After passing the early season test atop the NL East after winning the series against the Washington Nationals, the Philadelphia Phillies (19-14) now face another big test. This one is to see how they match up against other divisions’ top teams, starting with three games against the St Louis Cardinals (20-14), who had just lost three in a row to the Chicago Cubs, to fall behind them in 2nd place in the NL Central.
It did not look good on Monday, but by Wednesday, despite some very sad news for the Phillies Phamily, the team passed this test with Phlying Colors.
Game 1: Velasquez gives up a lot, Offense does nothing,
— Did the Phillies lose? (@DidthePhilslose) May 7, 2019
That pretty much sums up the phailure in a 6-0 loss to start the series.
Vince Velasquez (1-2,3.86 ERA) was back into his bad form of not being able to put away hitters and as a result threw too many pitches, 26, and 22 in the first two frames. He looked a bit better in the 3rd inning with only 9, but was still up to 57.
That all came to a head in the 4th as Jadier Molina (3) hit a 2R HR on the 7th pitch if the AB. This came after hurling 13 before that including a BB, 33 total for the inning.
Vince was pulled the next inning after a lead-off HR by Matt Carpenter (4) and a 2R shot by Paul DeJong (7) – 4In, 4H, 5R – all earned – 5BB, 3K, 3HR, 98P – 59 for strikes. RHP Reliever Edgar Garcia gave up another run the same inning, to get the Cardinals to 6-Nil thru 5.
Meanwhile the Phillies offense was stymied by RHP Milies Mikolas (4-2, 4.02) who went a solid 7In, 3H, 0R, 0BB, 5K, 98P- 66 for strikes. This was a return to his 5th place Cy Young performances of 2018. He and 2 other relievers held the Phils to just 5H, 0-3 RISP, and 7 LOB.
One of those 5H was Hernandez, whose BA was quietly now up to .293, .776 OPS. He has not let his defensive and base running misadventures affect his bat lately.
It was revealed after the game that Velasquez for some reason was not trusting his catcher’s signs and shook him off more than once. The two biggest were in the AB’s against Molina and Dejong which both ended up out of the yard.
“It’s hard to get into a rhythm when you’re up there thinking, trying to think throughout the ballgame,” C J.T. Realmuto said. “That’s my job to do the thinking, and he’s best when he just gets up there and focuses on execution. It definitely affected the game. It’s surprising. I don’t really know, just for some reason we couldn’t get on the same page tonight.”
“I should do a better job of trusting J.T. back there,” Velasquez said “He does a great job of studying the guys, knowing what works, and it seems like my secondary pitches were working a lot better than I thought, forcing some ground balls.”
It will be interesting to see if Velasquez does not improve in his next start, whether they will bring Nick Pivetta back up and maybe put one of them in the pen.
Game Two: Bounce Back in Grand Style
As all good teams do, and this team has done often this season, the Phillies bounced back behind stellar pitching by Aaron Nola (3-0, 4.57) and a big blow by the slumping Bryce Harper.
St. Louis starter RHP Dakota Hudson (2-3, 4.63) did not really pitch that badly as his line showed 7H, 8R, but only two of them were earned because of two Cardinal throwing errors, and 2 PB on Molina.
Most of this “spaulding guide” play hurt Hudson in the second inning. Odubel Herrera, beginning to get back into form after his injury stint, started it off with a double. Then the phun began with a Pb, followed by a BB. Rare b2b safe on Fielder’s Choice’s each followed by a throwing error, allowed the first run to score. The first FC was what should have been a DP, but the 2B Kolton Wong came off the bag too soon. It was originally called an out but then overturned. Meanwhile Franco, of all people, beat out the throw to first. The second FC was a bad bunt by Nola that should have been an out of the lead runner.
This HR(7) was his first, and barring a catastrophe, should not be his last, GS as a Phillie. It was the fourth of his career, and the start of a much needed 2-3 night, including a BB.
The Phils tacked on two in the 5th and the 7th, and one more in the 9th on Rhys Hoskins, 11th HR of the season.
Aaron Nola would go 6In, 3H, 1R – earned – 1BB, 7K, 1HR, 101P = 63 for strikes. Nola for maybe the first time in the season really had his off-speed stuff working, and was able to mix it in well with good command of his FB to keep the tough Cardinals line-up off balance.
Nola would also get his 1st H of the season in the sixth.
In the end the 11-1 rout was good payback for the night before.
Game 3: Sadness Mixed With Victory
Early Wednesday morning it was announced that Phillies Chairman and former President David Montgomery passed away after a courageous five year battle with cancer. It would take multiple articles to detail what he has meant to this franchise and this city. There are many places that carry his name including the Minor League facility in Clearwater Fl. designated the David P. Montgomery Baseball Performance Center in March of 2018. That is the way he would like to be remembered.
Another way for the Phillies to remember him was to do the thing he loved the best, play a good brand of baseball culminating in a game and series W for the team and city to which he dedicated his life.
Another day, another hero for the 2019 Phightin’ Phils.
This game those heroes would be the resurgent Jerad Eickhoff (2-1, 1.50) and Hernandez.
Eickhoff was excellent going 8In, 3H, 0R, 3B, 4K, 106P – 63 for strikes. No Cardinal reached second base until a Molina 2B to start the 8th. It was the longest start of his career. This followed his last two outings where in 12 innings he only gave up 5H, and 1ER.
“He pitches with a fearlessness,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said after the game. “Any pitch, any count. Secondary pitches behind in the count. He’ll throw a slider outside of the zone when he’s confident that he’ll get a swing. And he’ll fill it up, too.”
Cesar Hernandez, who I mentioned earlier creeping up to the .300 level, was the offensive star of the game. He had the final scoring blow in the decisive four run 5th inning with a one out 2 RBI 2B. He would also add his 3rd HR of the season in the 7th to get the score to the eventual 5-0 final.
There are still many twitteratti who would like to see Scott Kingery, currently on the IL, replace Hernandez, but this scribe is not one of them.
Cardinals starter RHP Jack Flaherty (3-3, 4.32) was another P let down by the Red Birds specious defense, as one of those 5th inning runs was unearned due to a fielding error by Carpenter to allow once again the “speedy” Maikel Franco to reach base, and the second run of the inning to score.
Good Pitching, timely hitting, and taking advantage of the other team’s mistakes led to a fitting series victory to honor Mr. Montgomery
Instead of stats, I felt it appropriate to show some of the many tweets that tell the story of David Montgomery, a man many said is the only person they knew that was not disliked by anybody in or out of baseball. This evidenced by some of the tributes by other MLB teams
Some from the many in the Phillies Phamily that were touched by this generous man.
A very sad 24 hours. Rest in Peace to my dear friend, David Montgomery. To the man who introduced my wife to me, words cannot explain how special and magnificent of a person you truly were. Thank you for your kindness, generosity, and friendship. You were simply the best.
I have a letter that David Montgomery wrote to me when my dad passed away in 2010. It was handwritten, from the heart and touched me deeply. It was so kind and thoughtful. That was David. What a wonderful human being.
Though I was born a few blocks from what was to be the NY Worlds Fair/Shea Stadium/Forrest Hills Complex, my parents saved me from being a NY fan by moving to Elkins Park in 1955, when I was 6 months old. I have been living and dying w/ Philly sports teams ever since. Now over 60 , I bring an older, but hopefully not stodgy, spin to this blog. By day I am a mild mannered controller/IT guy for a family business, but by night you will either find me @ CBP at least 17 games a season, and most other nights yelling at my tv as if they can hear me. Though I attend many other local sports, my main love has always been baseball, and my focus here is the Phillies, but I am also part of the team covering the Philadelphia Union.