The Phillies Week in Review, everything you need to know about the week that was in the Philadelphia Phillies 2018 season.
Phillies 2018 – Week 5 (4/23-4/29)
The second-place Phillies (14-7) are in the midst of their longest homestand of the season. Having dispatched the Pittsburgh Pirates and cast them out of the lead in the NL Central, they now face the leaders of the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks, whose blend of quality pitching and unrelenting offense has won them every series this season. The 10-game run will wrap up with a weekender against the Atlanta Braves.
In spite of predictions to the contrary, both the Phils and Braves (12-9) are ahead of the Washington Nationals (10-13) in the NL East. By week’s end, the season will be a sixth of the way in with most teams having played their 27th game. Predictions will be replaced by projections as each team’s personality and potential come into clearer focus
A day off allows us to reflect on where we are and brace for what is to come. The Phillies have won seven consecutive games at Citizens Bank Park. Strangely, so have the D’Backs. Since May of 2015, when they were swept out of the Bank, Arizona has twice swept the homestanding Phillies there.
On a historical note, Tuesday will mark the 15th anniversary of Chase Utley’s first major league hit. It was a grand slam home run into the rightfield bullpen at Veterans Stadium against the Colorado Rockies. A close inspection of the video shows Utley’s drive streaking over the head of Rockies rightfielder, Gabe Kapler.
As daunting as the D’Backs offense appeared, Tuesday’s lineup was almost laughably top-heavy. The bottom of the lineup featured four hitters (Daniel Descalso, Nick Ahmed, Alex Avila and Jarrod Dyson) that were all averaging under .200 and who had combined for a whopping six home runs in the season’s first 22 games.
Regular readers of this column will know what that means.
After mowing down the first six hitters, including four strikeouts, starter Vince Velasquez surrendered back to back dingers to Avila and Dyson. The home team answered with three runs in the bottom of the 3rd and Velasquez went back to dominating the top of the lineup. In the top of the 5th, Ahmed, Avila and Dyson loaded the bases before a two-run double by leadoff hitter David Peralta. Avila added an RBI single in the 6th and Descalso a two-run bomb in the 8th. The Arizona bullpen allowed only a single run on two hits in their 4-1/3 innings of work. The home winning streak was snapped. Diamondbacks, 8 – Phillies, 4
On the bright side, in his 91 plate appearances this season, Rhys Hoskins has reached base safely 45 times. That’s good enough to lead the major leagues with a .495 OBP. Since arriving with the big club on August 10th of last year, he has drawn 56 non-intentional walks, second only to Aaron Judge (63) in that span.
For the first time in nearly five seasons, Citizens Bank Park hosted a matchup of former Cy Young Award winners. The visiting starter in that August 2013 game, Zach Grienke, would be the same. The Phils gave their starter, Jake Arrieta, a 1-0 in the 1st. The teams then exchanged single runs in the 3rd. The D’backs loaded the bases to start the 4th on a throwing error by Mikael Franco, a single and a walk. Arrietta approached Chris Owings (and his .375 average against the Philies) with caution, resulting in a run-scoring walk to tie the game at 2-2. Dyson, who had homered the night before, stepped to the plate with the bases full and promptly laid down a bunt. You read that right … he bunted. Arrieta dutifully scooped it up and tossed it home for the force out. With one down and the sacks still full, catcher Jeff Mathis grounded the first pitch he saw toward third base. Franco deftly fielded the grounder stepped on third and fired to first in time for an inning ending double play. Arizona took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 6th and if you don’t think scoring on Grienke and Arrieta is a grind, the five runs were scored on two sacrifice flies, a ground out, a double play and a walk … no run-scoring hits. In the bottom of the sixth, Aaron Altherr changed everything with one swing. With two-men on and one out, he lit up Grienke for a three-run tater to left that would prove to be the difference in the game. Philles, 5 – Diamondbacks, 3
Norristown native Christian Walker made his Citizens Bank Park debut in this series, walking Tuesday night and lining out to second on Wednesday. Hard to imagine the emotions of stepping to the plate and looking up into the stands that you grew up cheering from. But, to his credit he kept his head and saw 11 pitches in his two trips to the plate. No doubt he stirred some pride in his family, friends and his fellow Kennedy-Kenrick alums.
