If the Phillies keep winning games the way they did Monday night at Citizens Bank Park, they might have to trade the Phillie Phanatic to the Flyers for Gritty.
They beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 7-4, despite a three-inning clunker from staff ace Aaron Nola, who still managed to play a part by putting a ball in play as a hitter that led to two second-inning runs.
They won despite the continuing slump of Bryce Harper, who was hitless in four at-bats, striking out three times as his average dipped to .222. And still the right fielder played a crucial role with a diving, seventh-inning catch that prevented Mike Moustakas from giving the Brewers a three-run lead with a bases-loaded double.
“When you’re struggling to make contributions on offense, you have to remind yourself you can change the game with your defense, and Bryce did that tonight,” manager Gabe Kapler said.
Jean Segura scored the winning run in the seventh after he had struck out to open the inning. But after reaching first on a wild pitch, he pulled off a one-out steal of second base and scored on a two-out double by catcher J.T. Realmuto.
The Phillies won despite falling behind by 2-0 in the first inning and 4-2 in the fourth when reliever Austin Davis escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam.
They won behind six relievers who combined to allow just one run in six innings. They won with the help of a game-tying, two-out home run from Cesar Hernandez, the hottest hitter in their lineup.
They won in the cold and the rain, and it took nearly four hours after a 52-minute rain delay to do it.
They are gritty.
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The Phillies reached the quarter pole of their season Monday night with a 24-16 record. They are one of just seven major-league teams with a .600-or-better winning percentage, and they have a 3 1/2-game lead in the National League East. Only the Houston Astros in the AL West and the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central have a bigger lead.
So what has Kapler learned about his team after 40 games?
“I think one of my biggest takeaways is we have a lot of different ways we can beat you,” Kapler said. “We can beat you with an offensive explosion. We can beat you with a big inning. We can beat you without a home run through walks and patient at-bats and a few timely hits. We have the ability to beat teams with our bullpen, and we can get some long, impressive starts. I feel like we’re a well-rounded team so far.”
Perhaps the most interesting thing of all is that the 2019 Phillies’ record after 40 games is identical to the 2018 Phillies’ record after 40 games. Both teams also had a plus-42 run differential.
Last year’s team relied more heavily on pitching. The team ERA was 3.38 after 40 games a year ago. It is 3.79 after Aaron Nola’s shaky three-inning start that left his personal ERA at 4.86.
“It was pretty embarrassing on my part,” Nola said after throwing 84 pitches in three innings. “But the bullpen came in and did the job.”
The 2019 Phillies have been a slightly better offensive team than the 2018 team was through 40 games. The offense is averaging 5.2 runs compared to 4.7 runs last year, and this year’s team also has a higher batting average (.248 to .242), a higher on-base percentage (.335 to .331), and a higher OPS (.748 to .733).
The Phillies’ 45 home runs are only one more than they had a year ago after 40 games, but they have 133 extra-base hits compared to just 117 at the same time last year.
“I think every single guy on this team is pulling the same rope every single day,” Harper said. “When we’re down, we’re not down. When we’re up, we want to get up bigger. I think it just shows how great of a group we are and how great of a staff we have. Everybody grinds every single day. Everybody has the mentality to get better every single day and win each game we can.”
Adam Morgan got the win Monday against the Brewers, but he was more than willing to give Bryce Harper’s seventh-inning catch credit for the save. Matt Breen’s game story describes what Morgan was feeling as he watched Mike Moustakas’ bases-loaded line drive that was snared by Harper.
In their first home game since the death of David Montgomery, the Phillies paid tribute to their former team chairman and president in a variety of ways. They also wore a DPM patch on their jerseys for the first time and will continue to do so for the rest of the season.
The news on the injury front was not great for reliever David Robertson on Monday. The Phillies announced he will miss at least another month with the arm injury that has sidelined him since April 14.
Kapler made it official Monday that lefty Cole Irvin will get a second big-league start Friday night when the Phillies open a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park. Breen points out that if Irvin stays longer than that, either Nick Pivetta or Vince Velasquez is likely to become part of the Phillies’ depleted bullpen.
Tonight: Jerad Eickhoff vs. Milwaukee’s Brandon Woodruff, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Jake Arrieta vs. Gio Gonzalez, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Zach-o-mania: Zach Eflin vs. Zach Davies, 1:05 p.m.
Friday: Cole Irvin makes second career start vs. Colorado, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Aaron Nola vs. Rockies, 4:05 p.m.
Scott Kingery, out since April 19 with a hamstring injury, was scheduled to start a rehab assignment at low-A Lakewood on Monday night, but the BlueClaws’ game was postponed because of rain. He was white-hot when he went on the injury list, hitting .406 with four doubles and two home runs among his 13 hits. It looked as if he had a chance to replace Hernandez as the second baseman sooner rather than later. Hernandez was hitting .246 and not playing particularly well in the field when Kingery got hurt.
Since Kingery has been on the injury list, however, Hernandez has emerged as the Phillies’ hottest hitter. With his two hits Monday night, Hernandez improved his overall average to a team-high .306. In 21 games while Kingery has been out, Hernandez has batted .360 (27-for-75) with a .410 on-base percentage. He has seven doubles, two home runs and nine RBIs in that stretch. At least for now, it appears Kingery is going to have to find his playing time elsewhere.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Question: I’m a long-time Philly fan — moved to FL in ’82 and then to TN last year but still always root for my Philly teams and I always enjoy reading Extra Innings. My question concerns Madison Bumgarner’s list of no-trade teams, of which the Phillies are one.
At first I was really disappointed 'cause I would love to see them trade for him before the deadline but then I thought, is this a ploy to help give him more negotiation power? What’s your take? What would you put the odds of the Phils landing Bumgarner this summer and do you think he’s worth going after?
— Jim D., via email
Answer: When you look at the teams on Bumgarner’s no-trade list, you have to believe he chose them as a negotiating ploy. In addition to the Phillies, it includes the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals. Those are teams that Bumgarner would absolutely go to in a trade, but he obviously wants something out of the deal if and when it happens.