The Phillies are on their way across the border as they are 46-41, patiently awaiting the all-star break. And they definitely need a break. They snuck two wins out of St. Louis, but their offense struggled to score with runners in scoring position in all four games. The pitching was phenomenal, but yet again, the offense let the team down.
Game one, the matchup everyone was waiting for, was must-watch television. For the third time in the last two seasons, Adam Wainwright and Zack Wheeler faced off. In 2021, Wainwright threw a complete game and earned the loss. Coincidentally, the same thing happened tonight. Alec Bohm hit two solo home runs off Wainwright—one in the sixth inning and one in the eighth.
Wheeler threw very well, too. He threw seven shutout innings for the second straight time against the Cardinals. In his last three games against St. Louis, he has an ERA of .41.
Seranthony Dominguez shut down the top of the Cardinals’ order in the eighth inning, and Brad Hand got the save in the ninth.
Once again, the second game was dominated by pitching. Dakota Hudson and Kyle Gibson got the starts for their respected teams, and neither of them allowed a run. Gibson, who threw seven scoreless innings, located his fastball on all parts of the plate and used his cutter and slider in a variety of situations. This strategy proved to be effective for Gibson, given how much he struggled in his last start.
It was a slow game on both sides, but the Phillies struck first.
Darick Hall led the inning off with a double, Didi Gregorius bunted him to third, and Alec Bohm hit a flyball into right field to score Hall.
With the Phillies up 1-0, Corey Knebel got put in his first save situation since being removed from the closer’s role. Knebel walked the leadoff batter but got Paul Goldschmidt to hit a grounder to third base.
No worries, right?
Not exactly. Alec Bohm fielded it cleanly, but his throw was nowhere near second base. It trickled into right field, allowing Juan Yepez to advance to third.
It was Nolan Arenado’s turn, and with the count full, Corey Knebel dropped a knuckle-curve into the top of the zone for strike three. Dylan Carlson hit one in the hole between first and second, and Bryson Stott made a heads-up play by covering the vacated first base.
What was the most crucial aspect of this play? Juan Yepez stayed at third base.
And finally, after intentionally walking Albert Pujols to load the bases, Corey Dickerson flew out to right field to end the game.
A bullpen game is always scary when you’re a Phillies fan. Surprisingly, it worked. But only for the first few innings. The Cardinals scored a run in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, leading them to the win.
Nick Nelson, Jeurys Familia, and Christopher Sanchez got the Phillies through six innings, but things went downhill from there. Andrew Bellatti let an inherited run score, and Dylan Carlson hit a sac fly off Seranthony Dominguez to give the Cardinals the lead going into the ninth.
The unfortunate part is that the Phillies had the lead for most of the game. Three straight singles gave the Phillies the lead in the first inning. Matt Vierling hit an RBI single in the fourth, and Kyle Schwarber hit his twenty-eighth home run of the season in the fifth. Unfortunately, three runs were not enough as the Phillies dropped the third game of four in St. Louis.
Aaron Nola got the start in game four as the Phillies were going for the series win. Rhys Hoskins took a full-count slider from Miles Mikolas into the outfield seats, giving the Phils a 1-0 lead.
Nola looked really good through the first four innings. His curveball had excellent bite, and he was locating his fastball perfectly.
Suddenly, things changed in the fifth inning.
The Cardinals played some small ball and took the lead. Dylan Carlson, Corey Dickerson, and Andrew Knizner contributed with singles, and Edmundo Sosa hit an RBI double to left field.
Corey Dickerson and Lars Nootbaar each added on with home runs, and the Phillies were forced to settle with a split in the Gateway City.
At this point in the season, the offensive inconsistencies are barely worth mentioning. The top of the lineup continued to struggle driving in runs, and Alec Bohm ended up being the only player with RBI in the first two games.
Didi Gregorius has just two hits in his last 25 at-bats, and somehow, he is still homerless.
Nick Castellanos has only recorded two extra-base since June 17—a home run on June 30 and a double on July 5.
And J.T. Realmuto, the highest-paid catcher in all of major league baseball, is hitting .185 in the seventh inning or later. With runners in scoring position, he has an average of just .227.
In the most simple terminology, this cannot happen. In place of Bryce Harper and Jean Segura, they need to be better. Nick Castellanos went from being an MVP candidate to a ground-into-double-play machine. J.T. Realmuto was widely considered the best catcher in baseball, yet he is posting offensive numbers below league average.
So if the Phillies want to find success late in the season and possibly in October baseball, things are going to have to change. And if they don’t change fast, not even Bryce Harper nor Jean Segura will be able to clean up the mess that they would leave behind.
Is pitch calling an issue?
When you look at the box score, it reads as if Aaron Nola struggled. When you watched the game, it might have appeared that he was off his game. But was he really the one struggling?
I don’t think so.
In this day in age, sign stealing and live television have made it impossible to figure out who is calling pitches. But whoever was doing it, wasn’t doing a great job. J.T. Realmuto is the most likely pitch caller, but sometimes the manager or pitching coach will take over.
On Monday, Aaron Nola had everything working through the first four innings. His curveball produced some amusing swings and misses, and he was painting the corners with his four-seam fastball. Even his sinker and changeup were moving and fooling hitters.
In the fifth, Dylan Carlson reached second when Albert Pujols grounded out to shortstop. For some reason, Aaron Nola abandoned his fastball and became predictable as he delivered a steady diet of curveballs to the bottom of the Cardinals lineup. And despite their offensive struggles earlier in the series, the Cardinals pounded Nola. He allowed five runs in seven innings, and it seemed that he had lost all of his confidence by the end of the fifth inning.
Even with this said, it is still hard to be critical of pitch calling when you do not know all of the circumstances, but it is something to keep an eye out for heading into the last leg before the all-star break.
The Phillies will head across the border to face the Blue Jays in a quick two-game interleague series.