The Phillies escaped – that’s right – escaped with a doubleheader split at Citi Field. It didn’t matter that the Mets entered the day having lost 17 of their previous 20 games at home, nor did it matter that they’re a terrible baseball team that has seemingly packed it in, the Phillies were fortunate to walk away with a wash. Still, at 50-39 they remain tied atop the NL East with the Braves and a comfortable 5.5 games ahead of the sputtering Nationals. Here are five takeaways after 6.5 hours and 19 innings of what was, at times, hard to watch baseball:
Maikel Franco, productive hitter
I wrote extensively yesterday about Maikel Franco’s offensive resurgence, so I’ll keep this short. He reached base four more times yesterday, including this fourth inning bomb off Zack Wheeler:
But it was this eight pitch walk that he worked to load the bases in the eighth inning that I was most impressed with:
Franco has struggled immensely against the changeup and slider this season, but has excelled against the fastball. How many times throughout the years would an overanxious Franco flail wildly at an offspeed pitch low and out of the strike zone? I thought the patience he demonstrated in this sequence was particularly encouraging. His ability to sustain this type of discipline will ultimately dictate whether or not he can maintain his recent level of performance.
The good and bad of the bullpen
The much maligned Phillies bullpen has been on a good run lately, despite some rough moments yesterday. Since June 30, Phillies’ relievers have combined to allow only five earned runs in 36.1 innings of work (1.24 ERA). Pat Neshek’s return, paired with Edubray Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez, has suddenly formed what appears to be a formidable trio of arms out of the pen. That’s the good news.
The bad news? Tommy Hunter. Christ, man. Mr. FIP worked a clean eighth last night before coming dangerously close to blowing Nola’s masterful performance in the ninth. I know some peripherals suggest there has been an element of bad luck that has contributed to his struggles, and that’s fine, but this is where you lose me on deeper statistics. Yes, opponents are hitting .378 against him on balls in play, which is 119 points higher than the .259 they hit a season ago, but this is a results oriented game. His 11.3 H/9, 1.50 WHIP, and 4.71 ERA have been tough to watch. He’s allowed at least one earned run in 11 of his 33 appearances, and he evokes zero confidence when he’s on the mound. Also, why are we calling this guy “Tommy” anyway, like he’s an old pal? From now on, it’s Tom, Thom, or Thomas, whichever he least prefers.
It’s been so bad for Hunter that someone (not me) made a Change.org petition after last night’s game that calls for his release:
All things flow through Aaron Nola. In a game that the Phillies wouldn’t have won without a dominant performance from their starting pitcher, Nola delivered exactly that. Over seven shutout innings, Nola overwhelmed the Mets, allowing a mere two batters to reach base while striking out 10. There’s just not much more I can say about how good he’s been this season, so here’s a look at how he currently stacks up against other qualified National League starters:
Let’s see. Anything else? Indeed:
Aaron Nola drove in all 3 runs for the @Phillies and struck out 10 in 7 innings of 1-hit ball to pick up his 12th win of the season
It's the most wins by a Phillies pitcher before the All-Star Break since Curt Schilling in 1999 pic.twitter.com/yFFXbz9qB0
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 10, 2018
The Phillies offense was abysmal in both games yesterday. Aside from their inability to capitalize on golden scoring chances in the seventh, eighth, and tenth innings, there’s also this little nugget: The Phillies managed an entire two extra-base hits in 58 at-bats over two games. Yes, they strung together 10 hits, worked seven walks, and did the thing where they grind the opposing starting pitcher out of the game in the fifth in game one, but it’s hard to win when hitters don’t find gaps or the outfield seats. Their lack of extra-base hits is even more dubious when you consider that one of them was, of course, this:
⭐ THE ALL-STAR CAN DO IT ALL ⭐
Nola's base clearing double gives the Phillies a 3-0 lead! pic.twitter.com/mGfoENSqG0
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) July 10, 2018
Predictably, the Phillies have scored only 10 runs over 37 innings since their 17-run outburst in Pittsburgh on Friday night.
PHOTO CREDIT: ADAM HUNGER-USA TODAY SPORTS
What a babe.