The Kids Weren’t Having It: Phils Overcome Bullpen to Complete Doubleheader Sweep

After Zach Eflin delivered a clutch complete game seven-inning shutout to lift the reeling Phillies over the Blue Jays in game one of Friday’s doubleheader, it appeared we would again bear witness to a backbreaking loss authored by the game’s worst bullpen.

But the kids (and a suddenly rejuvenated right fielder) weren’t having it. Not tonight.

Little-used David Hale gave the Phillies a chance with a competent 3.1 IP to start the night, but an early 2-0 lead quickly turned into a 5-2 deficit when Hale and JoJo Romero faltered in the fourth. Thoughts of the Phillies’ first doubleheader sweep of the season (and first in over eight years) were quickly replaced by the familiar nightly frustration directed at the team’s overmatched bullpen.

But the Phillies would respond in the bottom of the frame.

Following a leadoff walk by Scott Kingery, rookie Mickey Moniak recorded the first hit of his career:

Fellow rookie Rafael Marchan then stepped to the plate. Marchan, a 21-year-old backup catcher who hadn’t played a professional regular season game higher than single-A before this week, delivered an improbable hit that would help change the course of the game – and perhaps the course of a Phillies’ season that looked to be careening out of control.

And when I write that this home run was improbable, I don’t mean it as a slight to Marchan. It’s just facts — the man had not homered in any of his 765 at-bats over four minor league seasons before tonight.

That’s improbable.

Making it even more improbable is that the rally was spurred, in part, by two players who have a combined nine days of major league experience.

Like so many other times this season, however, the feel-good moment was quickly overshadowed by another bullpen meltdown when it took Heath Hembree only three batters to put the Blue Jays back in front. Toronto would add to its lead later in the inning when Connor Brogdon issued a bases-loaded walk to Danny Jansen.

Now, you can say a lot of things about this team. You can definitely say a lot of things about the bullpen, none of them good, but any assessment of this flawed and often maddening group must include the term “resilient.”

That quality was on full display in the bottom of the sixth when Moniak worked a one-out walk and Marchan slapped a base-hit to left that brought the potential go-ahead run to the plate.

After Andrew McCutchen struck out on a borderline called-third strike that would earn hitting coach Joe Dillon an early shower courtesy of home plate umpire Ramon De Jesus, the Phillies badly needed a moment, a season-defining, hair-raising, goosebump-inducing type of moment from Bryce Harper.

He delivered it:

It was a huge hit for Harper, who has come out of a brutal slump with authority over the last three games.

After an 0-for-5 performance on Wednesday, Harper was hitting just .159 (13-for-82) over a 24-game stretch. But Harper, who homered twice in Thursday’s loss to the Mets, added another four hits and reached base in six of his eight plate appearances on Friday.  It would appear that he’s coming back to life at exactly the right time as the Phillies desperately need their highest-ceiling player to carry them over the final nine games.

Rookie Alec Bohm (who else?) then delivered another clutch hit with a well-placed single to the right side of the infield that would plate Harper from second base with the go-ahead run.

Given a third opportunity to shut the door, the bullpen finally responded. The struggling Hector Neris would get the first two batters of the inning before issuing walks to Jonathan Villar and Travis Shaw. However, Toronto would fail to capitalize as Cavan Biggio sharply lined out to center for the final out. Call it the law of averages finally throwing the Phillies bullpen a bone. Call it whatever you want, but the Phillies will take it.

With the win, somehow they sit just 1/2 game behind Miami for second place in the NL East and remain clinging to the National League’s eighth and final playoff spot.

 

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