Jose Bautista

Phillies 14, Marlins 2: First impressions after a big night by Aaron Altherr

Phillies 14, Marlins 2: First impressions after a big night by Aaron Altherr

BOX SCORE

The struggling Phillies enjoyed a cathartic 14-2 win over the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.

The Phillies had 18 hits, including five home runs.

Aaron Altherr had his best game of the season with a two-run homer, a three-run homer and two singles. He scored three runs and made a terrific base running play.

Where they stand

The win snapped a five-game losing streak and was just the Phillies’ third in the last 11 games.

They entered the game on life support in the NL East race, 7½ games behind first-place Atlanta.

The Phillies are four games over .500 with 16 to play.

Lineup clicks

Manager Gabe Kapler went heavy on right-handed bats against Marlins lefty Wei-Yin Chen. That’s why Altherr was in the lineup playing left field.

Yes, Rhys Hoskins was in the lineup. He started at first base – his natural position – for just the third time this season. Carlos Santana started at third.

Could Hoskins’ assignment at first have been a harbinger of things to come? Could he be back at first base next season? Phillies officials have discussed it (see story).

Power display

Hoskins, Roman Quinn and Mitch Walding also homered for the Phillies. Walding’s homer was his first big-league hit.

Nice rebound

Zach Eflin, who lasted only three innings in his previous outing, delivered 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball.

Energy and confidence

Altherr played with energy and confidence. You could see both when he made a terrific base-running play, scoring from second base as Quinn was beating out a potential double-play ball that would have ended the fourth inning. You don’t make that play without energy, confidence, a lead on the scoreboard – and plenty of speed and athleticism. Not only did Altherr exhibit his speed, he made an athletic slide to get by catcher J.T. Realmuto’s tag. 

Roman returns

Quinn returned to the lineup – in center field — nine days after suffering a broken toe on his right foot in Miami. He had a big game. In addition to beating out the potential double play that resulted in two RBIs in the fourth, he hit a laser-beam homer to left in the second inning.

Quinn has three doubles, three triples and two homers in his last 13 starts. He has stolen playing time from inconsistent Odubel Herrera. It’s not difficult to envision Quinn being this team’s starting centerfielder at the start of next season.

If he can stay healthy. 

That has always been a challenge. 

More on the Phillies

Phillies gain a game on Braves thanks to bullpen and big hits from Santana, Bautista

Phillies gain a game on Braves thanks to bullpen and big hits from Santana, Bautista

BOX SCORE

Knowing that there was an off day in the schedule on Thursday and reinforcements could start arriving when rosters expand on Saturday, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler went through relievers like a champion Wing Bowl contestant plowing through a pile of chicken wings on Wednesday night.

“We did make a couple of jokes early on,” Tommy Hunter said with a laugh. “And then there were five ... And then there were four …”

Forced to go to the bullpen early after Jake Arrieta lasted just three innings, Kapler used all but one of his eight relievers in an important 8-6 win over the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park (see first take).

“It was just kind of read and react and see who the best bullet was at various points during the game,” Kapler said of his busy bullpen usage.

Hunter proved to be the magic bullet. Twenty-four hours after walking what turned out to be the tying run in the top of the ninth inning in Tuesday night’s difficult 5-4 loss to the Nationals, Hunter got six huge outs in nailing down the win.

He got three outs — all with two men on base — in protecting a one-run lead in the eighth inning, then got three more with a two-run lead in the ninth. A triple by exciting Roman Quinn — who had three hits out of the leadoff hole — and a double by Rhys Hoskins got Hunter that extra run. Shortstop Scott Kingery made a nice, diving play behind Hunter for the second out in the ninth inning. For a change, the Phillies played sound defense, save for one passed ball.

“It takes a lot of things to win a ballgame like that,” Hunter said. “The defense tonight was pretty on point, and that's a much-needed thing. We tacked on runs. We threw the ball, we caught the ball, we hit the ball, and we scored more than the other team.”

Pretty simple.

But it hadn’t been all that simple lately for the Phillies. They’d made a rash of errors over the previous week and blown a handful of leads in racking up several painful losses in falling 4½ games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East.

The Braves lost to the Rays on Wednesday night so the Phils, who have won just three of their last 11 games, enter Thursday’s off day 3½ games out in the division with 29 games to play.

There are plenty of doubters out there and Phillies players know it. But they have a chance if they can clean up the defensive mistakes that have plagued them recently and get more of the timely hitting they got on Wednesday night when Carlos Santana clubbed a grand slam and newcomer Jose Bautista lined a tie-breaking RBI single to center with two outs in the seventh.

“We’re trying to win every game,” Arrieta said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to. But to count us out already just because this team has lost 100 games the past several years — like that’s ridiculous. We’ve got plenty of time.”

Arrieta has to pitch better than he did in this one if the Phils are going to have a chance. He knows that. His command was off. He threw 75 pitches and got just one swing and miss. He stroked a two-run single to give the Phils a lead in the second then allowed a triple, a walk and two two-run homers in the third inning to relinquish the lead.

