It was an early season series that seemed like a must win for the Philadelphia Phillies coming off losing two straight series at home, and two games in a row. Especially so since they were facing the last place Miami Marlins (9-18). The Fish though were heading in the other direction, having won two in a row, and it continued the first two games, but the Phillies would end the series on a high note.
Game one: Arrieta Aceless:
In what the Phillies hope is an anomaly, Jake Arrieta failed miserably in the stopper role.
It started out well for the Phils as they put up a two spot in the top of the 2nd on a two run Jorge Alfaro (3) HR to CF.
The failing began with the next inning’s non SDI, only giving up one run on two singles and a ground out, but the tell that this would be a bad outing was the BB to Marlins starter RHP Dan Straily (0-0, 9.00) with two outs. It led to no more damage, except maybe to Jake’s psyche.
The 3rd inning was the toughest to watch as Arrieta was hit hard for the first time this season, allowing four more runs on a single and a BB followed by two straight 2B all to start the inning. They then had a call overturned on a close play at first (more on that below) for the initial out, but another run would score on a GO the next batter. The Phils found themselves in a 5-2 hole, but it was still early.
The Phightin’s, who came into the game with an MLB leading 12 come from behind wins, worked towards another by scoring two again the top of the fourth on a Maikel Franco (4) rainbow to LF, plating Scott Kingery who hit his eigth 2B of the season. This gave the Phils a more reasonable one run deficit.
Once again, though after being given new life by his offense, Arrieta failed to stop the Fish, but only one run, so it was still close when Jake left after 3.2 In, 8H, 6R – all earned – 2K, 2BB, 0HR.
The game really turned against the Phillies in the 7th inning.
After two walks, sandwiching a single, they had bases loaded one out, down 6-4. Looking like some of the run challenged teams of the near past, they found a way not to score.
First was a Texas League FO by Carlos Santana that the RF caught but fell to the ground doing so, but for some reason Cesar Hernandez was not back at the 3B bag to tag up and take advantage. Kingery would GO into a force at home, and the threat was over.
As so often happens after failing with bases loaded, the other team scores, as Miami got two insurance runs in the bottom half off of RHP Tommy Hunter, and the Phillies went quietly the rest of the way.
RHP Merandy Gonzalez (2-0, 4.50) would earn the W in two innings of work.
Game Two: Return Of The UnClutchables
1-10 with RISP for the Phillies would be the stat of the game, overshadowing Zach Eflin‘s great first start of the season. He deserved much better than the ND he wound up with, as he took a perfect game into the 6th inning, looking spectacular doing so. A bloop hit that three guys converged on but could not catch, would break it up.
The shame was that this came immediately after Rhys Hoskins knocked in the first run of the game on a two out 2b (9) in the 5th inning, for the “1” you see in the opening sentence.
After an overturned challenge of a pick-off play call in the Phillies favor emptied the bases, Jason Bour (5) tied it up with one swing, 2-2, 2 outs.
Eflin would get out of that inning, but Manager Gabe Kapler was forced to pull him the bottom of the inning to try to get some offense. Eflin’s W deserving line wound up 6In, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 4K, 0BB, 1HR, 72P- 50 for strikes.
Miami starter LHP Jarlin García (1-0, 1.09) also pitched well enough to win 6In, 5H, 1R, 1ER 3K, 1BB, 80P – 50 for strikes, but in today’s Rigglemanesque pitching modes, a starter almost has to be perfect to go past 6 innings.
Both teams would have trouble pushing across a go ahead run. Santana started off the 9th with a 2B down the LF line, but as we know, the suddenly UnClutchables failed again, even after Kingery was HBP. Scott would leave the game later, and was out of the lineup, but available to PH on Wednesday.
In the 10th, just to flustrate us further, the Phils would load the bases, albeit with 2 outs, but to no avail. Like the night before the Marlins would score the next half inning on a 3B that beat the OF shift, and a single, to walk it off in front of yet another minuscule crowd.
RHP Junichi Tazawa would get his first W of 2018, and once again no save in this game.
After the game Kapler commented on whether the punch-less Phillies batters are pressing: “I think as long as guys are hitting the balls on the nose & having good at-bats, no I don’t see pressing at all. It’s just the opposite. I see a lot of success coming for our guys.”
It is a good thing somebody is trying to stay positive.
