Joe Girardi stuck with his best pitcher with two runners on, nobody out, and the score tied in the ninth inning. Zack Wheeler threw an 0-2 fastball that caught too much of the plate.
And in the end, the Phillies landed back on familiar ground: .500.
“We’ve got to pick it up,” Wheeler said Wednesday night after giving up a three-run homer to Francisco Mejía in a 7-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. “We had a good spell. We had a little bad spell. We’ve been talking about consistency the whole year. We just need to find that, especially down this last little stretch right here.”
But the Phillies have been consistent. Consistently mediocre. They are 63-63, the 23rd time this season that they’ve had an equal number of wins and losses. It doesn’t matter if they reel off eight victories in a row or lose 10 out of 14 games. Things always seem to even out for them.
Even Steven doesn’t win division titles, though. The Phillies are five games behind the Braves, and if that doesn’t sound like much of a cushion, consider this: The Braves could finish 18-18 and the Phillies would have to go 23-13 just to be tied at the end of the season.
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There’s so much to unpack about Girardi’s decision to stay with Wheeler. Matt Breen has more details here.
The Phillies’ shakeup in player-development was about more than putting new people in reorganized roles. It was about Dave Dombrowski defining and perhaps redeveloping an organizational philosophy.
Zach Eflin is scheduled to come off the injured list tonight and make his first start for the Phillies since July 16. How much will he be able to help the playoff push?
Check out Inquirer photographer Steven Falk’s photo gallery from Wednesday night.
Tonight: Eflin gets things started vs. Diamondbacks, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Aaron Nola is scheduled to face Arizona, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Kyle Gibson set to start vs. D’backs, 6:05 p.m.
Sunday: Phillies will face Arizona’s Madison Bumgarner, 1:05 p.m.
Monday: The Phillies open a series in Washington, 7:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
Bryce Harper’s two-run homer in the fifth inning Wednesday was measured at 445 feet, according to Statcast, his longest at Citizens Bank Park this season. It also marked his eighth homer in August, his highest monthly total since he went deep 11 times in August 2019.
Harper also has reached base safely in 29 of his last 31 games. He’s 31-for-96 (.323) with nine doubles, one triple, nine homers, 19 RBIs, 30 walks, 22 strikeouts, and a 1.203 OPS over that stretch.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Question: Hello! Many thanks to you guys for writing for this newsletter every day!
From what I’ve been hearing, the DH is (unfortunately) coming to the NL next year. I would like to assume that this year is just the typical sophomore slump for Alec Bohm, and next year offensively he will get back to what he did last year. If both of these things do happen, I would think Bohm would make a really good DH. What do you guys think? Thanks!
— Alec H., via email
Answer: Thanks, Alec. Great question. Apt first name, too!
At this point, it’s difficult to see Bohm developing into even an average third baseman. Maybe the Phillies could better hide his defense at first, but they’re already doing that with Rhys Hoskins, who makes more of an offensive impact than Bohm at least in terms of power. Left field? I have my doubts after seeing Hoskins, Hanley Ramirez, and others fail there.
It’s easy, then, to look at Bohm as a DH. But that role has evolved over the years. Fewer teams employ one DH anymore, as the Red Sox did with David Ortiz or the Mariners did with Edgar Martinez. Only six players have more than 250 plate appearances as a DH this season.
Instead, teams rotate hitters through the DH spot to give them a rest from playing defense. And standard DHs (Nelson Cruz, J.D. Martinez, Shohei Ohtani, etc.) usually hit for big power. That’s one area in which Bohm hasn’t developed as a hitter.