Boston Red Sox

Another loss as Phillies continue to play their way out of NL wild-card picture

Another loss as Phillies continue to play their way out of NL wild-card picture

BOX SCORE

The Phillies continued to play their way out of National League wild-card picture on Sunday. They dropped a 6-3 decision to the Boston Red Sox, who completed a two-game interleague series sweep at Citizens Bank Park.

The loss dropped the Phillies to four games out of the second wild-card spot and they could be 4 ½ games out by the end of the day, depending on the outcome of the Chicago Cubs-Pittsburgh Pirates game in Chicago.

The Phils have just 14 games left.

Christian Vazquez paced Boston’s offense with a grand slam against starter Jason Vargas in the third inning.

The Phillies did not get much offense in the two-game series. They scored just four runs. (They lost Saturday night’s game, 2-1.) They had just 12 hits and only two of them were for extra bases. (Rhys Hoskins had them both, a double Saturday night and a homer Sunday.)

Phillies hitters also struck out 25 times in the two games.

Ouch.

Vargas’ day

For the second straight start, Vargas lasted just three innings. He hit a batter, gave up a single and a one-out walk before serving up the grand slam to Vazquez in the third. Vargas also made a throwing error that led to a run in the first inning.

The left-hander is not exactly providing a lift down the stretch. He has a 7.63 ERA in his last four starts and the Phillies have lost three of those games.

Booted

Bryce Harper was ejected in the fourth inning for giving home plate umpire Gabe Morales an earful from the dugout. Moments earlier, Morales had rung up Harper on a pitch outside the strike zone. He also missed a pitch in Harper’s first at-bat. Manager Gabe Kapler was also ejected after he came out of the dugout to protest Harper’s ejection. It was believed to be the first time in major-league history that a guy named Gabe ejected another guy named Gabe.

Harper’s second ejection of the season meant the Phillies were forced to play the remainder of the game without one of their top players, never a good thing with the season on the line — at least mathematically.

Harper was replaced in right field by September call-up Jose Pirela. Not long ago, the Phillies likely would have replaced Harper with Nick Williams. But Williams is hitting .157 and is buried so deeply on the bench it makes you wonder why he was added in September.

Dickerson still sore

Corey Dickerson was out of the starting lineup for a third straight game because of a sore left foot. Brad Miller got the start in left field. The Phillies have missed Dickerson’s bat. Added at the trade deadline, he drove in 34 runs in his first 33 games with the club.

A little too hospitable

The Phillies are just 11-21 all-time against the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park.

On the bright side, the Phils are 11-20 all-time at Fenway Park.

Wait a minute. There’s nothing bright about that.

Overall

The Phillies are 76-72. They need to win six of their final 14 games to have a winning season.

Up next

The Phillies are off on Monday. They open a three-game series in Atlanta against the Braves on Tuesday night.

Pitching matchups:

Tuesday night — RHP Vince Velasquez (6-7, 4.95) vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel (8-5, 3.35)

Wednesday night — RHP Zach Eflin (8-12, 4.20) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (10-9, 3.50)

Thursday afternoon — RHP Aaron Nola (12-5, 3.62) vs. RHP Mike Soroka (12-4, 2.47)

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Aaron Nola has a big fan in Boston

Aaron Nola has a big fan in Boston

Over the last two seasons, the Boston Red Sox have faced Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber and Blake Snell, just to name a handful of the top pitchers in the American League. That quartet of arms has combined for four Cy Young Awards and 10 other top 5 finishes in their careers.

So the Sox have seen some pitching over the last two seasons.

That’s what makes this comment about Aaron Nola from Boston manager Alex Cora so remarkable:

“We’ve seen him the last two years,” Cora said. “With all due respect to all the pitchers that we have faced, he’s been the best one. I love the way he competes, love his stuff, he doesn’t panic. He’s pitched twice over there at home and (once) here, but with the offense that we have, he still dominates us.”

Cora made this comment during his postgame session with reporters after Saturday night’s game against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Red Sox rallied against Hector Neris in the top of the ninth and won, 2-1. They did little against Nola earlier in the game. The right-hander scattered four hits and a run over seven innings and struck out nine.

On August 20 in Boston, Nola beat the Red Sox with seven innings of four-hit, two-run ball.

Last season, he pitched eight innings of one-run ball in a 2-1, 13-inning loss at Fenway Park.

