It’s safe to exhale now. The Phillies held on Tuesday night and turned back the Red Sox, 3-2. Really. They scored three runs in the first, didn’t score again, and watched the bullpen lock down the final two innings after Aaron Nola gave the Phillies seven strong innings.
It was the start of a five-game road trip, and losing a Nola start would not have been the best way to kick it off. They are still two games out of the wild card and nine games out of the division lead, as they did not pick up ground on the leaders. But staying even is better than falling farther behind.
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You can make an argument that Fenway Park is baseball’s premier ballpark. It has the Green Monster and Pesky’s Pole. Yawkey Way is lively, and a Fenway Frank is up there with a Dodger Dog. Just don’t tell the Phillies how nice the place is.
The Phillies won Tuesday night for just the 10th time in 30 games in Boston since interleague play began in 1997. No other active ballpark — minimum 10 games played — has given the Phillies as much trouble.
Tuesday night was one of the rare times that the Phillies were able to enjoy Fenway, and Wednesday could be an even rarer sight. If the Phillies win Wednesday — they have a good chance against Rick Porcello — it will be their first series win at Fenway Park since 1999.
It has been 20 years since the Phillies took two of three from the Red Sox. How long ago was it? Check out these names. Robert Person started one win, and Randy Wolf started the other. Ron Gant homered in both wins, each time over the Green Monster, and Wayne Gomes locked down the first win with a four-out save. Rob Ducey and Steve Schrenk, now coaches in the Phillies system, played that weekend. Yes, it’s been a while since the Phillies had success at Fenway Park.
Porcello won the Cy Young with the Sox in 2016 but has a 5.49 ERA this season in 25 starts. He held the hapless Orioles to one run last week in six innings, but he has a 5.09 ERA this season at Fenway Park. Even he can’t enjoy it.
The Phillies took advantage Tuesday night of a favorable matchup and jumped spot starter Brian Johnson for three first-inning runs. But then they went quiet. They’ll have to treat Porcello the same early, keep their foot on the gas, and hope Drew Smyly can keep them in it. If so, the Phillies can take a look around and enjoy the sights.
Beginning Friday night, Scott Lauber writes from Boston, the Phillies will play 36 games in 39 days. It will be a full-on sprint to the end of the season, and it could end with the Phillies reaching October. Nola, who pitched seven innings in Tuesday’s win, will start eight of those games and “if it wasn’t already clear, it certainly is now: The Phillies’ best pitching strategy is to put the ball in Nola’s hand as often as possible."
Why is Rhys Hoskins still batting leadoff? Gabe Kapler explained before Tuesday’s game and then watched Hoskins reach base three times. “Quite frankly, I don’t really care how this is interpreted. He’s good in that spot. He sees pitches. You lead off the game one time during the game, and in that time, he is well-suited to work a pitcher, to grind a pitcher and to see pitches so that all of his teammates are watching and see which pitches the opposing starting pitcher has that day,” Kapler said.
Why is that man running from the bullpen? New Phillies reliever Jared Hughes said he started sprinting from the bullpen when he thought his baseball career was nearing the finish line in the minor leagues. It turned out that it saved his career and launched him to a long major-league career.
Tonight: Drew Smyly faces right-hander Rick Porcello in series finale at Fenway, 7:10 p.m.
Tomorrow: The Phillies are off.
Friday: Vince Velasquez opens series in Miami against right-hander Hector Noesi, 7:10 p.m.
Saturday: Zach Eflin starts against right-hander Jordan Yamamoto, 6:10 p.m.
Sunday: Phillies end five-game road trip in Miami, 1:10 p.m.
Aaron Nola was great Tuesday night, but how about Mike Morin? The Phillies will ride Nola to the finish line this season, but they likely won’t be able to reach the playoffs without the help of their bullpen and arms such as Morin.
The Phillies traded for Morin in July after he was designated for assignment by the Twins, and he’s been strong since. Tuesday was the right-hander’s 12th appearance with the Phillies, 10 of which have been scoreless. He does not strike out a ton of batters (14 percent strikeout rate this season) as he uses his change-up to induce weak contact (41 percent groundball rate). But he showed Tuesday that he can throw his fastball to pick up a big strikeout, whiffing Mookie Betts in the eighth inning with the game on the line.
“At one point early, when we got Mike Morin, he said, ‘I’m going to be a guy for you before the end of the season.’ It didn’t take long,” Kapler said. “He’s really established himself as our highest-leverage right-handed reliever not named Hector Neris. It’s a really interesting pitch, that change-up. He knows when to lean on it, and he knows when to go to his fastball. I think our coaching staff, myself included, have a tremendous amount of confidence in Mike Morin right now, and he’s earned it.”
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Question: What is the Phillies record against the bottom teams in all divisions and both leagues? Seems we aren’t beating the teams we should be. — Dick N. via email.