The Phillies mustered two runs on seven hits over 14 innings while being swept by the Braves on Sunday, then turned around and scored three runs before making an out Monday in the series finale. By the time the evening was over, they had 13 runs on 14 hits, including five home runs. A 13-8 win gave them a split of the four-game series.
And still, the bullpen managed to become a big part of the story. After Aaron Nola produced another gem by allowing just a run on two hits over eight innings, Nick Pivetta came on in the ninth and immediately surrendered a leadoff home run to Johan Camargo, who had been hitless in his previous 15 at-bats.
Pivetta gave up six runs and registered one out before being relieved by Trevor Kelley, who allowed another run before ending the game.
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The Phillies offense has been a picture of inconsistency so far this season, averaging just 2.3 runs in six losses and 8.2 runs in five victories. Consistency, however, is coming from the team’s two biggest stars.
Bryce Harper, for the second time in 11 games, kick-started the offense in the first inning Monday night by blasting a three-run home run off Atlanta lefty Sean Newcomb, and the offense just kept piling on. Harper has reached base in all 11 games this season and is hitting .303 with three home runs and eight RBIs. His .465 on-base percentage ranks third in baseball, and his 1.071 OPS is ninth.
Harper was 2-for-3 in Monday’s win over the Braves, but he spent more time talking about his fifth-inning strikeout with the bases loaded even though the Phillies were ahead by 12-1 at the time.
“I feel good at the plate,” Harper said. “But I definitely could be better. I can’t believe the at-bat I had with the bases loaded. I have to get better at that. I have to get those guys in now matter what. Every situation counts. I don’t care if we are up 10-1 or whatever. I have to get the job done, and I wasn’t able to do that. I missed two pitches over the middle of the plate that I have to do damage on just in case it is a big situation.
“I love hitting with guys on base, but I have to get better. I have to stop swinging at pitches over my head and start swinging at strikes. I have to try to walk more and be on base more. I’m never satisfied with what I do.”
That’s some pretty good insight into how Bryce Harper views the game, but he also knows the offense needs to be more consistent overall.
“I think we just need to be better all around every night,” Harper said. “We can’t have nights where we don’t get hits or don’t get the job done. Of course, you’re going to have those nights because it is part of the game and you’re going to run into a guy like [Braves left-hander] Max Fried. But we need to be better as a team all around. Not all of us are going to be on point each night ... but we need to be better with the opportunities we get.”
Harper also took the high road when asked about the Phillies bullpen, which has an unfathomable 9.87 ERA after 11 games.
“That’s a tough question,” he said. “I mean, I think as a team we have to rely on our guys. We’re at the big-league level for a reason. Just like people rely on me not to go out there and punch out with the bases loaded, we have to rely on the guys that are coming out of the bullpen and trust in those guys and give them the opportunity to do well.”
Manager Joe Girardi continued to show confidence in Rhys Hoskins on Monday night by batting the struggling first baseman second in the series finale against the Braves. Hoskins responded with a hit and his team-leading 13th walk of the season, which boosted his on-base percentage to .435, which is eighth in baseball.
Everything was going great Monday night against the Braves until Nick Pivetta came on in relief and surrendered seven runs in the Phillies’ 13-8 win. Girardi insisted that Pivetta’s pitiful performance could not dampen his feelings about the way Aaron Nola pitched and the way the offense pounded the baseball.
Tonight: Baltimore’s Alex Cobb vs. Zack Wheeler, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Orioles’ Wade LeBlanc vs. Zach Eflin, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Jake Arrieta pitches series finale vs. Baltimore, 4:05 p.m.
Friday: Jacob deGrom pitches series opener for Mets at Citizens Bank Park, 7:05 p.m.
Aug. 18: Phillies second road game of the season, at Boston, 7:30 p.m.
On this date in 1970, Jim Bunning pitched the Phillies to a 6-5 win over the Houston Astros at the Astrodome for his 100th career National League victory, making him the first pitcher since Cy Young to win 100 games in each league. Bunning, inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1996, finished his career with a 118-87 record in the American League and a 106-97 record in the National League.
“It was much ado about nothing,” Bunning said after the game. “I’m glad to get it over with.”
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Question: I love reading Extra Innings. As an avid baseball and Phillies fan for 50+ years, I often read about “bullpen sessions” and “simulated games” for pitchers on off days. However, no one has ever described just exactly what each entails. Can you please explain? Thanks. — Donna F., via email
Answer: Thanks for reading, Donna, and here’s to hoping you keep reading for 50 more years. As for your question, bullpen sessions are simply when a pitcher goes into the bullpen and throws to a catcher in preparation for his next start. He typically will throw a predetermined number of pitches and work on a variety of things that might have troubled him in the previous starts. Some starting pitchers will shorten the length of their bullpen sessions later in the season so they do not overthrow.