“Incredible job by our bullpen and Santana’s grand slam was huge,” Arrieta said. “That’s a win we needed, we really did. Everybody contributed except me.

“The effort I gave tonight wasn’t acceptable. I expect a lot more, and so do my teammates, from my starts. That’s frustrating. But winning that game is a relief.”

Kapler managed the bullpen as if it was a must-win, which it really was. They all are at this point. He called the work of the bullpen “heroic.” It picked up six innings and allowed just two runs, one of which was unearned.

“We asked a lot of our bullpen today and they stepped up in a major way,” Kapler said.

He went to the bullpen often looking for a hot hand. Would he have been so aggressive with his bullpen use if Thursday wasn’t an off day?

“Nope,” Kapler said. “We recognized that we had an off day coming up. And beyond that, September 1 is right around the corner and we’re going to have reinforcements and we’d be able to recover and then be in a good spot again.”

More on the Phillies

Phillies 8, Nationals 6: It takes 8 pitchers and a big hit from Jose Bautista to seal win

Phillies 8, Nationals 6: It takes 8 pitchers and a big hit from Jose Bautista to seal win

BOX SCORE

The Phillies salvaged a game against the Washington Nationals with an 8-6 win at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night.

The Phils, who lost the first two games of the series under the weight of poor defense and other miscues, blew two leads in the game, but ultimately held on to their last one.

Newcomer Jose Bautista, who started in right field, gave the Phils their last lead with a two-out RBI single in the seventh, breaking a 6-6 tie.

Bautista reached base four times. In addition to the single, he was hit by a pitch and walked twice.

The win was just the Phillies’ third in the last 11 games. They entered the night trailing first-place Atlanta by 4½ games in the NL East. The Braves were losing to Miami as the Phillies’ game ended, so the Phils had a chance to make up some ground.

Jake off
Jake Arrieta delivered in one phase of the game as he stroked a two-out, two-run single to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, Arrieta did not deliver in the phase of the game where they needed him most.

After giving his team that 2-0 lead in the second, Arrieta was lit up for four runs on a pair of two-run homers in the top of the third. He allowed a one-out triple to Adam Eaton before Trea Turner homered, then a walk to Anthony Rendon before Juan Soto homered on a 3-0 fastball.

Arrieta was gone after three innings. He didn’t fool many hitters. He threw 75 pitches and got just one swing and miss. Three of the four hits he allowed were for extra bases, a triple and two homers.

The Phillies are already on shaky ground. To get out of it, they need a lot of things to happen, including Arrieta to pitch a lot better than this in September.

Everybody in the pool
After Arrieta was KO’ed early, manager Gabe Kapler employed a merry-go-round bullpen. He used seven of his eight relievers. Tommy Hunter pitched out of trouble and got three big outs to protect a one-run lead in the eighth. Roman Quinn (triple) and Rhys Hoskins (double) had big hits in the bottom of the eighth to give Hunter another run and some cushion in the ninth. He got the job done and the save — with shortstop Scott Kingery making a fielding gem for the second out in the ninth.

The bullpen will benefit from Thursday’s off day.

Slamtana, literally
Carlos Santana goes by the nickname “Slamtana.” He was literally that guy when he stroked a grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning to give the Phillies a 6-5 lead.

The lead did not last long as Victor Arano gave up a run in the sixth. Arano gave up two singles and struck out a batter. The run was unearned after a passed ball was charged to catcher Wilson Ramos.

Santana is second on the team with 77 RBIs and he has 20 homers. He is not a favorite of the fans because of his paltry .222 batting average, but they sure liked his home run.

The paid crowd was just 22,252. It was the biggest of the series.

Hector to protector
Hector Neris faced two batters in a tie game in the sixth and struck both of them out. Since returning from Triple A, he has pitched eight scoreless innings, striking out 18 of 29. Neris’ confidence was shattered and his splitter was hanging when he went down in early July. Both are back.

Power surge
The Nationals have hit 24 homers against the Phillies in 16 games this season.

Featuring Nola
The Phillies made a slight adjustment to their rotation to optimize Aaron Nola in the month of September (see story). It could help Nola’s Cy Young chances. The Phils need to get hot for it to matter in the playoff race.

Up next
The Phillies are off Thursday. They return to work for another tough series against the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs starting Friday. Cole Hamels will not pitch in the series for Chicago and that’s a good thing for the Phillies. He is 4-0 with an 0.69 ERA in six starts since joining the Cubs in a trade from Texas.

Here are the pitching matchups for the series:

Friday night — RHP Nick Pivetta (7-10, 4.76) vs. LHP Jose Quintana (11-9, 4.33)

Saturday night — RHP Zach Eflin (9-5, 3.99) vs. Kyle Hendricks (10-10, 3.86)

Sunday afternoon — RHP Aaron Nola (15-3, 2.10) vs. LHP Jon Lester (14-5, 3.67).

More on the Phillies