After the grueling month of June ending better than most people thought probable on a three out of four series win over the Washington Nationals, they welcomed in the Baltimore Orioles (24-59) for a two game set book-ended by off days. While the games were close, featuring some pretty good pitching by both squads, the Phillies kept their focus against a lesser team, winning the pair.
Game 1: Phillies Current 3B Star of the game
To use the old cliche, it was indeed a dark and stormy night at Citizens Bank Park for the opener, as I among the 28,204 fans – many in Orioles Orange – were treated to mother natures fireworks, a steady heavy drizzle, and even a nice rainbow
we were also rewarded with an interesting 3-2 W.
The O’s dented the scoreboard first on a no doubt HR by Mark Trumbo (11) in the second, off of Zach Eflin (7-2, 2.97 ERA).
The first few innings, Baltimore’s big off-season acquisition, RHP Alex Cobb (2-10, 6.53) was showing why they coveted him, which he had not been doing thus far in 2018.
That was until in the 3rd, when after a single by, presently and possibly soon to be past 3B, Maikel Franco, a sac bunt by Eflin, and a BB to Cesar Hernandez:
Rhys Hoskins supplied his own lightning to put the Phils in the lead 2-1.
Eflin could not get the SDI, as Baltimore tied it up, with some help by a bobble by Nick Williams ruled an E, which made sure Manny Machado could score from second on the single by Trumbo. It was determined by the scorer not enough to make it an unearned run, but no RBI for Trumbo. He did not move up up on the play, so not sure why they bothered to give Nick an E.
Anyway, the Phils would answer right back, as the lightly used, but seemingly always ready Andrew Knapp hit his third career 3B, second of the season, with two outs, to score Williams, who reached on a BB. This was the disappointing Cobb of 2018.
There would be no more scoring in this game as the pitchers took over on a sodden night when balls were dying in the OF, and most of the hits were on the ground hydroplaning by fielders.
Eflin was especially effective, which is why it was surprising to us fans and apparently press people alike from their tweets, that Eflin was pulled for a PH after 7In, 5H, 2R – both earned – 6K, 0BB, 1HR, 82P – 60 for strikes. Unknown to all of us as Manager Gabe Kapler noted post game, that Eflin was developing a blister.
Eflin of course made it like it was no big deal:
“I mean it really wasn’t affecting me until the later innings and even then it wasn’t affecting me,” he said. “I was ready to go back out there in the eighth.”
Tommy Hunter would get the first two outs of the 8th, sandwiched around a single, which is when Kapler went to Seranthony Dominguez. It took 16 pitches, including a WP, and 2 BB’s, but eventually he got the final out, but it took this “Web Gem”:
from the star of the game Franco, who also reached base all three times on 2H, and a BB, with a run scored.
I was not sure if Dominguez was going to continue after that but he did. Except for a single, and an E on Cesar to put a man on 2nd with one out, Seranthony had little effects of that long one out, striking out the last two batters for his 8th S. Hunter got his 15th H, while Cobb was stuck with the L, but probably thinking positively about his 6.2 In of 4H, 3R ball.
This 3-2 win became their 18th W against-7 L in one run games, MLB’s best record in that department.
As for the possible future Phillies 3B/SS, Machado said all the right things after the game on Tuesday:
“They’re a good ballclub. They’re young, they’re hungry, they want to win,” Machado said of the Phillies. “They’ve been impressive.”
“Do I want to play for a contending team? Yeah. Do I want to go to the playoffs? Yeah. Do I want to win a ring? Of course I do.”
When asked if the Phillies would go hard after him:
“I know how [Phillies president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail] works,” Machado said. “I’ve seen those guys work, and they’ve turned this organization around.”
Game 2:Nola being Nola
For the second game in a row the Orioles scored first, this time in the third inning. It started as HP ump Gerry Davis seemed to squeeze Aaron Nola (11-2, 2.41), leading to a BB of 3B Tim Beckham. Adam Jones then got his 20th 2B of the season to score him for the 1-0 lead.
Meanwhile due to Santana, who BBd, CS, Orioles rookie RHP Yefry Ramirez (0-2, 2.51) – his 2nd MLB start – faced the minimum thru three. The Phillies batters were not allowing Davis to help them out.
