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Phillies 8, Rockies 5: Aaron Nola battles; Phil Gosselin, Bryce Harper lead offense

Phillies 8, Rockies 5: Aaron Nola battles; Phil Gosselin, Bryce Harper lead offense

BOX SCORE

DENVER — The Phillies finally solved the beast of Coors Field in an 8-5 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.

Aaron Nola delivered a solid start in earning the win and Phil Gosselin and Bryce Harper both drove in three runs.

Gosselin, a West Chester native and former Malvern Prep star making his first start, gave the Phils the lead with a bases-loaded double in the fourth.

The win snapped the Phillies' six-game losing streak in Coors Field, dating to September.

The Phils are 12-8, first place in the NL East.

Colorado is 8-13.

The keys

• Nola showed tremendous intangibles — resilience and toughness. He allowed first-pitch homers in the first and second innings and pitched with traffic on the bases most of the night. But he got big outs when he had to. For instance, he struck out two with the bases loaded to end the third inning, preventing a one-run Colorado inning from getting bigger. He got a big strikeout with a runner on third to end the fourth and stranded two in the fifth.

• Big hits had been scarce for the Phillies in this series, but they got one from Gosselin, a three-run double in the fourth inning.

• Nola helped himself at the plate. His successful sacrifice bunt in the third inning sent Maikel Franco to second and set up a two-out RBI single by Cesar Hernandez.

• Charlie Blackmon is always a thorn in the Phillies’ side. He won Friday night’s game for the Rockies with a two-run homer in the 12th then hit the first pitch Nola threw out of the park to give the Rockies a 1-0 lead in this one. Blackmon had hits in each of his first three at-bats against Nola. Nola struck out the first two batters in the bottom of the sixth but manager Gabe Kapler would not allow the right-hander to face Blackmon again, not in a one-run game. He summoned lefty Adam Morgan and he used his slider-fastball combo to strike out Blackmon and end the inning. Morgan has pitched nine scoreless innings this season. He has allowed three hits and one walk. He has struck out 10.

• Harper made everyone in the Phillies’ dugout breathe a little easier when he smacked a three-run homer in the seventh to turn a one-run lead into a four-run lead. That was big because the Rockies rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth. Hector Neris survived a near game-tying homer by Trevor Story in the eighth en route to a five-out save. Andrew McCutchen clubbed a solo homer in the ninth to give Neris a little extra cushion.

Nola's night

Nola had struggled in his previous three outings so this was a clear step forward. Though he allowed nine hits over 5 2/3 innings, he limited the Rockies to three runs by getting big outs. He struck out nine and really seemed to find his breaking ball late in the outing. He got seven swinging strikes on the pitch. His fastball touched 95 mph. All in all, definitely something to build on.

Transactions

There were lots of them as the Phils placed three players on the injured list. The full recap and what it all means is here (see story).

Up next

Jerad Eickhoff, healthy after dealing with something similar to carpal tunnel syndrome the last two seasons, makes his first start of the new season in the series finale Sunday afternoon. He will face Rockies’ right-hander Jon Gray.

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Phillies' mental and physical toughness being tested less than a month into the season

Phillies' mental and physical toughness being tested less than a month into the season

The toughness of this Phillies team, mentally and physically, is being tested less than a month into the season.

Friday night was the Phillies' third extra-inning loss in their last 10 games. At 11-8 overall, the Phils have lost twice on walk-offs and twice when their opponent was down to the final strike of the game.

Those are the kinds of losses that you don't easily forget, the kind you think back to if the race is tight in September.

The Phillies right now are wounded and fatigued. Over the last four games, they've lost Jean Segura, Odubel Herrera and Scott Kingery to hamstring injuries and were forced to pull Andrew McCutchen last night with knee inflammation. They were also forced to place David Robertson, their most important reliever, on the injured list with a sore elbow.

Making matters more difficult, the Phils have played 64 innings in their last six games, an average of nearly 11 per night. They don't have an off day until April 29, then they're off again May 2. Those will certainly be days manager Gabe Kapler tells his guys to just chill.

