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Scott Kingery saves the day — takeaways from Phillies' exciting win over Mets

Scott Kingery saves the day — takeaways from Phillies' exciting win over Mets

BOX SCORE

When the Phillies' starting pitcher gave up one run on Friday night, the bullpen allowed 10.

When the Phillies' starting pitcher gave up one run on Sunday night, the bullpen blew another late lead but was picked up by Scott Kingery.

It appeared that so, too, was manager Gabe Kapler after an apparent questionable, costly decision to pull a locked-in Zach Eflin after seven innings and 84 pitches.

That decision made a little more sense after hearing from Eflin postgame. The right-hander said his arm felt fine but that he had been dealing with oblique tightness in recent days and it crept back up in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

"I respect the decision Kap made," Eflin said. "Arm felt great at 84 pitches. Going into my next outing, I'm hoping for no limitations."

The Phils avoided a sweep with the 5-2 win on Sunday Night Baseball. Kingery delivered the night's biggest moment, a bases-clearing double with one out in the eighth off Jeurys Familia after Cesar Hernandez was intentionally walked ahead of him. The Phillies, struggling for two months with runners in scoring position, had stranded a man in scoring position with no outs the previous inning. Huge spot.

"This year, having been through it, it helps a lot," Kingery said of the mental approach to those high-leverage spots. "Probably put too much pressure on myself last year."

September began with a win but the Phillies will need to play worlds better than they did this weekend to remain in the wild-card race. They are 70-65 and on an 84-win pace, as they've been nearly every day for a month.

1. Updated playoff picture

The Phillies' win Sunday coupled with the Cubs' loss trimmed the deficit to 2½ games back of the second wild-card spot. The Cubs lost two in a row to the Brewers this weekend.

The Phils are a half-game ahead of the Brewers and 1½ games ahead of the Mets and Diamondbacks.

September schedules could play a large role in deciding this thing. The Cubs play 15 games against teams with losing records in the final month. The Phillies play seven — the first four in Cincinnati and the final three at home against the Marlins.

2. Stroman so-so so far

Eflin outdueled Marcus Stroman, the Mets' trade deadline prize. Stroman pitched well in this game but has not overall in a Mets uniform. He's made six starts with New York and has a 4.55 ERA with a 1.64 WHIP. He's been hittable, and he's surprisingly allowed six home runs already after surrendering just 10 in 21 starts with the Blue Jays. Unexpected considering Stroman was traded to the lesser offensive league and from a hitter's park to a pitcher's park.

The Mets traded two of their top pitching prospects, Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson, to acquire Stroman from Toronto. They could prove to be two significant pieces. 

Stroman found success earlier this season in some ways that looked unsustainable. His strand rate and opponents' batting average with men on base were both much better than the league average. Those numbers don't always regress but tend to over a full season. Stroman's ERA indicators have been about a half-run higher than his actual ERA most of the year.

3. Eflin efficient again

Two starts in a row, Eflin has been through six innings in under 80 pitches. On Sunday night, he encountered trouble in only one inning, the fourth. 

Five of Eflin's seven innings were 1-2-3. He allowed a solo home run to Pete Alonso in the first inning — hard to believe but Alonso's only homer and only RBI in 10 games at Citizens Bank Park this season — and put three men on base in the fourth but got a double-play ball.

Eflin has allowed three runs over 13 innings in his last two starts. These are the best back-to-back outings he's had since June 12 and June 19. Eflin is at his best when he's pitching the way he is now, generating early outs on the ground with his sinker. 

Eflin would be a more complete pitcher with a more consistent four-seam fastball, but if he has to use that pitch sparingly to get deeper into games, so be it given the current state of the Phillies' rotation.

Kapler pinch-hit for Eflin in the seventh inning of a one-run game. Eflin was at only 84 pitches but Kapler went with offense after Adam Haseley opened the seventh with a double. Jay Bruce grounded out and the Phillies ultimately stranded Haseley at third.

