I ran out of time yesterday to write the weekend recap but the theme stayed the same last night back at Citizens Bank Park. The bats came out flying but bullpen issues made it interesting near the end. Still, the Phillies managed to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-5 in 10 innings on Game of Thrones night.
The Phillies came firing right out of the gate with a three-run home run from Odubel Herrera with no outs in the bottom of the first inning. The Phils would keep grinding with Carlos Santana eventually coming around to score off of a two-out single from Andrew Knapp. Unfortunately, the Phillies bats would go cold quickly only managing to amass five baserunners (two hits, two walks, and an error) from the second inning through the ninth. Rhys Hoskins was an inch away from hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning that would have prevented the extra-inning shenanigans. Other than that, the Phillies couldn’t string anything together until extras. Thankfully, a four-run lead gave Nick Pivetta some runway to work with.
Pivetta got the Cards out 1-2-3 in the first but with the lead, he could really go after the St. Louis batters with hard pitches riding the edges of the zone. Pivetta cruised for the most part with his only two misses in the first seven innings resulting in home runs for the Cardinals and the only other two hits would be a single and a double in the eighth which would be enough for Gabe Kapler to pull Pivetta. Pivetta finished allowing two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out 13. Edubray Ramos would get the final two outs via strikeout as well, and the Phils led 4-2 through eight solid innings.
The ninth saw the same bullpen struggles we saw over the weekend in Milwaukee. Victor Arano brought the similar hard-throwing righty strategy both Pivetta and Ramos used over the previous eight innings and the Cardinals could capitalize a bit getting runners to second and third. Arano’s hard fastball and nose-diving curveball managed to strike out two batters and all he needed to do was get the final out. Arano’s final pitch would be that nose-diving curve that bounced maybe five feet in front of the plate, getting Yairo Munoz to swing for strike three. However, the spin on the ball forced a wild pitch Andrew Knapp couldn’t block, allowing Yadier Molina to cross the plate. 4-3 Phillies now. Adam Morgan was called in to face Kolten Wong and immediately, Wong tied the ballgame up. The Phils couldn’t put something together in the bottom of the 9th, so to extras, we go.
All seemed lost when Phillies reliever Jake Thompson allowed a home run to the first batter he saw and the Cards took the lead. Aside from a strong Cardinal-fan contingent behind their dugout screaming “LET’S GO CARDINALS,” the groans about the bullpen blowing another lead could be heard, along with others wanting to blame Kapler. Thankfully, the Phils only allowed that one run and had their 2-3-4 hitters due up. Hoskins singled. Herrera had a single overturned for the first out. Santana, the game-winning run, was intentionally walked. Two outs to get the tying run across. Jesmuel Valentin strikes out. It’s all up to Aaron Altherr. Altherr hits one to left AND IT GETS BY THE DIVING MARCEL OZUNA ALL THE WAY TO THE WALL! HOSKINS IS IN! SANTANA IS CHUGGING AROUND THIRD AND INNNNNN! THE PHILLIES SURVIVE AND WIN!
A lot of people are upset Pivetta doesn’t end up with the W, that’s part of why wins are a goofy stat. Pivetta pitched well, dominant even, that’s all that matters. The bullpen keeps leaking more and more each game and seemingly can’t be fixed any way you shake it. Hector Neris was finally sent to Triple-A but we knew that had to happen. What’s frustrating is that Victor Arano and Adam Morgan looked good on Sunday in Milwaukee and come up with this dud Monday night. Granted, Andrew Knapp blocks the bouncing third strikeout and the game ends almost an hour earlier. The sad thing about having so many strikeouts from your pitching staff is that defensive blunders, such as the Knapp missed block or even J.P. Crawford’s error in the sixth, become more glaring. The defense has looked better, I’ll get to Franco’s Web Gem in a second, but there are still more improvements to be made.
The second of this three-game is Tuesday night at 7pm with Vince Velasquez (5-7) on the hill for the Phils and Luke Weaver (3-6) pitching for St. Louis.
- More on Kapler: Monday was the first game I’d been to since before the dreaded late-May road trip. Despite the Phillies starting to find their feet again, I still heard a lot of jeers aimed at Gabe the Babe. I get that he’s the man in charge of the team, but you can’t possibly think that inconsistency in the bullpen is his fault. Do you remember these relievers last year? At least he didn’t put the game-winning run on first base last night…
- I mentioned Hector Neris being sent down to the Iron Pigs. The Phillies want him to regain his confidence and clear his head a bit. In his stead will be 25-year-old lefty Austin Davis who has made 22 appearances for the Pigs in Triple-A. Davis has pitched 29.2 innings with an ERA of 2.43, a WHIP of 0.91, and 38 strikeouts (full Baseball Reference page here). I really like the move to bring up the youth and let them get through their growing pains together. The fact that Davis is a lefty is just the cherry on top.
- Sadly, Nick Williams had to leave the game in the seventh inning after taking a ball off his nose (highlight below) and Aaron Altherr entered the game in his place. Wishing Nick the best and that he has a speedy recovery. I’ve preferred him to Altherr in right field but if Altherr continues stepping up in the clutch like last night, I’ll take it
- Maikel Franco had an absolute WEB GEM last night to start the second inning! The Cardinals announcers talked in the replay about how they had no clue Franco could something like that. While he may not be making the most of his current platoon situation at the plate, he’s showing signs of the third baseman we were all so hopeful for in 2015.
What do you think of the Phils recent three-game winning streak? Where should they aim to improve? Let me know in the comments!Follow @geordo9