Phillies Hold on in a Close One, Beating the Giants 5-4

Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryson Stott hits a run-scoring single against San Francisco Giants pitcher Mitch White during the second inning of a baseball game, Saturday, May 4, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia is home to the team with the best record in baseball. One thing they had not done so far this season in two prior attempts? Win a four-game series.

That changed Sunday night, as the Phillies took care of the Giants’ best-starting pitcher Logan Webb, and were able to secure the 5-4 victory and guarantee a series win.

The final game of the series will be played Monday afternoon, but Philly has already taken the first three. They have a chance for their fourth series sweep of the year. Before we get there, let’s talk about Sunday night.

Taijuan Walker

Let’s get right into the starting pitcher’s performance, Taijuan Walker. He is a big topic of discussion amongst fans, especially since his return means Spencer Turnbull and his 1.67 ERA (6 starts, 32.1 IP) are heading to the bullpen. And his final line after his first start looked rough, as he finished that outing with 6.1 innings, allowing six earned runs. However, before the 7th inning, he was really good!

Having only thrown 73 pitches through six is what allowed him to return for inning No. 7, but thanks to a pinch-hit, three-run home run – that first outing went from a quality start to looking rough in the box score.

Sunday night was a bit of the same. Walker allowed a run in the first but settled in as the night went on. He held them to just that one run through six, throwing just 77 pitches to that point. When the game turned to the seventh, he had an eight-pitch at-bat for an out, before allowing back-to-back hits, the second being a home run to close the scoring gap to 5-3.

Manager Rob Thomson spoke about his outing after the game:

I thought he was good, especially early. He was just pounding the strike zone, getting the heavy hitters. AS the game wore on, he got out of the strike zone a little bit but he battled, he competed. As the game went on, I thought his Splitter got better, a little more depth to it. Mixed his pitches”

Eerily similar to his first start, and he was replaced by the bullpen. Another strong start through six, and damage in inning No. 7. Still, overall he has looked more impressive than most fans thought he would and as the fifth starter in a deep rotation – taking back-to-back strong starts into the seventh is highly valuable, even if the final numbers don’t dictate that.

Walker’s fastball topped out at 92.4 MPH on the night. “He was pretty much 90-92. Hopefully, there’s a little bit more velo there as time goes on, but as I said before he’s a guy that builds velo as the year goes on,” noted Thomson.

Phillies Taijuan Walker
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Taijuan Walker delivers during the first inning of the team’s baseball game against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, June 29, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Offense Continues to Do Its Job

The Phillies’ offense seems to look like world-beaters one night and struggle the next. The last two nights followed that exact pattern. After scoring 14 runs Saturday, Philly had five runners cross the plate on Sunday night. They looked primed for another breakout, as all five runs were scored against Giants ace Logan Webb in the first three innings.

Webb through 73 pitches through those three innings. Bryce Harper hit a three-run homer to right-center in the third, his first since April 26 in San Diego. That also snapped a six-game RBI-less streak for the No. 3 hitter.

San Francisco’s bullpen took over in the fifth and shut down the Philadelphia offense. They struck out 11 times in the final four innings against three Giants relievers. Sean Hjelle pitched two innings tonight, striking out six. That comes after he struck out four hitters over two innings on Friday. Despite that, the Phillies offense was opportunistic. They only drew two walks tonight, but stole four bases and set themselves up well by getting deep in counts. Five runs were good enough to win tonight, and the way they are pitching – should be good enough on most nights too.

Phillies Defense

The Phillies turned 17 double plays coming into this series, and have turned six so far this weekend. I asked Thomson about their success defensively despite having a different look out there each day so far due to injuries and precautions:

“Bobby has those guys working on it every day…those guys work hard at it. We went through kind of the same thing last year where we didn’t turn many double plays early. Then as the season went on it got better and better… and I think you’re seeing the same thing this year”

The manager was also asked about Rojas’ approach, as he appeared to overrun a ball in the eighth inning, albeit – a ball not everyone even catches up to:

“When you talk about him on defense, and something wrong happens, I think we’re overplaying it a little bit here ’cause he gets to so many balls that – those two balls tonight, I’m thinking ‘he should catch them.’ But is that really fair? Because not many guys get to those balls… I think he’s a great defender. I mean a great defender, so – I trust him”

What’s Next?

Philadelphia sends Zach Wheeler to the mound tomorrow as they wrap up their series with San Francisco. The Giants send a local Lehigh Valley kid, Mason Black, out tomorrow to make his major league debut.

Mason has dominated at AAA so far this year. He has allowed just three earned runs over 26.2 innings so far for Sacramento. He gets to make his debut against the team he rooted for as a kid, in front of his family.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)