Which pitcher do you trust? Zack Wheeler after throwing 95 pitches with a fingernail hanging on, or someone from the worst bullpen in baseball? Manager Joe Girardi tried his luck with the bullpen instead of trying to push Wheeler through the eighth inning Wednesday night. An inning later, another bullpen collapse ended with another loss. The Phillies are back to .500, and their climb to the postseason is not going to be easy.
You’re signed up to get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday morning during the regular offseason. If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @matt_breen. Thank you for reading.
— Matt Breen (email@example.com)
The Phillies bullpen blew yet another game Wednesday night but at least found a new way to collapse this time.
Hector Neris, pitching for the second straight night, dropped the baseball out of his glove as he stood on the mound. It was a balk. Amed Rosario moved to second base, and then scored the winning run on a single by Andres Gimenez.
“You see like once a year somewhere, and unfortunately it happened to us tonight,” Girardi said. “It changes the complexion of the inning, possibly. And he probably got a little flustered by it, but it’s something you can’t do.”
Neris was ahead on the count, 0-1, on Jeff McNeil when he dropped the ball. With first base open because of the balk, the Phillies decided to intentionally walk McNeil and face Gimenez. If Neris can hold onto the baseball, perhaps he retires McNeil and allows a two-out single to Gimenez before striking out Jake Marisnick — which he did do — to keep the game tied. Instead, the balk moved Rosario 90 feet closer to home and allowed him to score on the single.
Wednesday night’s loss was the 11th blown save by the Phillies bullpen, which has recorded just nine saves. The bullpen has a 7.05 ERA, worst in the majors. Wheeler pitched into the eighth inning and gave the bullpen a one-run lead to protect for five outs. Three batters later, the game was tied. An inning later, it was over.
Yet, the Phillies still will wake up Thursday in possession of one of the National League’s eight playoff spots. But their chances to reach October would feel a bit better if Neris didn’t drop the ball.
“At this point, we can’t feel bad for ourselves,” catcher Andrew Knapp said. “We have to go out and perform. The way this season has been, it’s kind of been like that the whole way. We have to show up tonight, and if we don’t show up tonight, we have to show up tomorrow. We’re not going to take these performances on to the next day. You have to flush it and be ready to go tomorrow.
"I know we’re confident in who we have out there. It’s just bad luck and some stuff hasn’t really gone our way, but we’re definitely still in this thing. If we worry about all the bad stuff that’s happening, we can screw this up and not be ready for the opportunity that we have.”
Rhys Hoskins might need Tommy John surgery this offseason, but he said he would still be ready for spring training. Hoskins is trying to return from his elbow injury for the last four games of the regular season.
The Phillies promoted 2016 No. 1 pick Mickey Moniak, but the 22-year-old will likely play a small role while he’s with the team. Moniak might go back to Allentown later this week when Jay Bruce returns.
Ready for spring training? The Phillies announced their spring training schedule for 2021 and said they expect to sell tickets to games at Spectrum Field. If so, fans will be allowed in the ballpark for the first time since March.
Today: Aaron Nola starts series finale vs. Mets, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Phillies open four-game series with doubleheader vs. Blue Jays, 4:05 p.m.
Saturday: Phillies play Game 3 of four vs. Jays, 6:05 p.m.
Sunday: Phillies and Blue Jays wrap up series, 3:05 p.m.
Monday: Phillies open four-game series vs. Nationals, 6:05 p.m.
Zack Wheeler pitched into the eighth inning Wednesday night, as he logged his fourth seven-inning start of the season. Wheeler has more seven-inning starts this season than the entire rotations of the Braves, Orioles, Tigers, Pirates, Red Sox, Rays, Royals, Twins, Mets, and Giants.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: The wild-card race is pretty close. What would the tiebreakers be? — Chris W. via email.
Answer: Thanks, Chris. In previous years, MLB settled ties with tiebreaker games. But that won’t happen in 2020. If, say, the Phillies are tied with the Giants for the second wild card, the postseason spot would be awarded to the team with the better division record. If that’s tied, the next tiebreaker is whichever has the better record in its final 20 division games.