The Phillies finally got their first hit of the afternoon as a Scott Kingery 2B made it 2nd and 3rd (Williams BB), one out in 5th.
The fun began when what looked like a routine productive out by Jorge Alfaro, slithered under the glove of Orioles 1B Chris Davis, turning it into two runs, and and a 4-1 lead.
Meanwhile Nola was continuing his Ace season, getting stronger inning by inning, after giving up that early run, using his curve very effectively in big spots.
He did get into a bit of trouble in the 7th giving up a pair of two out singles, but with the dangerous Machado up Hernandez made a great running over his head basket catch on a pop-up that looked headed for no man’s land.
That would end another Solid Seven outing, 7H, 1R – earned – 9K, 2BB, 0HR, 103P – 74 for strikes.
The Orioles have did base runners in each inning. The Phillies not so much as they seemed baffled by Ramirez, who went 5In, of 1H, 2R – 1 earned – 4K, 2BB, and then at least the first inning of RHP David Hess.
But in the bottom of the 7th, on only their 2nd hit of the day:
Nick Williams blasted a no out 2R HR to CF, scoring Santana who BB for the 2nd time, for a 4-1 lead.
That would be all the Phils would need.
Victor Arano would pitch an almost perfect, 0H, 3K, 1BB, two innings, for his first MLB save. He was the eighth reliever to post a save this season for the Phillies.
Ramirez would be saddled with the L for the Orioles
With this W Aaron Nola goes to 8-0, 1.71 ERA at CBP. He is the second Phillie to go 8-0 before the ASG. The other was Tommy Greene who went 9-0 in ’93. He is also 16-3 at CBP since 6/22/17.
Nola stands at 11-2 (tied for 1st in NL with Jon Lester), 116 innings for the season, with a 2.41 ERA, 116 K, 33 BB, and only 6 HR allowed. Can you say All Star Worthy, Boys and Girls?
More on Nola below
Sunday Roster Moves:
The Phillies made a few moves on Sunday reinstating Pat Neshek from the 10-day DL, as well as recalling RHP Jake Thompson from the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. In their stead Vince Velasquez was placed on the 10-day DL with a right forearm contusion, and Zac Curtis was optioned to Lehigh Valley.
Mid Season Notes:
There is so much that can be said about this surprising to most first half of the season by this team that is 10 games over .500 for the first time sine 9/28/11, one game out of first place in the NL East, and in the second WC spot by 1 game, heading into the weekend.
I will just toss out a few random factoids gathered from all around the interwebs.
In June Odubel Herrera still managed to go .236 with 7HR, 11 XBH, 14 RBIs and 17 R, even with two 0-for-21 slumps.
Jorge Alfaro got his 17th CS on Wednesday, most in majors. Oakland A’s Jonathan Lucroy has 16.
I could do a whole post about Nola’s amazing start to 2018 and his 78 start career, but NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Ruben Frank has done that better than I here, and I will just snip one:
• Nola’s 14 starts allowing two or fewer runs so far this year are second-most by a Phillies starter 84 games into a season in the last 100 years. The only pitcher the last century with more such starts at this point in a season was John Denny, who had 15 in 1983 on his way to the Cy Young Award
As a team, after going 6-3 on this home-stand, they have the most home W in the NL at 30, and. second behind the New York Yankees in MLB (33). A lot of that has to do with the starters, as well as the much maligned pen who are on a 15 consecutive scoreless inning run right now.
The two game sweep of the Orioles is their 6th, which matches all of last season. It is the most in the first half since they had seven sweeps prior to the All-Star break in 2009.
As is my wont, I have been more positive than most about this team and especially about Gabe Kapler this season. I feel like my optimism is paying off, and I hope that many more can start to enjoy this team, and come out to the ballpark after this long away stand around the AS break. They are young, exciting, even in most of their losses, and they never give up no matter the score or the opponent.
They start the road trip traveling across the state to face the Pittsburgh Pirates (40-46, 4th Place NL Central) for the weekend.
Trevor Williams, RHP