The Phillies offense showed up in a major way in their 10-3 win over the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park — with some help from the Rockies’ defense.
In support of starter Zach Eflin’s superb six-inning effort, six Phillies drove in at least one run, and Odúbel Herrera drove in three, including a two-run home run to right-center field in the sixth inning.
But it was the Rockies’ defense that first got the Phillies on the board. With one out in the second inning, Kyle Schwarber walked. Alec Bohm grounded to third, and a throwing error by Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon left runners on second and third. Didi Gregorius’s infield single scored Schwarber.
One out later, with Bohm on third and Gregorius on second, Rockies starter German Marquez uncorked a wild pitch that scored Bohm. After retrieving the wild pitch, catcher Dom Nunez’s throwing error scored Gregorius.
“We’re trying to capitalize as much as possible on other teams’ mistakes,” said Bryce Harper, who again was the designated hitter after testing his strained throwing arm before the game to less-than-positive results. “Being able to get out there and get ahead is huge, and I thought we were able to do that tonight.”
Eflin, meanwhile, was terrific. He allowed mostly soft contact, and just two hits, including Charlie Blackmon’s first of two homers on the night, and one walk, with three strikeouts.
“I felt like everything was playing off of the heater tonight,” he said. “I really stressed, in the bullpen a couple of days ago, low-and-away heaters to a righty. Because everything flows off of that. The four-seam, the two-seam away to righties. That’s when my mechanics are the best, is when I’m sticking to those pitches.”
It was a stark departure from Eflin’s last outing, also against Colorado (in Denver), in which he allowed eight hits, four runs, two earned runs, and hit a batter, across 5⅔ innings of work. Tuesday’s outing included a milestone for the right-hander: his strikeout of McMahon in the second inning was the 500th of his career.
Eflin didn’t realize he’d crossed 500 strikeouts until his postgame interview, so he was confused as to why Realmuto was emphatically asking him to return the ball to the dugout.
“I was telling [Aaron] Nola, I was pretty upset, because I had no idea why they were telling me to throw the ball out,” he said. “We don’t get good baseballs very often. Every single one is different, they’re not all rubbed up the way they should be. And I really liked the baseball I was throwing with, and it took me two or three times of saying, ‘No, I’m not throwing the ball out,’ for J.T. to just look at me and be like, ‘Throw the ball out.’ I didn’t even know until the radio interview that that was the moment.”
Bohm’s defensive turnaround
In the top of the third inning, the Rockies’ Jose Iglesias hit a hard ground ball to Bohm at third base. In one fluid motion, Bohm charged the ball, fielded it, and while running, made a throw to Rhys Hoskins to secure the out at first base. An inning later, C.J. Cron hit a dribbler to Bohm. Bohm had to get down low to field this one — easier said than done for someone who is 6-foot-5 — but again, he was a picture of fluidity. He charged it, he fielded it, and he fired it.
Bohm made these plays look easy, as if it were a given that he’d field them perfectly, and nail those running throws. But as anyone who has watched Bohm over his past three seasons — especially this season — knows, there was a time when these plays were not a given. There was a time, very recently, when it wasn’t a given that he would even field a ball hit his way.
How Bohm would respond to his three-error debacle against the Mets on April 11 was not only a big question for the Phillies’ season, but for his own future as their third baseman. In the six games following that three-error game, he made only one start, at DH. Manager Joe Girardi used him to pinch hit, and he continued to prove, time and time again, that his offense wasn’t going anywhere. But it wasn’t until April 17 that he made another start at third base, and by that point, quite a bit of anticipation had been built.
The anticipation, so far, has proved to be futile. Bohm hasn’t committed an error at third base since April 11. He’s playing defense offensively, and with confidence. The work he’s done with Phillies infield coach Bobby Dickerson — and it has been a lot of work — is showing in the way he fields his plays. Since the start of spring training, Dickerson has been doing a drop-step drill with Bohm, in which Bohm wears a protective mask as Dickerson tosses rubber balls toward his head. The point is to get a tall player like Bohm down low and in front of the ball, without hesitation.
“Tall players have a tendency to not get low enough to get their face down to see the ball,” Dickerson said a few weeks ago. “Once you do that drill, and you add a hard ball, the head position is the same. You just have a glove out front that keeps it from hitting you in the face. If you disconnect your face, that’s when you get hit in the face, and have poor glove action, and less ball security.”
All of those hours of work came out in Bohm’s play in the top of the fourth inning, when he dropped down low to field the dribbler hit by Cron. He looked natural, like he’d been fielding these plays for years, with ease. Anyone who has followed Bohm’s career knows that his game, defensively, has been anything but easy. But Bohm has shown us before that he’s capable of changing the narrative. Who’s to say that he can’t change this one, too?
Harper: Arm “didn’t feel great” after playing catch
Harper said after the game that he “didn’t feel great” while playing catch on Tuesday afternoon in right field. Nursing the strained right arm, Harper hasn’t played a game in right field since April 16. He said he will continue to DH until he’s able to return to right field. The team will re-evaluate his workload on Wednesday. His timetable to return to right field is unclear.