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Phillies’ Archie Bradley emerging as key reliever at right time

The Phillies added Ian Kennedy in July to be their closer and found a set-up man too with the way Bradley emerged.

Archie Bradley has become a go-to arm for the Phillies in the late innings.
Archie Bradley has become a go-to arm for the Phillies in the late innings.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

Archie Bradley told Joe Girardi Thursday morning that he would be ready to pitch two innings of relief if needed that afternoon. Bradley had pitched the night before but faced just three batters and knew the rest of the bullpen had been taxed in recent days.

So he told his manager he was good for six outs.

“Yeah, after the first inning I was kind of regretting saying that,” said Bradley. as it was 92 degrees at first pitch Thursday. “No, but in all seriousness, I’ve been saying that the last few weeks. That’s the guy I need to be for this team. That’s who I’ve been my career and especially on a day like today where we needed to win, it was going to be hot.”

Bradley needed just 22 pitches to retire all six batters he faced in the seventh and eighth innings of a crucial 2-1 win over the Dodgers. It was a pivotal spot because it allowed Girardi to use one fewer reliever before inserting closer Ian Kennedy for the ninth.

It was also a continuation of a strong stretch for Bradley, who is providing the Phillies with the type of late-inning arm they expected when they signed him this past winter for $6 million. And it’s coming just in time for the final stretch of the season.

Since June 30, Bradley has allowed just one earned run over 17 appearances. He’s not racking up strikeouts, but Bradley has walked just four batters in his last 18⅔ innings. The Phillies added Kennedy in July to be their closer and found a set-up man too with the way Bradley emerged.

“You love guys who come in and have that belief in themselves and let you know that they’re all in,” Girardi said of Bradley’s telling him he was good for two innings. “I give Archie a lot of credit for what he’s doing.”

» READ MORE: Ian Kennedy’s signature moment came against the Phillies. Ten years later, the closer is trying to make new memories with them | Scott Lauber

The bullpen has been hard to trust this season. The relievers lead the majors in blown saves and have the sixth-highest ERA (4.54) in the National League. But the late innings seem to finally be finding stability. Kennedy has not been perfect in the ninth, but he’s holding his own while Bradley and Héctor Neris are providing a dependable bridge to the ninth inning.

Neris has allowed an earned run in just one of his 16 appearances since being lit up on July 4 for six runs in a third of an inning. He has a 1.45 ERA in 18⅔ innings since that game with 23 strikeouts and just five walks. Neris looked lost that afternoon, but his confidence was quickly restored.

“I think one guy that we need to talk about more is Héctor Neris,” Bradley said. “Héctor had a bunch of saves for us in the beginning of the year, had some bumps, he got taken out of his role, and I’ve seen that guy put his head down, he’s worked on his craft, and you look at the innings that guy has thrown over the past couple weeks and we aren’t in this position without Héctor and the innings he’s picked up for us.”

It was fair to wonder if Bradley would be closing out games this season when the Phillies signed him in January. But he was injured in April and struggled to build his velocity at the beginning of the season. Bradley ended June with a 4.50 ERA and wasn’t an option to close when the Phillies replaced Neris with Jose Alvarado and then Ranger Suarez.

Six weeks later, his velocity is charged and he’s pitching like the reliever the Phillies expected him to be. For now, they don’t need him to close. But they do need him to get pivotal outs. On Thursday, he said he was good for six of them and then got them.

“Anything I can do going forward to help us win, man, I am all on board with,” Bradley said.

» READ MORE: In moving Ranger Suárez into the rotation, the Phillies balanced short- and long-term interests | Extra Innings