Two weeks ago today, after consecutive fall-from-ahead, seven-inning losses to the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo, Bryce Harper made a comment that probably made you laugh: He said the Phillies needed to “win 9 of 10 games” to turn their season around.
Cornfields on Mars seemed more likely at that moment, but here we are two weeks later and all the Phillies need to do for their ninth win in 10 games is beat the Washington Nationals on Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies won for the eighth time in nine games Wednesday night by blanking the Nationals, 3-0, behind the strong pitching of Zack Wheeler, a two-run single from reserve Neil Walker and a home run from Jay Bruce. They improved to 17-15, the fourth-best record in the National League, and remained three games behind the Braves, who have won four in a row.
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During his pregame Zoom call Tuesday, Phillies manager Joe Girardi was asked if he had ever examined Dick Allen’s Hall of Fame credentials. He said he had not, but promised that he would.
A day later, he had indeed dug deep into the numbers and determined that Allen deserved to be in the Hall, an opinion that is obviously popular around here.
“He’s a Hall of Famer for me,” Girardi said before Wednesday’s game against Washington. “He played in the dead-ball era. He hit 351 home runs. He was rookie of the year and MVP. You know I looked at some of his years, like the year he went to St. Louis and hit 34 home runs and they had one other guy hit 21 — Joe Torre — and then three guys in the teens and nobody hit more than that. So you’re talking about a dead era and you’re talking about a pitcher’s ballpark.
“And I looked something up and from 1964 to 1974, he had a higher wins above replacement than Hank Aaron, Joe Morgan and Carl Yastrzemski, and we all know how good all of those guys are and they are all Hall of Famers and rightfully so. But for 10 years, Dick, Allen was a pretty dominant player, and to have an OPS in your career over .900, I believe that’s a Hall of Famer.
“Maybe he doesn’t have 500 home runs and maybe he doesn’t have 1,500 RBIs, but the man hit .300 seven times, he was an All-Star, he was an MVP, he was a rookie of the year — I would vote for him. And his first game [in the big leagues] was on my daughter’s birthday, so he’s a good guy.”
It was classy and impressive that Girardi took time out of his busy day to investigate Allen’s career, and Thursday, he will get to meet the 78-year-old slugging legend when the Phillies retire his No. 15 during a pregame ceremony at Citizens Bank Park. It also happens to be the day that Allen made his major-league debut 57 years ago.
Hopefully one day soon, the Hall of Fame’s Golden Days Committee will agree with Girardi’s assessment of Allen’s career. Former Phillies pitcher Larry Christenson explained to Scott Lauber why he is so frustrated that the committee’s Hall of Fame election vote was recently pushed back a year.
At Zack Wheeler’s introductory news conference, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak declared that Wheeler and Aaron Nola will form “as good a twosome as you’ll find in the league.” That comment is looking rather prescient 32 games into the season as the two have combined for an 8-2 record and a 2.33 ERA.
After a long drive from Milwaukee to Philadelphia with a stop at his Pittsburgh home in between, new Phillies reliever David Phelps talked about how eager he is to reunite with manager Joe Girardi and catcher J.T. Realmuto. And then he went out and gave the Phillies four big outs in their win over the Nationals.
The baseball world was saddened by Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver’s death at age 75. In a terrific tribute to Tom Terrific, Matt Breen retold the story about how Seaver almost ended up with the Phillies.
The Twitter tributes came pouring in after word spread of Seaver’s death.
Today: Anibal Sanchez vs. Zach Eflin in series finale with Nats, 4:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Jake Arrieta faces the Mets’ Rick Porcello in series opener at Citi Field, 7:10 p.m.
Saturday: Rookie Spencer Howard faces Seth Lugo, 7:10 p.m.
Sunday: A pair of aces — Nola against Jacob deGrom, 1:10 p.m.
Monday: Wheeler faces his former team for a second time, 1:10 p.m.
Tom Seaver’s passing Wednesday sent my mind back to my childhood and the first question I ever asked a professional athlete. Phillies Wall of Fame catcher Bob Boone was the guest of honor at a church breakfast in Willingboro, N.J., after the 1976 season, and after he finished eating and speaking, he opened the floor for questions.
I was a rather shy sixth grader fully in love with baseball, and for some reason I knew that Boone had hit well against Seaver. So I asked why. Boone wasn’t exactly sure, but he was proud of his ability to hit the three-time Cy Young Award winner.
One of the many great things about BaseballReference.com is that you can fact-check your memory. At the time of the breakfast in 1976, Boone was hitting .367 (11-for-30) against Seaver. He cooled off some after that, batting just .220 (9-for-41) the rest of his career. Still, Boone’s career .282 average (20-for-71) was tied for 12th all-time against Seaver among hitters with at least 70 at-bats against him.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Answer: If the playoffs started today, the same guy who is pitching today would be the Game 3 starter, in my opinion. To this point, Zach Eflin has been the Phillies’ third-best starter, and he was sensational in his last outing against the Braves, allowing just one run on four hits over seven innings and throwing only 83 pitches.