Juan Nicasio allowed the game-winning homer to Charlie Blackmon Friday night, but the Phillies' bullpen has pitched extremely well as a unit during this stretch. Over the last six games, the bullpen has pitched 28 innings with a 1.93 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and .177 opponents' batting average.

No, last night's loss falls more on an offense that put 23 men on base but managed only three runs.

The Phillies, despite several painful and frustrating losses and despite poor performance from two-fifths of the starting rotation, have still played to a 94-win pace so far. 

There will be some evening out. Aaron Nola will improve, though we could also see some offsetting regression from Vince Velasquez and Jake Arrieta. Adam Morgan will not go an entire season without allowing a run, but Seranthony Dominguez (five straight scoreless outings) should be able to rattle off a few dominant stretches.

You have to look at it all in totality. This team is very talented 1 through 25 and has arrived at an 11-8 record even though the 3-4-5 hasn't yet fired on all cylinders. The talent, the depth and durability are just being challenged earlier than you'd like.

Five months from now, we will know the impact of these early tribulations, which have a chance to make the Phillies a better and more battle-tested team.

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Rockies 4, Phillies 3: Stunning loss on 2-out, 2-strike walk-off homer in 12th inning

Rockies 4, Phillies 3: Stunning loss on 2-out, 2-strike walk-off homer in 12th inning

BOX SCORE

DENVER — Charlie Blackmon's two-run homer in the bottom of the 12th against Juan Nicasio gave the Colorado Rockies a 4-3 win over the Phillies on Friday night.

The home run came with two outs on a 1-2 count.

Bryce Harper’s fifth hit of the game, a double to the gap in left-center with two outs in the top of the 12th inning, scored Phil Gosselin from first base and gave the Phils the lead.

The Phils had 17 hits, but only three for extra bases. The Phils were 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position and left 19 men on on base.

Those missed chances killed the Phillies.

Colorado has won two in a row against the Phils. The Phillies are 4-12 against the Rockies since the start of 2017.

The Phillies are 11-8.

The Rockies are 8-12.

In a troubling subplot, the Phillies lost two more players to injury. Andrew McCutchen exited with left knee inflammation in the sixth inning. Earlier Scott Kingery exited with a hamstring injury suffered while legging out a ground ball in the fourth inning. The team called it a “strain,” which would seem to signal a trip to the injured list for Kingery (see story).

The keys

• Colorado right-hander German Marquez pitched a one-hit shutout with no walks and nine strikeouts against the Giants in his previous outing. The Phillies tripled that hits total in the first inning as they broke out to a 1-0 lead. They worked Marquez for 26 pitches in the inning and were into the Rockies’ bullpen in the sixth inning.

• Vince Velasquez pitched well for the Phillies. He carried a shutout and a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning. But Velasquez had trouble putting away hitters in that frame. Trevor Story hit a 459-foot homer to left on an 0-2 fastball (96 mph) to make it a one-run game. Ian Desmond doubled on a 2-2 pitch with two outs and Garrett Hampson followed with a broken-bat double to left on a full-count fastball (97 mph) to tie the game.

• Catcher J.T. Realmuto cut down Blackmon trying to steal second with one out in the seventh. It was a big play in a tight game. Realmuto has caught three would-be base stealers in two nights.

Velasquez's night

The enigmatic right-hander continued to make strides with his third straight solid start. He gave up just the two runs in 5 2/3 innings and struck out eight. The only walk he surrendered was intentional. Over three starts, Velasquez has pitched 16 2/3 innings and given up just five runs. He seems to be pitching with more poise than in the past.

Velasquez had a big fastball and he used it often. Sixty-four of his 97 pitches were fastballs and he got 15 swinging strikes on the pitch, which topped out at 98 mph.

Health check

The Phillies have been beset by a series of injuries in recent days. Reliever David Robertson was placed on the injured list with an elbow strain. Odubel Herrera went on the IL with a hamstring strain. Jean Segura is not on the IL, but he has missed three straight games with a sore hamstring.

Injuries continued to mount as Kingery left this game in the fourth inning and McCutchen in the sixth.

Kingery started at shortstop. He was replaced by Gosselin.

Up next

Aaron Nola looks to break an early season slump when he faces the Rockies and right-hander Antonio Senzatela on Saturday night.

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