February 6, 2023

Phillies snap winning streak, improve to .500


Oh, the vibe has changed. A new era of Phillies baseball is underway, and the Phightins are back in contention for a playoff spot. The offense appears to have been revamped, and each player is finding a way to contribute. With all of this said, the Phillies are coming in hot from the bottom of the barrel, and someone will have to make room for them at the top. But only time will tell which team this will be. Will the Mets’ late-summer struggles emerge again? Will the Padres dramatically fall out of their wild-card spot just as they did in 2021? Will the NL-Central struggles worsen? It looks like we can only wait and see.

Game summaries

The Phillies opened the series with the Diamondbacks on Friday evening and were more than ready to go. In the first inning, Rhys Hoskins gave the Phillies the early lead as he sent a two-strike fastball over the centerfield wall. This was his tenth home run in 2022. Just one inning later, Kyle Schwarber hit a three-run home run, and Didi Gregorius hit an RBI double, giving the Phillies a six-run lead.

Kyle Gibson, the starter in game one, had excellent control of his cutter and changeup in the first six innings. This kept his pitch count low and allowed for a lot of his outs to be produced by groundballs. In the sixth inning, he got into a jam and was pulled after two batters.

Brad Hand relieved Gibson, but he couldn’t close out the inning. He walked Jordan Luplow to load the bases, and Daulton Varsho followed with a two-run double. Josh Rojas scored Luplow and Varsho with a double of his own, putting the D-backs within a run.

Thankfully, the Phillies’ bullpen was able to hold onto the lead. A Rhys Hoskins home run gave the Phils an extra cushion for Corey Knebel to use heading into the ninth inning. Ultimately, Corey Knebel was able to seal the deal.

In game two, the Phillies faced four-time all-star Madison Bumgarner, yet they made it clear that they were not phased by his resume. Nick Castellanos shot an RBI single past Josh Rojas in the first inning, and Bryson Stott hit a two-run home run just over the left-field fence an inning later.

While jumping on Bumgarner early in the game was crucial, Zack Wheeler made the most impactful contribution on Saturday. Wheeler threw six scoreless innings and struck out eight. Wheeler allowed just two baserunners, and he only allowed one ball in the air—a double off the bat of Daulton Varsho.

With a 4-0 lead in the seventh inning, the Phillies brought Jeurys Familia, and his struggles continued. After allowing two hits and a walk, he was relieved by Andrew Bellatti, who ultimately got the Phillies out of the jam. Brad Hand threw a clean eighth inning, and Christopher Sanchez shut the door in the ninth to finish the Phillies’ 4-0 win. This was their ninth win in a row and their eighth under Rob Thomson’s management.

Defensive miscues and mental errors cost the Phillies their winning streak in game three. The Diamondbacks led by three after the end of the first frame, as J.T. Realmuto dropped a fifty-five-foot dart throw from Ranger Suarez. The ball trickled away, he was unable to locate it, and two runs scored. While that is frustrating alone, it is more frustrating when you realize that Jordan Luplow—a .169 hitter coming into the game—got on base by a walk. Earlier, Alec Bohm scooped a grounder, hesitated, and threw it to second after the runner was already there. In other words, Ranger Suarez earned six outs in the top of the first, but the Phillies’ defense only executed three of them.

Alec Bohm hit an RBI single in the fourth, but the D-Backs struck right back in the top of the fifth.

With the Phils down by three in the bottom of the fifth, two walks and an error loaded the bases for Nick Castellanos. Torey Lovullo brought a right-handed reliever in to face Castellanos, and his plan worked. Castellanos struck out on three pitches, and J.T. Realmuto also went down on strikes to end the frame.

For the rest of the game, the Phillies bullpen could not control the Diamondbacks’ offense. Arizona scored a total of 10 runs in the last five innings. One of them was off of Phillies’ catcher Garett Stubbs. Stubbs pitched the top of the ninth inning in Sunday’s 13-1 loss.

Roster moves

As I am sure you assumed, the Phillies had to activate Zack Wheeler off of the paternity list to pitch on Saturday. To correspond with his activation, Scott Kingery was outrighted back to AAA Lehigh Valley. Kingery, who was recalled on the seventh, only played one inning during his stint with the big-league team.

Ahead of Sunday’s contest, the Phillies recalled left-handed pitcher Jose Alvarado from AAA. Alvarado was optioned to Lehigh Valley after starting his 2022 campaign with a 7.62 ERA. He pitched one inning on Sunday and allowed two earned runs, bringing his ERA up to 8.36. Christopher Sanchez, the closer in Saturday night’s win, was optioned to AAA.

Still too generous

Throughout the entire season, walks have been an issue for the starting rotation and the bullpen. Even with the series win, the Phillies gave up way too many free passes. These always end up costing the Phillies a run that they cannot afford.

Although some of this comes from guys who rely on velocity like Jose Alvarado and Seranthony Dominguez, some of the walks are coming from pitchers who are uncharacteristically out of control. Ranger Suarez is known for being a crafty lefty who uses the strike zone to attack hitters. But, in game three of this series, we saw Ranger Suarez walk Josh Rojas once, Carson Kelly once, and Jordan Luplow twice. Of course, it is important to be smart when you locate your pitches. It is also important to know when you need to pitch around a dangerous hitter. But, there is no reason why a .165 hitter in Jordan Luplow should be walked twice and definitely no reason to walk a .095-hitting Carson Kelly.

A historic series

When the Phillies needed it the most, they made history. The Phils went on their longest winning streak since 2011, as they won nine consecutive games. Rob Thomson is also the first manager to win their first eight games since Joe Morgan won his first twelve in 1988. Pat Moran, also a Phillies manager, won his first eight in 1915.

If this is not foreshadowing, then I do not know what is. 2011 was the last time the Phillies made the playoffs, and the 1915 Phillies sat atop the NL East throne under Pat Moran. Hopefully, this means that we can mark our calendars to watch the Phillies battle it out in the 2022 playoffs—come this October.

The Phillies will host the Marlins in a three-game set at Citizens Bank Park beginning Monday evening.

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