It must’ve been the red jerseys.
Sure, Zack Wheeler delivered six shutout innings to lower his ERA to 2.15. And Rhys Hoskins busted an 0-for-33 slump with a home run in the first inning against Clayton Kershaw. Oh, and José Alvarado mowed down six batters in a row, including three-pitch strikeouts of Mookie Betts and Chris Taylor.
But how about those red jerseys?
“I like it,” Joe Girardi said after the Phillies donned their alternate uniform tops on the road for the first time since July 9, 1992, and walked out of Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night with a sweep-averting 2-0 victory. “I’m going to sleep in it.”
Hey, whatever works.
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Héctor Neris finally delivers at Dodger Stadium
Fifty-nine years after it opened, Dodger Stadium is as picturesque as ever, a five-level gem cut into the hillside of Chavez Ravine in the Elysian Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.
It’s also Héctor Neris’ personal torture chamber.
When the Phillies closer enters a game at Dodger Stadium, bad things usually happen. He gave up three homers in a row there in a spectacular ninth-inning meltdown on April 29, 2017. He lost a game there in 2019 when Will Smith took him deep. In six appearances there before this week, he gave up runs in four of them. The ghastly numbers: seven runs on 12 hits, including five home runs, in 5 1/3 innings.
That’s some next-level haunted-house type of stuff.
“I knew they had some numbers on him. Certain guys had some numbers on him,” Girardi said. “But I was not aware of the demons.”
Layer on top of that Neris’ recent struggles, including blown saves in back-to-back games last week against the Braves and Yankees, and when he hit the first Dodgers batter in the ninth inning with a two-run lead last night, well, here we go again, right?
Not this time.
Neris got Austin Barnes to ground into a double play. And after hitting Smith, as 52,157 fans roared, he got Betts to fly to center field and nailed down his first save at Dodger Stadium.
“It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, especially here,” Neris said. “Here is emotional for me. To come here and pitch and try to get a win for my guys, I work every time, every day, every pitch, and every game.”
Until last week, Neris had been pitching well. He went a month — 8 1/3 innings, to be exact — without allowing a run. His ERA entering June was 1.96. He converted nine of his first 11 save opportunities.
But then he gave up a game-tying solo homer to the Braves’ Freddie Freeman last Thursday and a three-run shot to the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu last Saturday, and the familiar calls for him to be replaced in the closer role rang out again at Citizens Bank Park.
“I just think about the last time, the last game, making better pitches than I did,” Neris said. “I looked for what I did wrong in the last game and try to repair it, try to attack that and try to take it into the new game and try to be better where you are the last time and trust yourself, go to the game and pitch.”
And what did Neris conclude he needed to do better when he looked back at those games last week?
“Attack, you know?” he said. “Attack, attack, attack, and attack. When you attack, you get good results. Don’t give too much credit to the hitter. Just attack the guy and see what he does.”
Neris attacked Barnes and Betts with sinkers. And this time, he slayed the Dodger Stadium demon.
“Every time I get the win, a save, it’s a celebration for me,” Neris said. “It’s a big game every time. It’s a big day.”
Jean Segura has been the Phillies’ leading hitter, but he’s going to miss about three weeks with a Grade 1 strain of his left groin. Luke Williams filled in at second base last night and got three hits.
The case of Didi Gregorius’ mysterious elbow problem is closer to being solved. As Matt Breen writes, Gregorius has a rare, but fairly minor condition known as pseudogout.
Girardi supports MLB’s crackdown on pitchers using sticky stuff to enhance their spin rates and make life even more miserable on hitters. He just wishes it started yesterday.
Today: The Phillies are off.
Tomorrow: Vince Velasquez starts opener in San Francisco, 9:45 p.m.
Saturday: Aaron Nola faces Gabe Kapler’s Giants, 4:05 p.m.
Sunday: Phillies vs. Giants in series finale on Peacock, 4:05 p.m.
Monday: The Phillies are off.
Stat of the day
About those red jerseys: Although they’re standard attire in spring training, the Phillies hadn’t worn them in the regular season since 2017, when they broke them out for weekday home games.
According to the Phillies, they went 6-7 in the red jerseys in 2016 and 2017, including Vince Velasquez’s three-hit, 16-strikeout shutout of the San Diego Padres on April 14, 2016, at Citizens Bank Park.
Baseball players are a superstitious lot. The Phillies were already planning to wear the red jerseys Sunday in San Francisco. With a few more outcomes like last night, don’t be surprised to see them regularly.
“I love it,” Neris said. “Hey, if we win, I love it.”
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Question: Why has manager after manager trusted Neris to close games? — @Jersey_Kev, via Twitter
Answer: Hey, Kev. Thanks for the question. So, for his career, Neris is 82-for-105 in save opportunities, a 78.1% success rate that ranks 32nd among active relievers with at least 25 saves. That’s OK, not great. And to your point, Neris closed for Pete Mackanin in 2017, Kapler in 2018-19, and Girardi the last two years.
To me, it’s an indictment of Phillies bullpens past and present. The club signed free-agent relievers — Pat Neshek, David Robertson, and Archie Bradley come to mind — with closer potential, but because of injuries and/or poor performance, Neris has remained the best option.
The Phillies could do worse. Could they do better? Probably.