June 5, 2023

Shorthanded Phillies take just one of three from Giants


Yong Kim/Philadelphia Inquirer

The injury bug flew into the clubhouse, and the Phils could not stop the spread. The Phillies managed to snap their five-game losing streak at the end of the series, but it was not easy. In all three games in the series, the score went back and forth, but the Phillies were never able to hang on as the game progressed. The offense was there, but the pitching was inconsistent and the defense was no help.

Roster Moves

Before the series began, the Phillies made a handful of activations and roster moves, providing more depth in the bullpen and center field. The most significant of these moves activated Mickey Moniak off of the IL. He was hit by a pitch towards the end of Spring Training, and he has been sidelined up until the first game in this series. Many fans were anxiously awaiting his return after tearing the cover off the ball in Spring Training. Unfortunately, he did not live up to the hype. He was 0-6 with five strikeouts in the series. The fans were not so thrilled, but Joe Girardi plans on keeping him in the lineup as much as possible.

The Phillies also optioned lefty Jose Alvarado down to AAA after a horrible start to his 2022 campaign. He has a WHIP of two and an ERA of 7.62 in the thirteen innings that he has pitched. I would expect to see Alvarado back sooner than later, given that the Phillies are always in desperate need of bullpen help.

Game summaries

To open this three-game series, the Phillies did it again. They blew their lead in the ninth inning, went to extras, and suffered the loss.

The Phillies got out to an early lead in the second inning thanks to a solo home run hit by Nick Castellanos. Rhys Hoskins hit the second-hardest ball of his career in the fourth inning—a line-drive home run to center field.

Kyle Gibson got the start for the Phillies, and he threw well to keep the Phillies in the game. He allowed just two runs over six innings. His cutter was working, and his fastball command was spot on. Unfortunately, one misplaced pitch tied the ballgame. Wilmer Flores hit a two-strike sinker into left-center field for a home run. In the top of the ninth, Evan Longoria hit a solo homer off of Phillies’ closer Corey Knebel.

Logan Webb also threw an excellent game for the Giants. He pitched eight-plus innings and allowed just three runs. The third run came in the bottom of the ninth, as Kyle Schwarber took him yard to extend the game.

The Phillies were in a similar situation the day before, and many fans criticized Joe Girardi for leaving Corey Knebel in the game. This time, he pulled him for Andrew Bellatti, and it did not work either. He struck out the first batter, but Curt Casali hit a towering two-run home run to give San Francisco a two-run lead. The Phillies got one run back in the bottom of the tenth, but it was not enough to make their second comeback of the afternoon.

In game two, the Phillies gave Ranger Suarez the ball. He looked good through the first four innings, but his pitch count was much higher than he hoped. He ran into some trouble in the fifth, and he ended up getting pulled with two runners on. Nick Nelson came in to relieve him, and he allowed both of the inherited runners to score.

With the Giants up by two in the sixth inning, J.T. Realmuto hit an RBI single, and Odubel Herrera hit a groundball with the bases loaded to score the tying run from third base. For the third night in a row, the Phillies went into extra innings, and for the third night in a row, they lost. Joc Pederson hit an RBI single in the top of the tenth, and Alec Bohm hit an RBI single in the bottom of the tenth to keep the game tied. But in the eleventh, Donovan Walton hit an RBI double, and Joc Pederson hit a two-run home run to give the Giants a three-run lead. Ultimately, the Phillies were unable to come back, and the Giants took the win in game two.

Things started off well on Wednesday, as the Phillies tried to salvage the series at home. They scored two runs in the first four innings, but a five-run sixth inning put the Giants ahead. Aaron Nola was the unlucky pitcher to surrender those five runs. He ended up throwing six innings but allowing five runs in one inning to put the Phils behind. Nola primarily stuck to his traditional fastball-curveball mix.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Giants brought Jarlin Garcin in to relieve Carlos Rodon. Rodon went five innings and allowed two runs, but only one was earned. He struck out six Phillies and walked just one. With one on and one out, the newly-recalled Nick Maton pulled a two-run home run into the stands to put the Phillies within one. Two batters later, Kyle Schwarber blasted his twelfth home run of the year to give the Phillies a one-run lead.

Even though the Phillies’ bullpen struggled immensely in the first two games of this series, Christopher Sanchez and Brad Hand each threw a scoreless inning, and Corey Knebel closed the 6-5 win out.

A rough month for Knebel

If you were to ask Corey Knebel, he definitely would have told you that he was glad for May to be over. In April, Knebel converted all four of his save attempts into saves, and he had an ERA of just 0.96. Opponents were hitting just .188 off of him, and anyone who thought that Corey Knebel wasn’t a compatible closer for the team that the Phillies was expected to be was proven wrong quickly.

A month later, this is not the case. Knebel has seven save opportunities in May, and he only recorded four saves. The long ball has been a problem, and he has not been reliable in one-run games. He allowed nine runs in 11.2 innings in May. He also walked nine batters (two intentionally) in May. Walks have been a problem for the entire Phillies’ bullpen, but it is unacceptable for your closer to have almost as many walks as he does strikeouts.

What is the difference between 2021 Corey Knebel and 2022 Corey Knebel?

In 2021, Knebel utilized his curveball much more often. His splits between curveball and fastball were almost identical. In 2022, opponents are hitting nearly .280 against his curveball, so he made an adjustment—he felt that he lost the feel of his curve, so he is throwing his heater an average of three out of every four pitches. Unfortunately, this will not work. He does not have an overpowering fastball, so Knebel must fine-tune his curveball if he wants to get back on track.

As of now, Corey Knebel is expected to remain the closer. Although he allowed the go-ahead home run in the ninth inning on Monday, he had a clean inning on Wednesday to start the new month.

Is Realmuto finding a groove?

It took a while, but J.T. Realmuto could have finally found his swing of success. He still has an OPS under .700 for the season, but he has a .783 OPS over his last fifteen games. Over his last seven games, his OPS sits at a surprising 1.033 OPS. Considering his age, the Phillies can deal with an .800 OPS, as long as he continues to be an above-average defender. He should be batting towards the middle to bottom of the lineup bearing any injuries, so his progress should please Phillies fans.

The Phillies will host the Angels in a weekend series beginning on Friday.

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