The Phillies Week in Review, everything you need to know about the week that was for the Philadelphia Phillies 2017 season.
Phillies 2017 – Week 3 (4/17-23/17)
After a humbling week, losing five out of six games, the fortunes Philadelphia Phillies weren’t exactly looking up as they traveled to New York City for three games with a Mets team that had pummeled them only days before. Another embarrassing performance could have sent them tumbling into a death spiral that would have served to confirm all of the dire predictions made about them this spring.
But, as they say, this is why they play the games.
An off day allows for some injury updates.
The mystery of Howie Kendrick not starting against Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez has been answered. An abdominal strain will send the veteran leftfielder to the 10-day Disabled List. This would be one of those opportunities that we alluded to in the 2017 Season Preview for Aaron Altherr to make himself valuable.
Reliever Pat Neshek would be away from the team for a few days to welcome his daughter, Skye.
Injured starter Clay Buchholz is officially the pitching equivalent of Danny Tartabull. As a free agent in 1997, Tartabull appeared in only 3 games with the Phils, going 0-for-7 with three walks and two runs scored, before he fouled a ball off of his foot and was never seen or heard from again. In fact, he may have appeared in more episodes of ‘Seinfeld’ than he did baseball games as a Phillie. Buchholz made two disappointing starts before tendon surgery on his right forearm effectively ended his season and, one would imagine, his time in Philadelphia.
On the bright side, his absence allows for the return of Zach Eflin, the towering righthander who survived an historically catastrophic debut to become a dependable starter last summer before knee surgeries shut him down in mid-August.
Odubel Herrera staked Eflin to a 1-0 lead with a first inning home run off Mets starter Zack Wheeler. But, thanks to some adrenaline containment issues, Eflin walked two, allowed a single and threw a wild pitch that flipped the scoreboard in New York’s favor, 2-1. Zach & Zack would both toss zeroes until they each exited after the fifth. The bullpens did their jobs until the top of the eighth when, with two outs and runners on first and third, pinch-hitter Andres Blanco smoked a ball to deep left field for a double that appeared to clear the bases and put Philly in front. But, Mets manager Terry Collins requested a replay that showed the ball careening off the original outfield wall that is now several feet beyond the closer and lower wall that now serves as the boundary. The ground-rule double would only tie the game at 2-2 as Freddy Galvis, who had reached when Jose Reyes misplayed his pop-up along the third base line, made his way back to third base. The inning then ended uneventfully and an empty ninth sent the game into extra innings.
In the 10th, Michael Saunders led off with a single and went to third when Tommy Joseph followed with a single of his own. Cameron Rupp put the visitors ahead with a sacrifice fly to right. Galvis then singled and was followed by an Altherr single that plated Joseph. A throwing error on the play set up runners at second and third. Daniel Nava’s single scored them both and built a four run cushion that Joaquin Benoit locked down in the bottom half. Phillies, 6 – Mets, 2
Vince Velasquez took the ball on Wednesday against Robert Gsellman. He had racked up impressive strikeout numbers, thus far. But, in doing so, had thrown too many pitches and exited early in both of his starts.
Velasquez dodged a bullet in the first when Joseph’s relay throw beat Yoenis Cespedes to the plate for the third out. He kept New York off the board through five innings and drove in a run with a single as the Phillies cobbled together a 2-0 lead. Vinny entered the sixth having thrown only 67 pitches. A leadoff single by Gsellman was immediately wiped away by a 4-6-3 double play. Sometimes, however, two out and nobody on is a dangerous position for these young arms. A hit and a walk later, Jay Bruce hit the first pitch he saw over the rightfield fence and, suddenly, the home team was ahead 3-2. An RBI single by Saunders tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the eighth. But, in the bottom half, Bruce struck again. This time, he touched up reliever Edubray Ramos for a 2-run shot that was almost identical to his dinger in the sixth. The visitors did get a run in the ninth off closer Addison Reed. Unfortunately, they needed two. Mets, 5 – Phillies, 4
The series deciding game seemed tilted in the home team’s favor with Noah Syndergaard facing Aaron Nola. The impressive righthander with the flowing blonde locks entered the game 4-1 with a 1.89 in his five career starts against the Phils.
In a refreshing change of plot, the Phillies tagged the one they call ‘Thor’ for three second inning runs. Again, a young Philadelphia starter was victimized by that dangerous ‘two outs and nobody on’ scenario. This time, it was the bottom of the Mets lineup. Reyes flared a single just beyond Galvis’ reach, Syndergaard walked and catcher Rene Rivera looped an RBI single over second baseman Cesar Hernandez. The Phils continued the assault on their young nemesis with two more runs in the top of the third. Nola was not exactly at his best and, when Neil Walker took him deep in the bottom half, he had given back four of the five runs his bats had given him. He entrusted that slim lead to the pen after the fifth and, bolstered by a Maikel Franco solo shot in the eighth, they got the job done with Hector Neris assuming the closer’s role for his first save of the year. The Phillies had exacted a bit of revenge, taking two of three from the Mets in NYC. Phillies, 6 – Mets, 4
A visit from the 6-9 Atlanta Braves, who had just been swept at home by the Washington Nationals, might have seemed like a relief after their 12-game gauntlet against New York and Washington. But, the Braves had won their last seven games against the Phils.
