The Phillies built an early lead (as they often do). They blew that lead (as they often do). Then, they came back and won anyway (as they often do).
Indeed, the surging Phillies staved off a badly struggling Red Sox squad for a walk-off 6-5 win in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader. In doing so, they have now won 12 of their last 15 games and move a step closer to securing what appears to be an increasingly likely postseason spot.
In the seventh inning, Alec Bohm, who had three hits and four RBI, stepped to the plate with two away. He followed what looked like a rally-killing strikeout by Adam Haseley, and it seemed the Phillies were about to let yet another game spoiled by its bullpen slip away.
Bohm wasn’t having it. Any of it.
— MLB (@MLB) September 8, 2020
Quickly, it is becoming hard to find new superlatives to describe the Phillies’ most exciting newcomer since Ryan Howard won the National League Rookie of the Year Award back in 2005. I guess you could make a case for Cole Hamels in 2006, but whatever, you get the point.
Make absolutely no mistake – this is a flawed team. To suggest otherwise is simply ignoring the obvious, but these guys are tough as hell, and Bohm is a big part of that toughness.
Alec Bohm is the real deal. Love the approach, the demeanor and the results. GoPhils!!!
— Ruben Amaro, Jr. (@RAJr_20) September 8, 2020
The Philadelphia Bullpen: A Model of Consistency
Zach Eflin wasn’t great in game one. More on that in a bit. However, he did turn the ball over to the bullpen with six outs to go and a one-run lead.
Betcha can’t guess what happened next!
Tommy Hunter, who had held opponents scoreless in 10 of his last 11 outings, first coughed up a one-out, game-tying homer to Bobby Dalbec. Two batters later, Hunter plunked Alex Verdugo and that brought Rafael Devers to the plate. He promptly delivered his third extra-base hit of the game, this one a double that hit off the top of the right field fence to plate Verdugo with the go-ahead run.
Devers, by the way, is now 9-for-13 with six extra-base hits against the Phillies this season. Cool idea here – stop pitching to him.
Following its latest rough one, the Phillies’ bullpen now holds a league-worst 7.14 ERA.
Zach Eflin, Just O.K.
Following a so-so six innings against Washington last week, Zach Eflin scattered eight hits and three earned runs over five innings before turning things over to Hunter in the sixth. He struck out six and walked just one, but the long ball, and I mean the long ball, hurt him today.
The Red Sox banged three homers that traveled a combined distance of 1,256 feet off of Eflin. Two of the blasts came from the bat of Devers, whose third-inning homer left the park at 116.5 mph. It produced the third-highest exit velo in baseball this season and the highest of Devers’ career. A piss-missile some would call it. Blink and you’ll miss it:
This was the hardest hit ball of Devers’ career. It was also the third hardest hit ball in baseball this season.
— Bob Wankel (@BobWankelCB) September 8, 2020
That homer would tie the game at 1-1. Eflin would bounce with an efficient 10-pitch fourth inning, but his troubles with keeping the ball in the yard returned an inning later when he allowed back-to-back solo shots to Alex Verdugo and Devers.
After 88 pitches and yielding some hard contact, his day was done.
In two starts since his masterful seven-inning performance against Atlanta back on Aug. 29, Eflin has surrendered 15 hits, four homers, and seven earned runs in just 11 innings of work.
Catching Some Breaks
The Red Sox, if you haven’t heard, aren’t a very good team. They entered the day with a 14-28 record and showed why early.
In the third inning, with Bryce Harper on third and two outs in a tie game, Boston catcher Christian Vazquez tried to back pick Harper but instead threw the ball into left field, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
Following a pair of walks to Didi Gregorius and Phil Gosselin, the two advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch by Martín Pérez. Unsurprisingly, Alec Bohm did what Alec Bohm does. He did Alec Bohm things:
#Phillies Rookie Alec Bohm sends a 3-2 count 89 MPH cutter up the middle to give the Phils a 4-1 lead.
— Luke Stansfield (@luke_stans) September 8, 2020
Of course, the best of Bohm was yet to come.
Tough Luck, Rhys
Bohm gave the Phillies what probably should have been enough breathing room, but the Phillies could have used some more.
They almost had more in the second inning when Rhys Hoskins came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. Hoskins worked a full count before hitting a ball on the screws at 106.8 mph. The only problem? It was right at left fielder Michael Chavis. Tough break.
Rejoin The Party, Bryce
It was another lackluster game for the suddenly stumbling Bryce Harper.
Following the Phillies’ 6-5 loss to the Braves on Aug. 22, Harper was hitting .343 with a 1.192 OPS. To be fair, those numbers were unsustainable. However, Harper came into today hitting just. 159 with a .527 OPS in 44 at-bats since that night. After his 0-for-3 performance in game one, Harper is now hitting .149 during that stretch.
He had an opportunity to reverse his fortunes when he came to the plate with two runners on and two away in the sixth, but he failed to deliver when he produced a shallow flyout to right field that ended the threat.
It’s just 14 games, but in a 60-game season, he hasn’t supplied much production for nearly 25% of the schedule. A level-headed, rational observer knows these things happen in baseball, but, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re not exactly working under normal circumstances here.
This is a team that needs its best players to outhit its deficiencies. Alec Bohm is one of this team’s best players, and he cleaned up the mess in game one. Harper, however, has to get it going.