4. More professional ABs from Dickerson

What do you know, another multi-hit game from Corey Dickerson. He doubled to begin the bottom of the first and hit a two-out, RBI single to put the Phillies ahead in the second.

Dickerson has 25 RBI in 24 games as a Phillie, is hitting over .300 and has gone 12 for 34 (.353) with runners in scoring position. He uses all fields, can handle the ball low, high, inside or outside, and so far has even been a pleasant surprise vs. lefties.

Now, the Phillies are off to Cincinnati. Here are the pitching probables:

Monday afternoon at 2:10 — LHP Drew Smyly (2-6, 6.95) vs. Anthony DeSclafani (9-7, 4.05)

Tuesday night at 6:40 — Vince Velasquez (6-7, 4.86) vs. LHP Alex Wood (1-3, 5.80)

Wednesday night at 6:40 — Aaron Nola (12-4, 3.45) vs. TBA

Thursday afternoon at 12:35 — LHP Jason Vargas (6-7, 4.31) vs. TBA.

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Phillies steal a win from the Pirates in series opener with a walk-off from Sean Rodriguez

Phillies steal a win from the Pirates in series opener with a walk-off from Sean Rodriguez

Box Score

The Phillies began a six-game homestand with a dramatic 6-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in 11 innings on Monday night.

Sean Rodriguez won it for the Phillies with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the 11th.

Rodriguez had previously been 1 for 20 with 11 strikeouts in the month of August.

Rodriguez hit a 1-2 slider from reliever Michael Feliz. Rodriguez had swung through the previous two pitches, both sliders.

The Phillies entered the day 1 ½ game back in the NL wild-card race. They are 68-62.

What a miss

The win came after some wasted chances late in the game.

The Phillies got two walks and a base hit from pinch-hitter Andrew Knapp to load the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning for the top of the order.

A fly ball would have won the game, but Rhys Hoskins popped up to second base against reliever Chris Stratton.

Bryce Harper then came up, worked a full count and struck out swinging to end the threat.

In the 10th, the Phillies got the first two runners on base and came up empty after J.T. Realmuto was doubled off second on liner to centerfield by Jean Segura. Segura’s liner looked like a potential game-winning hit off the bat, but Pirates’ center fielder Starling Marte made a terrific catch at his shoe tops and fired to second to get Realmuto.

Hoskins hears it

Hoskins is in a hellacious slump. He is just 9 for 78 (.115) this month and 23 for 140 (.164) since thee All-Star break. He was 0 for 5 in this game with three strikeouts. He heard a smattering of boos after striking out in the eighth. He heard a lot of loud boos after popping out in the ninth.

Yo, daddy

The Phillies worked some two-out magic in coming from two runs down to take a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth. Harper, just back from paternity leave, homered and Corey Dickerson belted a two-run homer against his former team to give the Phils the lead.

The lead did not last long as Hector Neris gave up a solo homer to Josh Bell in the top of the ninth.

Big impact

The lefty-hitting Dickerson has made a huge impact with his bat recently for the Phillies. He has 11 RBIs in the last six games.

Big impact II

Realmuto legged out an infield hit to keep the eighth inning alive for Dickerson and his two-run homer. The Phillies’ catcher also gunned down two Pirates trying to steal second in the late innings. Realmuto has thrown out 32 runners this season.

Vargas’ night

Phillies starter Jason Vargas pitched one-run ball over the first six innings and took a 2-1 lead to the mound in the seventh. He allowed the first three batters of the inning to reach base on a single, an RBI double and a walk. Manager Gabe Kapler went to the bullpen and Jared Hughes gave up two-run single as the Pirates took a 4-2 lead.

Musgrove tough again

Pittsburgh starter Joe Musgrove held the Phils to two runs over six innings, both coming on a long homer by Brad Miller. Musgrove has given up just two earned runs in 12 innings against the Phils this season.

Benched

Cesar Hernandez did not start. The move was “a response, not a punishment,” to Hernandez’ not running out a ball in Sunday’s game (read more). Hernandez did enter the game in the top of the seventh inning when Scott Kingery exited with what the team called abdominal soreness.

