What an incredible way to end an uneven first half!
The undermanned Phillies, who placed scheduled starter Aaron Nola, third baseman Alec Bohm, and two relievers on the COVID injured list Sunday morning, pulled off a series win on the road over the team with the best record in the American League to head into the All-Star break.
And they did it by piecing things together in a bullpen game.
It was a 5-4 victory for the Phils, who took two of three at Fenway Park after winning three of four at Wrigley Field. They finish the first half 44-44 and 3.5 games behind the New York Mets, who blew a ninth-inning lead and lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday.
Ranger Suarez — who is now the closer — picked up the final seven outs of a one-run game for his second save. He loaded the bases in the eighth inning but stranded them by getting Alex Verdugo to ground out softly.
Suarez faced J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers in the ninth but retired the side in order.
It was the longest non-three-inning save by a Phillie since Ricky Bottalico went 2 2/3 innings in June of 1995.
Left-hander Cristopher Sanchez was huge in the win with three innings of relief (more on him in the next paragraph). Brandon Kintzler served as the opener and faced four batters. He had a one-two-three first inning, then allowed a leadoff homer to Bogaerts in the second before being replaced by Sanchez.
Sanchez, a hard-throwing 24-year-old acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in November 2019 by former Phils general manager Matt Klentak, threw 50 pitches. He struck out two of the league’s best right-handed hitters in Martinez and Bogaerts. He picked up a big groundball too short with two on base and two outs in the fourth inning to finish his portion of the job. Command has been an issue for Sanchez throughout his time in the minors but was not on Sunday as he pounded the Red Sox with two-seamers.
Archie Bradley was also effective in navigating out of a jam caused by Jose Alvarado, who has been scored on in six of his last seven appearances and has put 19 men on base in his last seven innings.
Ronald Torreyes, who had a great first half for the Phillies defensively and a surprisingly productive first half at the dish, was their offensive standout in this one. Batting eighth, he started their first rally with a single to left and followed an inning later with a three-run home run over the Green Monster.
Both hits came against former friend Nick Pivetta, who had a costly meltdown in the second inning. With two outs, he gave up an opposite-field RBI single to J.T. Realmuto and was too busy expressing frustration to back up third base. The throw from right field got past the third-base bag and went into the dugout, allowing a second run to score.
Realmuto appeared amused by the rage of Pivetta. After the inning, Pivetta screamed his way back to the dugout and stormed down the tunnel. Red Sox manager Alex Cora quickly called to the bullpen, in part because Pivetta had thrown 51 pitches but probably more so because of his body language. Keeping the emotions in check was a big issue for Pivetta in his four seasons with the Phillies.
The Phillies lead the majors in runs per game in July and rank fifth since June 1. They’re fifth in slugging and sixth in OPS over that span. It may not seem like the ideal time to have four days off, but the guys who have spent most of the season dealing with nagging injuries — notably Bryce Harper, Realmuto, Didi Gregorius, and Jean Segura — will take it.
The Phillies will pick back up with a double-header against the Miami Marlins Friday.
Zack Wheeler and Realmuto will be heading down to Denver to play in the All-Star Game on Tuesday.