Friday’s opener pitted Jeremy Hellickson against the ageless and somewhat shapeless Bartolo Colon. The corpulent Colon, who has regularly baffled Phillies hitters since joining the Mets in 2014, made his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians in Anaheim on the day that the Braves opened Turner Field. His most recent start was in the building that replaced Turner Field, SunTrust Park.
Hellickson deftly retired the first nine batters he faced while his offense built a 3-0 lead on RBI hits by Galvis, Altherr and Joseph. He was touched for single runs in the fourth and sixth. Benoit pitched a clean eighth as the rain which had threatened all night began to intensify. Neris came in to pitch the ninth and allowed a solo bomb to Adonis Garcia that managed to stay fair as it soared through the downpour. The game would eventually be delayed for 24 minutes before Neris worked his way to the save. Phillies, 4 – Braves, 3
Another rain-threatened evening in south Philly was in store as Jerad Eickhoff made his fourth start of the season against another Phillie nemesis, former St. Louis Cardinal Jaime Garcia. Eickhoff did not seem to have his best stuff, working his way in and out of trouble. He struck out the side in the fifth inning as his pitch count reached 98. He left having allowed a single run, trailing 1-0 thanks to the run support he has come to expect.
Hernandez, Altherr and Herrera started the sixth with consecutive hits off of Garcia and the Phillies took a 2-1 lead. For the second straight night, Herrera made a dramatic running catch on the centerfield warning track. In the bottom of the eighth, the Phils missed an opportunity to add to their lead when Third Base Coach Juan Samuel tested Matt Kemp’s arm by sending Altherr homeward on a Franco fly ball to shallow left. The result was an inning-ending double play and a wave of second guessing throughout the Delaware Valley. Benoit and Neris were both unavailable. So, Ramos was asked to finish off the win. He hung a 1-0 breaking ball to Brandon Phillips that quickly became a game-tying tater.
In the top of the tenth, Jeanmar Gomez allowed a leadoff single to Dansby Swanson. Predictably, the Braves bunted Swanson over. Unexpectedly, Joseph spun and fired the ball toward third base after recording the out. Franco had charged the bunt and Galvis had moved to cover second base. So, no one was there to take that throw. Swanson took third as the ball bounced into foul territory. He scored on Garcia’s infield single to put the visitors ahead.
The Phillies responded in the bottom half. With one out, Brock Stassi singled. Then, Hernandez and Altherr both reached on infield hits to load the bases. Herrera went down on strikes and it was left to Franco with two outs. After struggling with pulling off for a few weeks, the cleanup hitter smoked a 1-0 pitch to the base of the rightfield wall as Stassi and Hernandez raced home with the winning runs. It was the first time since 2008 that the Phillies had walked off an extra inning game after entering their final at-bat trailing.
Cautiously optimistic fans had brooms at the ready on Sunday. The rain of the last few days had given way to a sunsplashed day worthy of the Phillie Phanatic’s birthday celebration. Eflin would be looking to build on Tuesday’s solid outing. He did. Braves righty Mike Foltynewicz matched him pitch for pitch. Eflin allowed only three hits, one a solo homer by Kemp in the seventh. Foltynewicz’ only stain was an RBI knock by Galvis, also in the seventh.
Tied at one in the eighth, Saunders led off with a lined double to right. Hernandez showed no signs of a bunt as he worked the count to 2-1. He launched the next pitch into the first row of the rightfield stands for a 3-1 lead. With the building still buzzing, Altherr turned around a first-pitch fastball and sent it rocketing into the Phillies bullpen. A Braves pitching change did little to stem the tide, Herrera greeted Ian Krol with the Phils third consecutive dinger. It was the first back-to-back-to-back bombs for the Phightins since 2008 when Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell did the deed. Neris returned from his night off with a less than impressive ninth. Nevertheless, the sweep was completed. Phillies, 5 – Braves, 2
Anytime you can answer a 1-5 week with a 5-1 week, you make a statement. As much as they seemed exposed by the previous six games, the Phils seemed galvanized with each passing day. Mistakes were made and redeemed. Crises were averted. Most importantly … games were won. All things considered, 9-9 after three weeks would have been acceptable to most if offered in March.
Being a game ahead of the Mets is pretty sweet, too.
Looking Ahead –
The Miami Marlins (10-8, 2nd Place) come to town for three games. This is supposed to be the year that their young arms and big bats take that next step up. This will be our first chance to judge for ourselves. After that, they fly west for a weekend in LA against Utley and the Dodgers, who find themselves looking up in the West.
Homers Where the Heart Is of the Week –
Friday and Saturday night, the Phils won games without hitting a home run. ‘So, what?’, you say? Last season, they dropped 20 consecutive homerless games at the Bank and, since 2014, they are 26-66 when they fail to provide a souvenir to the paying customers.
Farm Arms of the Week –
The Phillies farm system currently stands alone as the only organization with four pitchers that have had double-digit strike out performances this season. Nick Pivetta fanned 11 for the Iron Pigs, Adonis Medina whiffed 10 for the Lakewood Blue Claws, Seranthony Dominguez and Ranger Suarez each racked up 10 for those Williamsport Crosscutters.