December 9, 2023

Phillies hold on to beat Marlins as bullpen nearly blows another one


AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Vince Velasquez pitched seven shutout innings and didn’t walk a batter and the Phillies’ bullpen did not blowing the save.

These miracles all happened Tuesday night and the Phillies are sure glad it did.

They opened a six-game homestand with a 4-3 victory over the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.

It was a much-needed win for the Phillies, who had seen their horrible bullpen stack up seven blown saves in the previous six games, including a very bad one Monday night in Cincinnati. Manager Joe Girardi went to Neftali Feliz with a two-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning of that game and Feliz gave up a grand slam and the Reds poured it on with 10 unanswered runs over two innings for a 12-4 win Monday.

One night later, with the taste of that implosion still on their tongues, the Phillies were up, 2-0, when Girardi pinch-hit for Velasquez in the bottom of the seventh. The right-hander had thrown 96 pitches and Girardi was going to turn over the final six outs to the bullpen.

This one should be interesting!

The offense gave the bullpen a little cushion room when it rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh to push the lead to 4-0. But Connor Brogdon walked two batters in the eighth to make it a save situation.

Girardi went to Jose Alvarado with two outs and two men on in the eighth. He walked a batter to load the bases then allowed a run home on a wild-pitch. Boos rained down from the seats before Alvarado got Starling Marte to ground out to end the inning.

Alvarado stayed on for the ninth and things got scary again. The hard-throwing left-hander allowed a hit and a two-run homer to Adam Duvall with no outs to make it a one-run game before settling down and getting three outs to end the game. His final out was a strikeout of Jorge Alfaro on a full-count pitch.

It was one of the ugliest saves you’ll ever see, but a save, nonetheless, and Girardi wasn’t about to throw it away, not after the week he’d witnessed.

The win left the Phils at 37-40, meaning they will wake up Wednesday no worse than five games back in the National League East.

The Phils have gotten excellent starting pitching from Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Matt Moore and Zack Wheeler this last time through the rotation.

Velasquez followed through in this one. He allowed just two hits over his seven walk-free innings. He struck out seven. It was the first time that the right-hander had gotten an out in the seventh inning of one of his starts since August 2019.

Velasquez received offensive support from smoking-hot Andrew McCutchen, whose RBI single with two outs in the first inning gave him 20 RBIs for the month of June, and Rhys Hoskins, who broke an 0-for-23 skid that included nine strikeouts with a two-out solo homer in the sixth.

One night after making a baserunning mistake in Cincinnati, Odubel Herrera did not start against Miami lefty Trevor Rogers. Herrera came off the bench with an RBI double to key a two-run seventh.

Game two of this three game series will take place Wednesday night. Aaron Nola (5-4, 3.97 ERA) will start for the Phils as Jordan Holloway (1-2, 2.55 ERA) will start for the fish.

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