The Phillies split their 4 game series with the Braves 2-2 as they dropped both legs of the double-header on Sunday. The bullpen woes continue to show face as Nick Pivetta and Trevor Kelly combined to allow 7 runs in the 9th inning in the latest game. Luckily a personal heart attack and the collective sorrow from all Phillies fans were avoided and the Phils won the final game in the series by a score of 13-8. Aaron Nola pitched fantastic and his changeup looked borderline unhittable against the respectable bats of the Braves. The Phillies record now sits at 5-6 and they will look to build off this Braves series moving forward.
Nola Finally Gets a Win for Phillies
The 9-game winless streak was put to an end for Aaron Nola as he pitched a gem. Nola pitched 8 innings allowing just 2 hits and 1 run. He has now recorded back-to-back games with double-digit strikeouts. 15 pitches were the most it took for Nola to get through an inning and he was nothing short of surgical in his pitch placement.
The biggest controversy for Nola was whether or not to allow him to finish the game. Oddly enough Nola has yet to pitch into the 9th inning in his career, but with the game already in hand, Joe Girardi decided to rest his arm. The bullpen did their best to blow the 13-1 lead that was given to them, but ultimately Nola picked up his first win on the year.
The Bats Get Rolling
After scoring 5 runs in Saturday’s game and just 2 on Sunday, the Phillies showed the potential that the lineup has. The beginning of the game on Monday nearly looked like batting practice as the Phils piled on 10 runs in the first 2 innings. This was the first time in franchise history that the Phillies hit 4 home runs and scored 10 runs in the first 2 innings of the game. Didi Gregorius hit a grand slam, Bryce Harper sent the ball a mile, JT Realmuto proved once again why he deserves to be paid, and even Roman Quinn got in on the action. Phil Gosselin stayed hot and Rhys Hoskins was able to get off the snide as wel
l. Hitting has not been more of an issue for the Phillies than most expected so far and while Sean Newcomb is by no means the most difficult opponent they will face, it was exciting to see the team flash the offensive potential that they have.
Spencer Howard makes Phillies debut
The long-awaited debut of Spencer Howard finally took place in the second game of the doubleheader on Sunday. Howard went 4.2 innings and didn’t do too much to move the meter one way or another. He ended up taking the loss on the day as he allowed 4 runs and the Phillies were held scoreless by Max Fried. Howard flashed the potential that is obviously there but still has many areas he needs to improve.
Spencer lost velocity fairly quickly and his fastball was down to around 90 by the time was pulled in the 5th. Despite Freddy Freeman knocking one over the fence, Howard’s fastball should not be a concern going forward. He has nice pop on it that was seen, especially early in the game. Beyond the fastball is where growth needs to be seen from Howard. His curve-ball is still developing and he did not seem confident in his change-up. His slider did show some promise and was especially impressive in this at-bat:
Bullpen is Still Horrible
It is no secret at this point that the Phillies bullpen is nowhere close to being good. Yet they are now in the conversation for being historically bad. As a whole, the Phillies bullpen has allowed 34 earned runs in 31 innings of work. That brings the combined ERA to an astonishing 9.87. The Phillies elected to go with cheap, young arms in the bullpen this year and it is clearly not paying off.
It is tough to have any confidence in the team being able to come away with a win when the fate of the game is put in the hands of the bullpen at this point. This issue is one that will follow the team throughout the season and frankly it is impressive that they are still 5-6 considering just how bad the bullpen has been.
The Phillies now sit at 3rd in the NL East behind the Braves and Marlins. This unique year will be interesting to watch play out as the Braves have played a total of 7 games more than the Phillies in this young season. The bats will need to stay hot if they Phillies hope to collect wins going forward. Take away the two losses in the double-header and the Phillies actually played pretty well against the Braves. The team will now look ahead to their matchup against the Orioles over the next 3 days.
Lifelong Philly Sports fan and current college student at Alvernia University. Writes about Sixers and Phillies and Co-Host of Pick Swap Podcast
Twitter: @Sean_Barnard1 and @PickSwapPod