Coming off the second series win in a row for the first time since April, the latest being an almost improbable two out of three from the Milwaukee Brewers, the Philadelphia Phillies (37-32) welcomed in the St. Louis Cardinals, who had the same record.
The series turned out to be exactly what you would expect from those records as each game was decided by one run, and both sides able to lay claim to a victory, or even a sweep.
In the end though, despite shaky pen work, and plenty of missed opportunities to score gone by the wayside, the Phillies wound up a 2-1 series winner.
Game 1:Extras Excitement
The Phillies jumped on RHP Miles Mikolas (7-2, 2.69 ERA ) early, getting 4 runs in the first, the big blow being a 3R HR by Odubel Herrera batting 3rd, then a 2 out RBI by Andrew Knapp . Mikolas came in w 2.43 ERA and 1.89 May thru his last outing on 6/12 where he gave up 3 ER.
Yes, it was Game of Thrones night at CBP, not that I will get the references as I may be the only one in US not watching it 😉
Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08) meanwhile was having his way with St. Louis. He had 9Ks through the first five innings alone, and the only hit a solo HR to Matt Carpenter (11).
Maikel Franco who was a big part of the last W in Milwaukee, had been sitting ostensibly for the defense of J.P. Crawford at 3B. It looked like Maikel would like his job back with that game and with plays like this.
Pivetta had 13 K’s thru 7 innings, 2 of the k’s in the 7th sandwiched his 2nd hit given up, another solo shot, this time to Yadier Molina (7).
In the 8th though, 2 hits after one out ends Pivetta’s night, a Solid Seven, 4H, 2R – both earned – 13K, 1BB, 108P – 80 for strikes.
Edubray Ramos cleans up the 2nd and 3rd mess with two swinging Ks.
Phillies offense meanwhile was not helping matters as they only had 2 hits after the big first inning.
Victor Arano would come on for his 1st MLB save opp, but even though he struck out the side, he gave up two hits, and the last K was a WP, that allowed a runner to score to make it 1st and 3rd two outs.
Adam Morgan could not get it done either, giving up a game tying single.
Phillies don’t do easy.
A Tommy Pham solo shot (11) in the top of the 10th off Jake Thompson looked like it was going to be another heart-rending L for the Phils, but as I have said often, starting last season, this young team plays to the Phinal out, and sometimes the baseball gods reward that like:
as Aaron Altherr gets the 2R knock for a final score of 6-5 Phillies.
Thompson would get his first W of the season, and Ramos (8) and Arano (2) would each get a H.
Matt Bowman would get the double whammy of a BS (2) and a L to drop to 0-2.
Game 2:Phillies Pen Phails
It was one of those roller coaster rides once again for us phans in attendance, as the Phils slowly built a lead, one run at a time, in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings. The 1st and 4th were small ball runs, while the 3rd and 5th innings both featured answer back HRs by Herrara (11) and Carlos Santana matching Odubel with his 11th of the season.
These each came after what would be Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) only two hits at the time, HRs off the bats of Tommy Pham (12) and Kolten Wong (5) in the top of those innings.
That would be all the runs they would score off Cardinals starter RHP Luke Weaver (3-6, 4.69) who was pulled after 5 innings.
It stayed 4-2 Phillies until the Cardinals started to get to Velesquez in the 7th. After his eighth (and his final) K to start the inning, Vince gave up a single, then a HBP of Wong, and Kapler had seen enough at 97P- 64 for strikes. Kapler seems to like to get his starters out of a game at a point where they can at worst get a ND.
That was exactly what happened as Tommy Hunter, after getting the 2nd out of the inning, gave up a single sandwiched by two 2b. By the time Kapler replaced him, the Cardinals were now ahead 6-4. This was not what the Phillies hoped they were getting for their $9M man in the pen.
The 2 IR let in by Hunter made Velasquez line 6.1In, 4H, 4R – all earned – 8K, 3BB, 2HR.
It looked pretty bleak now for the Phils who were 0-7 with RISP at that point.