Health check

Jay Bruce’s elbow strain has improved to the point where he’s taking batting practice. He took some big swings and showed power in early hitting Monday. Manager Gabe Kapler said Bruce would play for Double A Reading in Trenton on Friday and Saturday. He could be activated from the injured list as soon as Sunday. Bruce will likely be used just as a bat off the bench, and DH, in September. That bat could be valuable.

Up next

The Phillies send another lefty to the mound on Tuesday night when Drew Smyly (2-6, 6.99) takes on Pittsburgh lefty Steven Brault (3-3, 3.98). Smyly pitched six innings of one-run ball against the Pirates in July.

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Phillies 9, Dodgers 8: One of the most dramatic 9th-inning swings of emotions you'll see

Phillies 9, Dodgers 8: One of the most dramatic 9th-inning swings of emotions you'll see

BOX SCORE

The skies opened, the game was delayed for 22 minutes before the ninth inning began, and what followed was a dramatic swing of emotions for the Phillies.

Leading 6-5, the Phillies turned to Hector Neris, who blew another save against the Dodgers. Neris has allowed 10 runs and six homers in his last seven appearances against the Dodgers, including the go-ahead three-run shot to pinch-hitter Matt Beaty Tuesday night.

But the Phillies, who have played poorly and sloppily for the better part of six weeks and were embarrassed, 16-2, on Monday, found a way back against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. They scored three of their own in the ninth to win it, 9-8. The rally was capped off by Bryce Harper's walk-off two-run double.

A wild finish to a game that probably didn't need to be this difficult for the Phils.

The Phillies scored six runs in the first two innings on three home runs off Walker Buehler, including a three-run shot from Harper that traveled 458 feet and nearly broke the sound barrier. It was on a 98 mph fastball.

But the Phillies then went 0 for 18 from the third through eighth innings.

Neris' implosion followed stellar work from three previous relievers — Jose Alvarez, Juan Nicasio and Adam Morgan — who retired all 10 batters they faced.

The Phillies are 49-46 and continue to cling to the NL's second wild-card spot. 


The typical Velasquez experience

Velasquez is what he is. A pitcher who can miss bats and strike hitters out, who can look totally dominant for two or three innings but who too rarely puts it all together for five or six complete innings.

There's no more guessing. Calling him enigmatic is being kind. He is infrequently effective.

On Tuesday, Velasquez looked great for three innings, striking out six Dodgers, including three in a row in emphatic fashion after the Phillies' five-run third inning.

But with a five-run lead, Velasquez could not keep L.A. at bay. The game was broken open for all of two innings before Velasquez was taken deep by Cody Bellinger, A.J. Pollock and Joc Pederson. He allowed four home runs in all. The first was a 440-foot shot from Max Muncy on an 0-2 pitch.

Velasquez has made 11 starts this season. In them, he is 1-4 with a 4.97 ERA. He's allowed 17 home runs in 61 innings. That's 2.5 home runs per nine innings for the man who entered 2019 with the highest home run rate of any starting pitcher in Phillies history.

Same story, over and over and over again. The Phillies have known for months that Velasquez is not the answer as the fifth starter. They feel they lack better internal options and have not been able to swing a trade yet. It's almost impossible to imagine Velasquez being in this rotation on Aug. 1.

Neris' nosedive

Neris is 0-3 with a 8.48 ERA in his career against L.A.

Beyond that, Neris has really struggled of late. He's allowed 12 runs in his last 11 innings as his season ERA has risen from 1.88 to 4.08. This team has few places to turn for relief.

Another injury

The Phillies lost Jay Bruce in the third inning to an oblique strain. He exited with an 0-2 count. 

If Bruce misses time, here are the Phillies' two most logical options in replacing him (see story).

Up next

Wednesday night at 7:05 — Nick Pivetta (4-4, 5.81) vs. Kenta Maeda (7-6, 3.82)

Thursday afternoon at 12:35 — Aaron Nola (8-2, 3.63) vs. Ross Stripling (4-3, 3.65).

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