Zack Wheeler was dominant Monday night as he outpitched Adam Wainwright in St. Louis and came just three outs short of throwing a one-hit shutout. Héctor Neris picked up the final three outs for Wheeler, but he came within a few feet of a blown save. No sweat. The Phillies are back to .500, and you never doubted them for a moment.
“I did. Yeah,” Rhys Hoskins said when asked if he thought Nolan Arenado’s fly ball against Neris for the final out was a home run off the bat. Hoskins homered twice Monday and leads the majors with eight homers.
“It looked like a pretty similar ball flight to the one that I hit just an inning ago. But shoot, those situations are why we play the game, right?” Hoskins said. “Héctor made a good enough pitch to get an out at the end, and we’re walking away with a win. You get a Héctor Neris against Paul Goldschmidt with the tying run on second and then Arenado with the tying run on second. That’s all you can ask for as a competitor and an athlete. So pretty fun one tonight.”
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Phillies happy to have Alvarado back in the ‘pen
José Alvarado didn’t have a catcher, a mound, or a batter to face last week. But the pitcher — a key part of the Phillies’ bullpen — got creative while quarantining in South Jersey and kept his arm in shape while on the COVID-19 injured list.
Alvarado, who was out after having close contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, bought a stationary bike and a net to throw against after he learned he could not be around the team. He rode three miles a day on his bike and fired pitches at the net under the watch of his father, Mario, who became his quarantine pitching coach.
Mario Alvarado labeled the net with 10 numbers and called out what numbers his son should hit outside their home in Moorestown.
“I focused on the low numbers, eight, nine, and 10, because that’s my target,” said Alvarado, who rejoined the Phillies on Monday in St. Louis. “The other numbers are up higher like for a hitter. For me, I focused on the lowest numbers. My dad would say, ‘OK. Hit eight. Now hit nine. Hit 10.’ ”
The Phillies acquired Alvarado in the offseason from Tampa Bay, which was eager to part with Alvarado after his weight ballooned last season. He weighed almost 300 pounds before recommitting himself this offseason to a healthy lifestyle and a workout regimen. He lost nearly 50 pounds and was one of the most impressive Phillies pitchers in spring training. He was determined to not allow this weeklong quarantine to stunt his momentum.
“I remember the situation when COVID started last year and everything stopped,” he said. “No one could work out or anything. I remember that situation. So last week I bought my screen and threw at home. I continued to work out, and now I feel great. I feel good. I’m ready to go.”
The Phillies missed Alvarado when their bullpen blew leads in three of the six games while he was home. The hard-throwing left-hander entered the season as one of the team’s two setup men, a role that became even more important once Archie Bradley went out with an oblique injury. Manager Joe Girardi said Monday that Bradley has not yet thrown off a mound and his rehab is not going as fast as the team had hoped.
Alvarado allowed one run this season in his first six appearances, with 10 strikeouts in his first 5 2/3 innings. The Phillies’ bullpen posted a 7.77 ERA without him.
“That’s very hard because I knew in a couple circumstances I could’ve been in there,” Alvarado said. “It was my inning. It would have been my turn to get the guys out. To see that that didn’t happen and I wasn’t able to help the team, that was very frustrating. I get it. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. But I think those are games that we could have won. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way.”
The Phillies placed Alvarado, Matt Moore, and Ronald Torreyes on the injured list because of COVID-19 safety protocols after they lost five coaches for the same reason. Alvarado and Moore both returned Monday, but Torreyes, a utility player, has not yet rejoined the team. Alvarado said he was thankful to not test positive. The Phillies are thankful to have him back.
“It’s very frustrating for me because I live with my family. If I get COVID, I can’t have that because I live with my family,” Alvarado said. “My baby is eight months old. But I’m OK. Thank God that I’m not positive because it’s a hard situation when someone gets COVID.”
Zack Wheeler twirled a gem Monday night in St. Louis as he answered back from his last previous start, a loss against the Giants. “When you have a couple subpar games, you want to get back out there and get on the right foot.”
The Phillies added Odubel Herrera to the roster before Monday’s series opener. Scott Lauber writes why the Phillies think this was the right time to do it.
The Phillies need to improve the back of their starting rotation, which is why they sent Spencer Howard down to the minors Monday to build arm strength.
Tonight: Zach Eflin starts against the Cards, 7:45 p.m.
Tomorrow: Vince Velasquez starts again for Matt Moore, 7:45 p.m.
Thursday: Aaron Nola pitches the series finale in St. Louis, 1:15 p.m.
Friday: Phillies open three-game series at home vs. the Mets, 7:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
Nick Maton went 0-for-3 on Monday for his first hitless game since being promoted last week. Maton started his major-league career with a six-game hitting streak, the first Phillies rookie to do that since Jimmy Rollins started his career in September 2000 with a six-game hitting streak. Maton (24 years, 60 days) was the youngest Phillies player since Rollins to make his major-league debut at shortstop.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: Did the Phillies add Odubel while they were on the road so they could hide him from the fans? — Dan D. via email
Answer: Thanks, Dan. Girardi said that wasn’t a consideration and said the team brought him up because he was ready. Here’s what Girardi said about Herrera’s reaction from the fans on Friday when the team returns home:
“It’s hard to say. Some people aren’t going to necessarily like this decision. And those are feelings that people have, and I respect that. Some people probably don’t care so much either way. And there are going to be other people that are probably like, ‘Yeah, let’s see what he could do with a second chance.’ So there will probably be a myriad of emotions of our fans in the stands. And I get that. And we’ll just deal with them as they come.”