Jason Vargas

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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Takeaways after Phillies hit 5 homers — including a wacky one — in win over Braves

Takeaways after Phillies hit 5 homers — including a wacky one — in win over Braves

BOX SCORE 

The Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves at their own game Tuesday night.

The Phillies matched a season-high with five home runs and those long balls accounted for all their runs in a 6-5 win in front of just 24,220 at Citizens Bank Park.

The homers came early and often for the Phillies. J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Corey Dickerson all went deep in the first inning as the Phillies build an early 4-0 lead.

After the Braves tied the game, Scott Kingery smacked an inside-the-park homer in the third inning to give the Phillies a lead. Ultimately, the Phils needed Dickerson’s second homer of the night, a solo shot in the sixth, and lots of good relief pitching, to hold off the Braves.

The Phillies entered the game ranked 11th in the NL with 186 homers. The Braves were second with 229. The Phils ended up out-homering the Braves, 5-1.

The standings

With 18 games left, the Phillies are still alive in a crowded NL wild-card race. They entered the day three games out and could pick up a game depending on the outcome of the Chicago Cubs game in San Diego.

Two extremes of pitching

Phillies starter Jason Vargas struggled. He could not hold a 4-0 lead. He lasted just three innings and threw 77 pitches, only 39 of which were strikes.

Vargas’ mates got him the lead before he officially left the game, then the bullpen did a terrific job protecting that lead. Gabe Kapler used five relievers and they racked up six innings of one-run ball to seal the win.

Jared Hughes had one of the biggest outs when he got dangerous Josh Donaldson to ground into a double play to end the top of the seventh. He then allowed a homer to make it a one-run game in the eighth.

Hector Neris protected the lead for the save.

Blake Parker pitched two scoreless innings.

Oh, what a catch! … No wait!

With two outs in the third inning and the game tied at 4-4, Kingery drove a high fly ball to center. The ball cleared the wall, but Atlanta centerfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. was able to leap and get his glove in the ball. He had the ball in the pocket of his glove and brought it back onto the field but could not hold on to it for a catch. Robbed of a conventional homer, Kingery alertly continued to run and he made it all the way around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.

Kingery’s 19th homer gave the Phils a 5-4 lead.

Heck of a pickup

General manager Matt Klentak has taken much criticism for not doing enough to fortify the pitching staff at the trade deadline, but he picked up a difference-making bat. Dickerson has eight homers and 34 RBIs in 33 games with the Phillies.

Defense shines

Phillies starter Vargas allowed six base runners and four runs as the Braves erased a four-run deficit in the third inning. The damage could have been worse if it weren’t for Kingery and Harper. They both made defensive gems in the inning, Kingery a diving catch in the alley with the bases full and Harper a long throw from right field to third base to cut down a runner.

The strong defense continued in the top of the sixth when Realmuto gunned down Acuna Jr., trying to steal second with two outs. Realmuto has thrown out 36 runners trying to steal this season.

Health check

Reliever Seranthony Dominguez continues to test his injured elbow. He will toss out to 90 feet this week and is tentatively scheduled to throw off a bullpen mound on Sept. 20. Dominguez has been down since early June, but doctors still believe his injury can be treated non-surgically.

Pat Neshek, who was already out for the season, had surgery to repair a torn hamstring on Tuesday.

Up next

Zach Eflin (8-11, 4.31) opposes Dallas Keuchel (7-5, 3.47) in the third game of the four-game series on Wednesday night. Eflin has pitched well in his last three starts. He has allowed just five earned runs and 15 hits in 18 innings while striking out 11 and walking just one over that span. Eflin’s recent success has coincided with his increased use of his two-seam fastball.



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A series that started with so much promise ends in split vs. Reds

A series that started with so much promise ends in split vs. Reds

BOX SCORE

CINCINNATI — The Phillies began a four-game series in Cincinnati with a whole lot of promise and two straight wins.

But things did not end well for the Phillies. Their 4-3 loss to the Reds in 11 innings on Thursday came less than 24 hours after an 8-5 loss on Wednesday night.

And so a series that started with much promise ended in a split.

The Phils entered the day three games back in the NL wild-card chase and could be four back, pending the outcome of the Cubs-Brewers game on Thursday night, before they play on Friday. The idle Arizona Diamondbacks were also three out entering Thursday.

The Phillies are running out of time with just 23 games left (see story).

In the 11th

The Phillies, who went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position, couldn’t get Bryce Harper home after he stole second with one out and moved to third on the second out.

The Reds won it in the bottom of the inning when Phillip Ervin belted a homer on the second pitch that Nick Vincent threw. Vincent was the Phillies’ eighth reliever of the day.

The amazing Realmuto

He just gets better as the season goes on. He made a daring — but brilliant — defensive play when he threw behind a runner at second base and registered the final out of the seventh inning. The play freed the Phillies from what would have been a bases-loaded jam with two outs. Oh, yeah, nice job by the Phillies’ replay crew challenging the play at second. And nice job by Harper on the initial throw to the plate and Jean Segura on the tag at second.

Moments after that out, Realmuto led off the eighth with a game-tying solo homer, his 22nd of the season and eighth since Aug. 1.

Three killer pitches

The game turned quickly on three killer pitches in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Phillies starter Jason Vargas, who pitched well for the first five innings, gave up a one-out double to Alex Blandino to open the bottom of the sixth. Jose Iglesias then jumped on the very next pitch and sent it over the left-field wall to give the Reds a 2-1. Out went Vargas and in came Jared Hughes. He surrendered a first-pitch solo home to Eugenio Suarez as the Reds went up, 3-1.

Vargas is a finesse guy who relies on change of speed and location. Both the double to Blandino and the two-run homer by Iglesias came on poorly located, down-the-middle fastballs that registered just 83 mph on the radar gun.

Hughes has faced 39 batters with the Phillies and given up five homers.

Lone Ranger

Rookie lefty Ranger Suarez was called in to face dangerous Joey Votto with two outs and two men on in a tie game in the bottom of the eighth. Suarez fell behind 2-0 then challenged Votto and got him to fly out to deep center. It was a big out.

Missed chance

The Phillies had a chance to strike back quickly in the top of the seventh inning, but they got only one run to make it a 3-2 game. They left runners on second and third when Corey Dickerson lined back to the pitcher, Kevin Gausman. Dickerson worked a nice at-bat. He spoiled three two-strike pitches and took a close ball three before lining out. 

Hey, Babe

On Wednesday night, Cincinnati reliever Michael Lorenzen became the first player since Babe Ruth in 1921 to earn a pitching win, hit a home run and play the outfield all in the same game. On Thursday, Cincinnati manager David Bell gave Lorenzen the start in center field. It was the first time he’d started at a position other than pitcher. Playing the field is not new to Lorenzen. He was a pitcher/outfielder at Cal State Fullerton. He’s hit seven big-league homers. 

Up next 

The Phillies open a three-game series against the Mets in New York on Friday night.

The probables:

Friday night — Zach Eflin (8-11, 4.33) vs. LHP Steven Matz (9-8, 4.04)

Saturday night — Drew Smyly (2-1, 4.57 with Phillies) vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (7-12, 3.28)

Sunday afternoon — Vince Velasquez (6-7, 4.80) vs. Noah Syndergaard (10-7, 3.97).

The Phillies will not face 2018 NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom in the series. They faced him just once all season.

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