Game Three:No Run Nola
It was Aaron Nola‘s (4-1, 2.17) turn to play the Stopper and he did that in a dominating way.
Cesar started the game off with the fifth lead-off HR of his career.
The next inning Pedro Florimon getting a rare start, knocked a two out 2B, and Marlins starter RHP Jose Urena (0-5, 4.28) allowed him to score on an E1, botching an easy out of Nola at first.
For the second inning in a row Nola would allow two base-runners, but still get the SDI. The second inning was helped by a pick-off at first on an overturned safe call, then a strike-em-out-throw-em-out DP erased the BB that followed.
That would be the Marlins last real threat.
Except for not giving up 3 runs in the first, as he did last Saturday, this was a lot like that outing for Nola, where he seemed to get stronger and his pitches more effective as the night went on. Part of that has been his increasing reliance on his changeup. He threw the off-speed pitch 30% of the time this game and 28% the last time out, the two highest usages of it in his career.
After the game Nola had this to say about the increase: “My curveball was yanking a little bit so I had to go to something else. … Fastball was leaking over a little bit, but I was trying to get early contact. I know they’re going to swing if I’m around the zone. I think it worked pretty well.”
Meanwhile Urena was also pitching well and the Phils offense continued to not hit w/ RISP, including Hoskins’ fourth K of the game in the 7th. Urena would leave after 7, 7H, 2R – 1 earned – 6K, 1BB, 1HR in line for the L.
The Phils would add two big insurance runs in the 8th as Aaron Altherr scored from 1st, on a Franco 2B, moving to 3rd on the throw home, and then a Florimon RBI GO.
Those runs saw Nola come out for one more inning. He did not finish it though, retiring 17 in a row before being pulled after a one out single. Adam Morgan and Luis Garcia would cement his final line at 7.1In, 4H, 0R, 7K, 1BB, 101P – 67 for strikes.
He was the first Phillies P to set down 17 in a row in a start since Cole Hamels swan song no-hitter on July 25, 2015, vs. Cubs.
They still went 1- 7 w/ RISP, adding two more runs in the 9th, on a Herrera RBI single and an Altherr sac fly, but it did not matter on this night, as they won going away 6-0.
For those getting in a tizzy over the low BA for Santana, it is apparent by looking at his past early season numbers, that this will hopefully be at least a normal year for Carlos. Take one year 2014 when in April he slashed 151/.313 OBP/.280 SLG. By the end of the season he was at .231/.365/.427. He hit 27 HR, and led MLB in BB with 113. Compare that to this season’s cruelest month .153/.275/.296 and there is hope that he will turn this around as the weather gets warm.
The rest of this mostly untested roster – who knows.
One guy who is not having problems is Herrera, who has a 32 game on base streak, after a HBP in the first inning Wednesday that got the Phillies bench, especially Hoskins, chirping at Urena.
On the other hand, the aforementioned Hoskins was one for his last 19, with ten Ks. He struck out four times Wednesday for the first time in his short career. He did end that with a single in the 9th inning.
Phillies have won 9/10 challenges this season. Every game this series they won at least one challenge starting on Monday with a safe call at first reversed. Tuesday and Wednesday they had safe pick-off calls at first overturned. Wednesday they also had a safe call at first overturned in the 8th to end a Fish Rally.
5,415 Attendance Monday, 5,844 Tuesday, and a whopping 5,941 on Wednesday when they may have counted the dogs on Bark In The Park Night. My feelings about MLB “fans” in FLA are well documented on the internets, but these numbers are just flat out embarrassing. The Phillies drew three times as many on nights when people were being treated for frostbite at CBP this April. Can you say “Contraction” Boys and Girls?
After an off day on Thursday the Phillies end the quick road trip in DC to face the Washington Natinals (16-16, Fourth Place NL East ) for the first time this season.
Philadelphia Phillies @ Washington Nationals
Friday, May 4, 7:05 PM ET , Nationals Park
Gio Gonzalez, LHP
Saturday, May 5, 4:05 PM ET , Nationals Park
Tanner Roark, RHP
Sunday, May 6, 1:35 PM ET , Nationals Park
Max Scherzer, RHP
Make sure you catch our Seamus Killeen‘s wrap-up of that series as well as his look at the tight NL East race, on Monday.