six innings, he was very good. He scattered six hits and a run, walked four and struck out nine. He left with a 3-1 lead.

Since June 16, Nola has made five starts. He has an ERA of 0.76 in those games. He has allowed just 19 hits and three earned runs in 35 2/3 innings over that span. He has walked 12 and struck out 43.

The rest of the Phillies’ starting pitchers have a 6.91 ERA since June 16.

Inspiring defense

Maybe it was because of the big crowd on fireworks night, maybe it was because Nola was on the mound, maybe it was because they scored a couple of early runs. Whatever the reason, the Phillies played with a lot of energy early in the game. It particularly showed on defense, where Bryce Harper, Roman Quinn and Maikel Franco all made legitimate highlight-reel plays.

Harper made a rather incredible 310-foot throw from the warning track in right field to cut down Victor Robles trying to stretch a double into a triple in the second inning.

Quinn made a long run and a diving catch at the track to take away extra bases from Adam Eaton in the fifth.

Franco made a lunging snare of Juan Soto’s hot smash to third in the sixth and another excellent play on Trea Turner in the seventh.

Franco’s night turns

Franco’s defense went bad in the eighth as he made a costly error that led to a run as the Nats cut the Phils’ lead to 3-2.

Franco at the bat

He drove in two of the Phillies’ three runs with a solo homer and a sacrifice fly against Patrick Corbin, who struck out 10 in six innings.

Cesar Hernandez was caught trying to steal third immediately before Franco’s homer. That hurt more and more as the night went on.

The Phillies did not score after the fourth inning and that hurt, too.

The game ended with Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle retiring pinch-hitter Andrew Knapp with the tying run on second.

Neris struggles

Neris retired dangerous Kurt Suzuki (five homers against the Phils this season) with the bases loaded to end the top of the eighth and preserve a one-run lead.

He allowed a two-out single to Anthony Rendon and a two-run homer to Soto to blow the lead in the ninth.

Soto hit a first-pitch splitter (see story).

Neris was booed loudly as he walked off the mound.

Transactions

J.T. Realmuto was reinstated from paternity leave. Reserve catcher Rob Brantly was designated for assignment.

Sean Rodriguez was placed on the 10-day injured list with an abdominal strain and Adam Haseley was called up from Triple A.

Haseley will not be sitting around.

“We’ll find ways to get him in the lineup,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

Up next

Jake Arrieta, bone spur and all, gets the start in Sunday afternoon’s finale. He will be looking to stop a Washington sweep.

Arrieta will face Anibal Sanchez. Max Scherzer was the scheduled starter for Washington, but he was scratched with a sore back.

Former NL MVP Ryan Howard will be honored with a special retirement ceremony before the game. Tune into NBC Sports Philadelphia at noon for a special edition of Phillies Focus, featuring an exclusive interview with Howard.

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In need of 60% of a rotation, is it still worth it for Phillies to buy big at trade deadline?

In need of 60% of a rotation, is it still worth it for Phillies to buy big at trade deadline?

NEW YORK — The Phillies added over $430 million in contracts this past offseason. Their opening day payroll was an estimated $45 million more than it was a year ago.

They’re 47-43 at the All-Star break and on pace for 85 wins, a total that would not get them to the playoffs.

They have gotten little out of their starting rotation, especially lately. Since June 20, Aaron Nola has allowed two earned runs total in four starts for a 0.61 ERA.

In the Phillies' other 13 games over that span, the rest of the starting staff has allowed 55 earned runs in 65⅓ innings. That's a 7.58 ERA.

Now, Jake Arrieta could miss time. The Phillies will evaluate him during the All-Star break to figure out the best course of action in dealing with the bone spur in his elbow.

If Arrieta is forced to the injured list ... is it even worth it for the Phillies to make a series of win-now trades to (perhaps only incrementally) boost their chances of contending in 2019? As the injuries mount and underperformance of key hitters continues, the front office has to ask itself the hard question of whether winning the division or making noise in the playoffs is even realistic this season.

It's a surprising question to be asking given all of the Phillies’ offseason additions but things just have not gone as planned.

Trade season will be different

Keep in mind, there are no more August trades. There is a hard trade deadline of July 31, after which only minor-league deals can be made. So a team cannot act in a more measured way ahead of July 31 while continuing to evaluate its chances before making more moves in August if necessary.

Last August, you'll recall, the Phillies made trades for Justin Bour, Jose Bautista and Luis Avilan. In the preceding decade, they acquired Jamie Moyer in August 2006, Matt Stairs and Scott Eyre in August 2008, Mike Sweeney in August 2010 and dealt away Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz in August 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Now the process speeds up for every team, buyer or seller.

NL all bunched up

If we're being realistic, the Phillies need three-fifths of a rotation. Outside of Nola and Zach Eflin, the rest of their starting pitchers have been unreliable. Nick Pivetta's ERA is 5.84 overall and 4.78 since he returned from the minors. Arrieta has a 6.63 ERA in his last seven starts. Vince Velasquez is rarely able to exceed five innings. On a start-by-start basis, none of them can truly be trusted to go out there and keep you in a game.

The National League is weird this season. As poorly as the Phillies have played since Memorial Day, the only two NL teams who are even one game better than the Phillies are the Dodgers and Braves. The Phillies, Cubs, Nationals, Brewers, Cardinals, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Pirates and Padres are all separated by two games or fewer.

Who's available?

There are many obtainable starting pitchers. There's the top tier of Zack Greinke (maybe), Robbie Ray, Madison Bumgarner and Matthew Boyd.

There's the low-cost, low-reward stabilizing group of Danny Duffy, Tanner Roark and Mike Leake.

Marcus Stroman, who fits somewhere in between those two categories, could probably be had.

If the Phillies needed only one of them, the situation would be more cut-and-dried: Go get a starting pitcher. But they need at least two or maybe three of them. At that point, even if you go the cheaper route, you are potentially trading away an intriguing prospect or two and several lottery tickets. You're adding payroll and potentially boxing yourself into a pitcher who may not be a substantial long-term upgrade.

From a team-building standpoint, Boyd makes the most sense because he can help this season and into the future. He's a lefty with "stuff," the kind of major-league piece the Phillies do not have right now. He's under team control for three full seasons after 2019. 

He'd also cost the most because of those reasons.

So, what makes sense?

The Phillies are in a tricky position. They will not sell. Selling makes no sense given their position and they don't even have realistically sellable pieces. Could they move someone like Maikel Franco, Velasquez or Pivetta for the right price? Sure. But it wouldn't be in a selling move, it would be for something else that helps right now.

GM Matt Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler have both said over the last two weeks that it's more about current Phillies improving than it is about outside additions. And that's true. The guys they've already acquired, from Bryce Harper to J.T. Realmuto to Jean Segura to the trio of expensive relievers who've spent most of the season on the shelf (David Robertson, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek), must make more of an impact.

The worst-case scenario for the 2019 Phillies is not missing the playoffs. It's selling off some of the farm because of a disappointing first half and then still missing the playoffs.

This month will test Klentak's mettle.

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