Following a mediocre restart to their season on Tuesday, the Phillies appeared to find their footing during Wednesday’s seven-inning doubleheader against the Yankees. Zack Wheeler faced off against J.A. Happ in game one while Aaron Nola faced Jonathan Loaisiga in game two.
The Phillies fell behind early as the “home team” Yankees took an early lead in the bottom of the first. Aaron Judge got on base on a broken-bat dribbler to Jean Segura. Due to the broken bat, Segura muffed the ball, costing the Phillies a double play with Judge and DJ LeMahieu being called safe on the play. LeMahieu would later score as Segura makes up for his error by securing a double play off Gleyber Torres. The unearned run would not count against starter Zack Wheeler, who got out of the inning with only one run scored.
After letting on Kyle Highashioka in the second, Wheeler let up a two-run home run to Brett Gardner, giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Wheeler was dealing after the home run, however, pitching six innings while allowing two earned runs. Despite the early error from Segura, Wheeler would benefit from three double plays.
Offensively, the Phillies broke out in the top of the third. Following a leadoff walk from Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper smacked a two-run home run to cut the Yankees’ lead. The Phillies would not stop there, however, as J.T. Realmuto earned a walk to reach base. Segura then hit a bloop single into “No Man’s Land” in short center field. LeMahieu fielded the ball, but made a throwing error on the play, allowing Realmuto and Segura to advance to second and third.
After consecutive walks from Scott Kingery and Phil Gosselin, the Phillies found themselves tied 3-3- with one out. Roman Quinn beat out a double play to shortstop, allowing Segura to score the go-ahead run. In classic Quinn style, he tripped on the play at first base.
Happ pitched three innings, allowing four runs while walking six batters for the Yankees. Two innings into the bullpen, Realmuto added to the Phillies’ lead by hitting a solo home run off Nick Nelson.
Nelson would continue to struggle in the sixth inning as the Phillies batted around the order, scoring six runs. The Phillies did so by playing small ball, hitting for six singles, one fielder’s choice, and one walk in the inning.
With an 11-3 lead, the Phillies went to the bullpen in the seventh inning. Chances are, you can guess what happened next! Relief pitcher Austin Kelly lasted 0.1 innings, allowing four runs topped off by a three-run home run by Aaron Judge. Trevor Kelley came in to relieve Davis but allowed two baserunners before recording the second out of the inning. Hector Neris was called in to earn a one-pitch save, solidifying the Phillies’ 11-7 victory.
Ace pitcher Aaron Nola pitched a seamless first inning, striking out Judge and Torres to assert his dominance over the Yankees’ lineup. Nola added three strikeouts in the top of the second, but also allowed a home run off Luke Voit, giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead. In the bottom the second, the Phillies responded for their ace as Neil Walker scored on an Andrew Knapp RBI single, tying to game at 1-1.
Nola dominated throughout his six innings of action. He racked up a dozen strikeouts while allowing only three hits and zero walks. Unfortunately, he was given no additional run support and left the game after the sixth with a no-decision in the books. Tommy Hunter came in to pitch for the Phillies in the top of the seventh.
And then the bullpen lived up to its’ terrible reputation. Hunter allowed two singles, and a double, and hit-by-pitch, and then another single before being taken out. With no outs recorded, he allowed two runs and left the bases loaded for Adam Morgan. Morgan managed to clean up Hunter’s mess, notching a clutch strikeout on Brett Gardner before rolling a 6-4-3 double playoff LeMahieu. Following Hunter’s failed inning, the Phillies were left with a 3-1 deficit. The Phillies went down quietly in the bottom of the seventh against Zach Britton, ending the day with a 3-1 loss.
16.2 innings pitched. 17 earned runs allowed. 25 hits allowed. Sure, the Phillies’ offense did not help Nola. There will be days like that. But the Phillies’ bullpen is terrible every day. A 9.18 ERA is the worst in the league.
During Post-Game Live after game one, Michael Barkann and Ricky Botallico named Tommy Hunter as one of the few reliable names in the bullpen. After game two, I am convinced that only Hector Neris and Adam Morgan can be deemed reliable. If this team wants to make a bona fide playoff run this year, something needs to change in the bullpen. Actually, a lot of things need to change in the bullpen.
The Phillies’ bullpen nearly wasted two stellar outings from Wheeler and Nola, who pitched a combined 12 innings, allowing three earned runs while striking out 14. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ bullpen did not allow a single hit in 4.2 innings of relief in game two.
A Look Ahead
Zach Eflin will make his 2020 debut tomorrow against Jordan Montgomery as the Phillies finish their 2020 set with the Yankees. Following the season finale, the Phillies will host the 8-5 Atlanta Braves for four games. Top pitching prospect Spencer Howard is rumored to make his debut during the series.
Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports