September 21, 2023

Brad Miller walks Phillies off after bullpen blows Zack Wheeler’s gem


Photo via Philadelphia Phillies' Twitter

There seemed to be a little extra buzz in the air at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night. Maybe it was the arrival of a holiday weekend. Maybe it was the arrival of the San Diego Padres and their star-studded squad.

Or maybe it was just the anticipation of another Zack Wheeler gem.

And a wild finish.

Wheeler delivered his latest masterpiece then watched helplessly as the bullpen blew it. Jose Alvarado and Ranger Suarez failed to protect a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The game went to extra innings, Suarez got three outs with a runner on second base and the Phillies won it, 4-3, on a double by Brad Miller in the bottom of the 10th.

Suarez ended up with the win. Wheeler, who pitched 7⅔ shutout innings and walked none, deserved it.

The win left the Phillies at 38-41 as they try to put together a much-needed charge before the All-Star break. They have nine games left before the break, including two more against San Diego. Zach Eflin will pitch against Yu Darvish on Saturday afternoon and Vince Velasquez will pitch for the Phils on Sunday afternoon. The Padres have not announced a starter for that game.

The Phillies need to put together a winning streak to remain viable in the NL East race as the trade deadline approaches, but the bullpen remains a serious issue. 

The blown save was the Phillies’ eighth in the last nine games and majors-leading 22nd overall. The franchise record for a full season is 25. 

Suarez was charged with the blown save. He allowed a game-tying, two-run double down the left-field line to Jurickson Profar with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Alvarado was a big chunk of the blown save. He walked the leadoff man, allowed a one-out RBI double to Fernando Tatis Jr., and issued another walk before manager Joe Girardi went to Suarez with two men on base.

Alvarado has walked 27 batters in 31 innings. He took over the closer’s role two weeks ago after a rash of blown saves by Hector Neris. 

Wheeler struck out nine and his ERA is 2.05.

Wheeler, a lock to be a National League All-Star when the full team is announced Sunday night, has not allowed a run in four of his last five starts. He has totaled 28 innings in those four starts.

The Phillies played with their regular starting lineup complete for the first time since May 9 as shortstop Didi Gregorius came off the disabled list after missing nearly two months with an elbow injury.

Gregorius showed he was ready when he swatted a solo homer against Padres’ starter Chris Paddack in the bottom of the fifth inning to give Wheeler and the Phils a 3-0 lead.

The Phillies relied on some situational hitting for their first two runs, both in the first inning.

Odubel Herrera and Jean Segura both singled with no outs and scored on groundouts by J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper.

San Diego came into this series having won 11-of-13 to run its record to 49-34.

The Padres’ lineup features two $300 million men in Manny Machado and Tatis Jr. Wheeler allowed just four hits in his 7⅔ innings. Machado had a single and Tatis a double. Wheeler quickly moved past both hits.

Wheeler was at 106 pitches through seven innings and manager Joe Girardi was faced with a decision: Stick with his cruising starter or go to an incendiary bullpen that leads the majors in blown saves.

Girardi stuck with Wheeler for the first two outs of the eighth then removed him for Alvarado as leadoff man Tommy Phan approached the plate. Wheeler threw 114 pitches. The crowd booed Girardi’s decision but Alvarado got Pham to end the frame. 

Alvarado stayed on for the ninth and turned that inning into an adventure. With rain falling, he walked the leadoff man, allowed a one-out RBI double to Tatis and walked the next man before Girardi pulled him in favor of Suarez.

With two men on base in a two-run game, Suarez retired Eric Hosmer on a ground out before allowing a game-tying double to Profar.

Suarez and Miller got the job done in the 10th.

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