In the 8th though, we rode the old Willow Grove Park Thunderbolt, back up to the top as Rhys Hoskins, who had struck out, popped out, and flied out with men on base earlier, finally came through with a game tying 2B (17), scoring Jesmuel Valentin and Hernandez, on a 1-2 count with two outs.
But of course we all know what goes up must come down, and the fall came on a surprising HR ball given up by Seranthony Dominguez to Carpenter, after getting him to 0-2. Like the game tyer, that also came with two down.
I call it surprising because you have go back to 8/30/17 when Dominguez was a starter on the Clearwater Threshers for the last HR he gave up.
The Phillies could not score off of St. Louis reliever Jordan Hicks who earned his 3rd W, after his 3rd BS.
That also gave Seranthony his 1st MLB L.
Fittingly the finale was another see-saw battle, this time with some much better pitching than the first two.
Each team would start with single runs, the Phillies in the first, and the Cards in the 2nd.
They would then trade two run innings. Hernandez would give the Phillies a 3-1 lead for a short while in the 4th with a Wall Scraper to RF (8), off of RHP Michael Wacha (8-2, 3.20).
It was Cesar’s 25th career HR, 23rd batting LH.
Wacha would wind up leaving the game after walking the next batter, Hoskins, with an oblique injury.
Two innings later though the see-saw teetered back to the Cardinals as Phillie Killer Yadier Molina hit his 2nd HR of the game off of Jake Arrieta (5-3, 3.42), scoring Marcell Ozuna who had singled. This all came after two outs.
Arrieta would finish the inning, but would not come out for the 7th, for a pedestrian, for him, QS of 6In, 4H, 3R – all earned – 5K, 2BB, 92P – 61 for strikes. Giving up those 2 tying runs in the 6th kept this from being anything ace-like.
Meanwhile the Phils were stifled by a series of Cardinals relievers until the once again white hot Herrera came up and:
Odubel is the first Phillie CF to homer in four consecutive games, as well as five in the last six.
In other words:
Then the game of Bullpen Roulette would begin with the wheel first stopping on Arano who got an out, but then gave up a 2B.
This time Kapler went with Morgan to face the LH Carpenter, who popped out, and then got the dangerous Pham to GO, and the Phillies would win their 3rd series in a row by a score of 4-3.
It would be Morgan’s first ever MLB S.
Ramos (2-0, .64) would earn the W on 1.2 innings of work and Arano got his 3rd H.
For the record RHP Sam Tuivailala (1-3, 3.68) would get the L for the HR ball to Odubel.
Morgan’s save made him the seventh Phillies hurler to do so this season: Hector Neris (10), Dominguez (3), Thompson (2), Ramos (1), Luis Garcia (1), and Hunter (1) the others. 2007 was the last time they had this many pitchers when nine did it, a franchise-record. It is still not July yet, so that could be reachable.
Speaking of Neris, he was finally sent down to AAA. LHP Austin Davis would come up, and in his first MLB action in game three, would give up one hit, but also get his first K.
The other notable event was SS J.P. Crawford going on the DL with a fractured wrist after being HBP in Game 2. This will give Franco yet another chance to prove he is an every day player for at least the next four to six weeks.
I am putting the early line on next season’s Hilite video being called “Phillies 2018: Smoke And Mirrors”, as it is hard to see how they are 6 games over .500 – .5 games out of the 2nd wild card and 3.5 behind the Braves in the NL East. The pen is shaky even in many wins, they strike out a ton, and leave seemingly way too many men in base and RISP, but somehow, Kapler has held this team together through the highs and lows of this close to halfway season.
These next three series against the Washington Nationals away and home, sandwiched around the New York Yankees to end June and start July, will be a huge barometer of where they are now and what they might do come the trade deadline.
As noted above they head to DC for three after a day off for the Phillies Phestival on Thursday. Sunday night’s game will be on ESPN, and will give the Phillies some much needed national exposure to have any chance of a player being voted into the ASG. IMHO Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez both deserve it.
Philadelphia Phillies @ Washington Nationals
Friday, June 22, 7:05 PM ET , Nationals Park
Tanner Roark, RHP
Saturday, June 23, 4:05 PM ET , Nationals Park