So in three career starts against Boston, Nola has allowed just 12 hits and four runs over 22 innings. He has racked up 22 strikeouts and walked just five.

Nola, 26, signed a four-year, $45 million contract with the Phillies in February. Had he not signed and gone to arbitration this winter, his agent surely would have used Cora's appraisal in negotiations.

“They really have a good one,” Cora said. “He’s a special one. It would have been cool to face him in October, but I guess we’ll face him next year.”

If the Red Sox see Nola next season, it will have to be in the World Series. The two teams, frequent interleague opponents, are not scheduled to play each other during the regular season next year. Only a rematch of the 1915 World Series would pit them against each other in October. That actually sounds fun.

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Aaron Nola sharp, but Phillies whiff yet again with their No. 1 starter on the hill

Aaron Nola sharp, but Phillies whiff yet again with their No. 1 starter on the hill

BOX SCORE 

Aaron Nola delivered seven innings of one-run ball, but the Phillies hitters did not deliver enough offense in a damaging 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night.

The loss dropped the Phillies to 3 ½ games back in the NL wild-card chase with just 15 games to play.

Incredibly, the Phillies are winless in Nola’s last five starts. That can’t happen in a playoff chase.

Nola and Boston lefty Eduardo Rodriguez hooked up in a tight pitchers’ duel. The teams traded runs in the seventh inning and the Red Sox went ahead against Hector Neris in the ninth. Neris allowed two singles, a one-out walk and a tie-breaking sacrifice fly to Andrew Benintendi.

The Phillies had just five hits in the game and went 0 for 5 with a runner in scoring position. They had a runner on second with no outs in the eighth but the top half of the batting order could not get him home.

Nola’s night

The right-hander rebounded from two straight shaky outings and delivered a gem. He rolled through the first six innings and allowed just three base runners, and none got past second base.

In the seventh, Nola wore down a little. He allowed a walk and a base hit to open the frame before Christian Vazquez smacked a curve ball to the gap to break a scoreless tie.

Nola then walked Jackie Bradley Jr., to load the bases.

With his pitch count rising toward 100, Nola was able to get out of the jam. He got a force at the plate for the second out then struck out the opposing pitcher Rodriguez for the third out.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora let Rodriguez hit with the bases loaded because he was at just 80 pitches and still had gas in the tank. Suffice it to say, Nola was happy with Cora’s decision. The Red Sox had Benintendi, Brock Holt and Mookie Betts on the bench as potential pinch-hit options. Cora put Benintendi to good use in the ninth.

Rodriguez coughs up lead

Rodriguez almost made his skipper look good for sticking with him. After allowing a leadoff single to Bryce Harper to open the bottom of the seventh, the lefty struck out Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery, who together swung at five pitches outside the strike zone. Kingery went down swinging at three changeups out of the zone.

Rodriguez was one strike away from getting out of the inning when he hit Adam Haseley with a pitch to load the bases. That brought up Maikel Franco. He worked a full count then took ball four to force home the tying run.

Rodriguez then exited and lefty Josh Taylor struck out pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin as the score remained tied at 1-1.

Trouble with the change

Rodriguez threw 105 pitches and got 19 swings-and-misses, 16 of them on his changeup. Phillies hitters did a lot of chasing outside of the strike zone and stuck out 12 times in 6 2/3 innings against Rodriguez.

Over the last three seasons, the Red Sox are 13-0 when Rodriguez starts an interleague game.

And another one

Catcher J.T. Realmuto showed off his quick release once again in gunning down his 37th attempted base stealer of the season. That’s the most in the majors. No Phillies catcher has thrown out more in a season since Darren Daulton gunned down 40 in 1993.

Franco starts

Back in early August, Franco was sent to the minors. One of the reasons given for the demotion was his lack of success hitting left-handed pitching. Entering this game, Franco was 4 for 6 with a double and a homer against left-handed pitching since his return from the minors. That earned him the start against Rodriguez.

Up next

The Phillies will send lefty Jason Vargas (6-7, 4.31) to the mound Sunday afternoon. He will face right-hander Rick Porcello (12-12, 5.83).

The Phillies flip-flopped Vargas and Vince Velasquez in the rotation. Velasquez will pitch Tuesday night in Atlanta. Manager Gabe Kapler said he made the move because Atlanta was so familiar with Vargas. Vargas lasted just three innings Tuesday night against Atlanta. The Phillies ended up winning that game, 6-5.

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