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Phillies trade Jake Thompson, call up Hector Neris, and monitor Wilson Ramos' progress

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Phillies trade Jake Thompson, call up Hector Neris, and monitor Wilson Ramos' progress

The Phillies made several transactions before Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox.

In a move that could have an immediate impact Tuesday night, the club recalled reliever Hector Neris from Triple A Lehigh Valley. To make room for Neris, the Phillies sent infielder J.P. Crawford to Lehigh Valley.

The move left the Phils with a four-man bench and gave them an unusual nine-man bullpen — three lefties and six righties.

Also on Monday, the team traded pitcher Jake Thompson to the Milwaukee Brewers in a cash deal. Thompson had been designated for assignment when the Phillies acquired left-handed slugger Justin Bour from Miami on Friday.

Thompson, 24, joined the Phillies organization from Texas in the July 2015 trade that sent Cole Hamels to the Rangers. He pitched in 30 games for the Phillies over three seasons and shuttled back and forth to Triple A this season while working out of the bullpen.

Thompson was one of six players acquired from the Rangers for Hamels and reliever Jake Diekman. The others were pitchers Matt Harrison, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher, catcher Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Nick Williams. Harrison never pitched for the Phillies because of a back injury. The Phillies essentially took on his remaining contract as part of the deal. Asher was designated for assignment at the end of spring training 2017 and eventually dealt to Baltimore. Ironically, he landed with Milwaukee and was designated for assignment Monday to make room for Thompson.

Eickhoff, Alfaro and Williams remain with the Phillies. Eickhoff has been on the disabled list all season but is pitching on minor-league rehab. Alfaro and Williams are regulars with the big club.

Crawford sent down

Manager Gabe Kapler said the Phils decided to send Crawford down for more at-bats because Bour would be the first left-handed hitter off the bench and that would reduce some need for Crawford.

Also, the Phils like the idea of a super-deep bullpen against Boston and its majors-best offense.

“The Red Sox don’t have many holes,” Kapler said. “They do everything really well. We felt like if we could stay in games these next couple of games — even if we don’t have the lead, if we’re within striking distance, we felt like it was advantageous to stay in games even if it was two, three or four runs away from going for the jugular. So in that case, it’s nice to have an additional reliever for sure.”

Neris returns

Neris was sent to the minors in early July to repair his splitter and his confidence. He has been very good recently, giving up just three earned runs in 16⅔ innings over his last 17 games. He has allowed just nine hits and six walks over that span while striking out 29.

Wilson Ramos ready?

One final note: Catcher Wilson Ramos appears to be making speedy progress in his recovery from a hamstring strain. He was 4 for 9 with three doubles in three games for Clearwater from Saturday through Monday. Ramos is expected to be evaluated in Philadelphia on Tuesday and could be in the Phillies’ lineup sooner rather than later. The Phils acquired Ramos from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline knowing he’d need some time to recover from the injury suffered in early July.

“With Wilson, we're discussing what his next steps are going to be,” Kapler said. “Nothing is set in stone and nothing is off the table.”

Ramos' three rehab games have been “really, really good,” Kapler said. “He's come out feeling especially healthy. He's been productive at the plate. Last report from his game Monday night — nine innings, he was much more mobile behind the plate, no health issues, looking very good.”

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Are Phillies' odds to win National League an overreaction by Vegas?

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Are Phillies' odds to win National League an overreaction by Vegas?

On opening day, the Phillies' odds to win the National League were 40/1.

A week before the trade deadline, they are 6/1, according to Bovada.

The Phils have come a long, long way since those final few days of March and the national perception of this team has changed completely. 

As of Thursday, the only two teams with shorter odds to win the NL pennant were the Dodgers (3/1) and Cubs (7/2). These odds were released after the Dodgers acquired Manny Machado.

It's interesting to see the Phillies so high on the list, even though they entered Sunday's doubleheader a dozen games over .500 and with the NL's second-best record. Vegas obviously expects the Phillies to add a piece or two before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

The other reason the Phils' odds are shorter than those of the Diamondbacks (15/2) and Brewers (8/1) is that the Phillies are favored to win the NL East. So even if teams like Arizona and Milwaukee have more talent or end up with a better record than the Phillies, those clubs would most likely be participating in the wild-card game. The Dodgers and Cubs are heavily favored to hold on to win their divisions.

The Phillies are narrowly favored to win the NL East. They are +155, while the Braves are +165 and the Nationals are +200. (This means that a $100 bet on the Phillies would win you $155.)

The Braves entered Sunday a half-game behind the Phillies. They've won two in a row after losing eight of 10. 

As for the Nationals, things just keep getting worse. Washington is a game under .500 at 48-49, and they've taken L's both on and off the field this weekend. There was the dugout confrontation between Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg on Friday, and then the news Sunday that All-Star closer Sean Doolittle is dealing with a stress reaction in his foot that will keep him out at least another few weeks.

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Phillies score 10 runs and win but still leave behind a sour taste

Phillies score 10 runs and win but still leave behind a sour taste

Such an enigmatic group, these Phillies.

How crazy is it that on an afternoon when the Phils scored 10 runs to finish off an unlikely series victory, the leftover taste was a sour one because of the bullpen.

Gabe Kapler tried to show confidence in Hector Neris in the ninth inning for the second straight game. It worked Saturday but not Sunday.

After needing eight pitches in a 1-2-3 save Saturday, Neris allowed four runs and two homers in two-thirds of an inning to turn a 10-5 lead into a 10-9 game (see first take)

Kapler was forced to turn to Jake Thompson, who threw one pitch to get the save.

At this point, how can Kapler go back to Neris late in a close game? He attempted to use Neris in low-leverage situations — prior to Saturday, each of his last six outings came in games well in-hand — but it hasn't worked. 

Neris has a 6.00 ERA and has allowed eight home runs in 27 innings. To put that in perspective, Aaron Nola has allowed six home runs in 95⅓ innings. 

Neris' velocity was crisp Sunday, reaching as high as 98 mph. But the location, again, was off. Too many pitches in the middle of the plate.

The Phillies have a 4.56 ERA in the ninth inning. That's fourth-worst in the majors and second-worst in the NL, ahead of only the Marlins. Remove Neris from the equation and the Phils' ninth-inning ERA is 3.52.

The Phillies' bullpen was supposed to be a strength. But Pat Neshek hasn't pitched, Neris has fallen flat, Tommy Hunter is only starting to get into a groove and Luis Garcia is on the DL after several rough outings in a row.

Kapler must be careful of overusing Seranthony Dominguez, who factors into their ninth-inning plans far beyond this year. But aside from Dominguez, the only relievers the Phillies have who've been reliable more often than not are Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano. 

It's a precarious position to be in, yet the Phils are 12-6 in one-run games this season. Only the Mariners, Yankees, Brewers and Braves have a better winning percentage in such games. 

Nick Pivetta is on the hill Monday at home against the Cardinals. The Phillies badly need a long outing from him after their starters accounted for just 57% of the innings in Milwaukee.

It would be the perfect time for Pivetta to get back on track after allowing 13 runs in his last 14 innings and failing to pitch into the sixth four starts in a row.

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