The series would be decided in a Thursday matinee that pitted Matt Koch against Ben Lively. Lively has struggled in the first inning of his starts this year with opponents hitting a hearty .429. This would not change. The D’backs ambushed Lively for three runs in the 1st, including another Dyson homer. Then, in the 3rd, Ahmed took him deep with two men on base. Trailing 6-0, Lively walked the pitcher and his day was over. Reliever Drew Hutchison was greeted by a Peralta bomb that made it 8-0. To their credit, Hutchison, Yacksel Rios and Edubray Ramos shut down the Snakes the rest of the way. Sure, the 8-0 lead on a ‘getaway day’ probably figured in there, too. But, a silver lining is a silver lining after all. Arizona still has not lost a series in 2018. Diamondbacks, 8 – Phillies, 2
After the game, Lively was sent to the 10-day disabled list with a lower back strain. Jake Thompson will take the drive down 476 to fill his roster spot and work from the pen until Lively’s turn in the rotation comes up, at which point expect to see Zach Eflin on the bump.
After going 2-4 in two early-season trips to Georgia, this weekend three-gamer offered the Phils a chance to even things up a bit. For the third time this month, Aaron Nola and Julio Teheran faced off and it seemed like the hitters were getting a little too familiar when both pitchers were touched for three runs in the 1st. Each hurler settled down and the 3-3 tie lasted into the bottom the 6th, when Odubel Herrera, whose three-run blast had tied the game, smoked a solo shot to put the home team ahead. Catcher Jorge Alfaro added a two-run jack that soared about 450-feet into the night and the home team took the opener. Phillies, 7 – Braves, 3
After trailing 3-0 in this game, the win qualifies as the 12th come from behind win already this season for the Phils. Not only is that the most in the majors this year, but it obliterates the Phillies record for comeback wins in April, which was nine (last achieved in 2009).
Nick Pivetta entered the game 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA and the Phillies were undefeated in his five starts. He didn’t have his best stuff and the visiting Braves cobbled together four runs in his five innings of work. Atlanta starter Mike Foltynewicz cruised, allowing only a Franco dinger to lead off the 5th. Shortstop J.P. Crawford left the game with a forearm injury that will land him on the DL. Scott Kingery, who has struggled after a big start may finally see some consistent starts in one position as a result of Crawford’s injury. Braves, 4 – Phillies, 1
We continue to keep an eye on Herrera, who singled in his first at-bat Saturday night to extend his streak of reaching base safely to 28 games dating back to last season’s final week. This is slowly but surely moving from a noteworthy aside to a story worth following closely.
Braves starter Brandon McCarthy had already beaten the Phillies twice this month with an effective combination of solid pitching and gluttonous run support (3 ER allowed, 22 runs of support). Once more he would be facing Velasquez, who continues to suffer from inconsistency.
The formula stayed the same as Vinnie was roughed up in the 3rd for five runs and McCarthy shut down the Phils, as the Braves took two of three off the Phillies for the third time in 2018. Braves, 10 – Phillies, 1
The Phillies (16-11, 2nd in NL East) went 7-6 in their two-week trial against three teams that have been winning more than losing this season. Any golfer will tell you that a grinding par on the toughest hole on the course can be as important as making birdie or eagle on the reachable par 5’s. These last two weeks were that grinding par.
Looking Ahead –
A road trip begins with the reachable par 5 that is the Miami Marlins. The Phightins could rebuild their momentum in south Florida against the undermanned Fish, which would be useful as they spend next weekend in our nation’s capital against the always difficult Washington Nationals
Relief Panda of the Week –
On Saturday night in San Francisco, the Giants were trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers 15-6 when manager Bruce Bochy waved the white flag and sent fan favorite Pablo Sandoval (aka the Kung Fu Panda) out to pitch the top of the 9th. Once the clichéd giggling in both dugouts and the chorus of playful cheers from the crowd were completed, Sandoval went to work. He tossed only nine pitches, six of which were strikes, inducing three ground ball outs and retiring the Dodgers in order. His reward was a thunderous ovation when he came to the plate in the bottom of the inning.
More Sixers: Remembering Hal Greer
‘Psst … you’re using the wrong end’ of the Week –
With two outs in the first inning of their 7-4 win in Cincinnati on Thursday afternoon, Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki appeared to have been hit by a high and tight fastball from Reds pitcher Homer Bailey. In fact, as Suzuki bailed out in mid check swing, Bailey’s bowtie struck the butt of the handle of the bat and bounced right back to the mound. Suzuki tumbled to the ground as Bailey fielded the ball and calmly threw it to first to end the inning. Just another 1-3 in the book. But, a great example of why you really want to get the fat part of the bat on the ball.