LOS ANGELES — The fans booed Wednesday night — all 52,157 that packed Dodger Stadium — as José Alvarado walked off the mound in the seventh inning of a 2-0 Phillies win. The reliever caught the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor with a 101-mph sinker, which the batter — and the sold-out crowd — could not believe was a strike.
But it was.
Alvarado, who needed just 11 pitches to strike out the side, raised his hands above his head and urged the fans to clap with him. The Phillies were three outs closer to a needed win.
“Alvie was fantastic,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Alvarado retired the six batters he faced in the seventh and eighth and Hector Neris closed the ninth. Neris kept it interesting as he hit two batters in the ninth, but he finished the game with a fly out against Mookie Betts.
He exorcised his Chavez Ravine demons as he entered the ninth inning with an 11.81 ERA in six appearances at Dodger Stadium with five homers allowed in 51/3 innings. The crowd roared when Neris hit Will Smith to bring up Betts and headed for the jammed freeways when Betts flew out.
“Every day is a competition,” Neris said. “It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, especially here. Here is emotional for me but I come here and pitch and try to get a win for my guys.”
Joe Girardi turned to his bullpen after Zack Wheeler pitched six shutout innings. The relievers answered the call as the Phillies avoided a sweep in L.A. and rallied to win after placing their leading hitter on the injured list and fielding a lineup without Bryce Harper.
Wheeler keeps rolling
Wheeler’s emergence as one of the National League’s premier starters continued against one of baseball’s toughest lineups. Wheeler pitched six shutout innings, struck out six, and worked around the nine baserunners he allowed. The Dodgers went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position against Wheeler.
“I didn’t have my best stuff tonight,” Wheeler said. “Obviously, I had four walks. But that was the majority of the guys on base. When you don’t have your best stuff, you have to really bear down. Obviously, you’re trying to bear down every single time somebody’s on base. But these types of days, you just have to go out there and try to do the best you can.”
Wheeler has a 1.25 ERA in his last eight starts and he lowered his season ERA to 2.15, the sixth-best among NL starters. Wheeler leads the majors with 118 strikeouts and his 3.4 WAR — as calculated by FanGraphs — trails only Jacob deGrom.
Wheeler is a lock to be an All-Star, but he is also in contention to start for the National League on July 13 in Colorado. DeGrom, the front-runner to start for the NL, left his start on Wednesday for the Mets with shoulder soreness.
Girardi said that he’ll likely “mix and match” at second base to replace Jean Segura, who is out until at least July with a strained left groin. Luke Williams made his case on Wednesday to play there every day. He went 3-for-4 with two doubles, providing the Phillies with the type of production that Segura was delivering.
“You know, I started to think that maybe it’s the two hole that’s so hot or maybe it’s the second baseman whose so hot,” Girardi said. “Jean gave him a pat on the back and obviously had an influence.”
Girardi said he can also play Brad Miller, who started in right field for Bryce Harper, and Nick Maton, who was promoted from triple A, at second base. Williams had two of his hits against Clayton Kershaw, who allowed two runs in six innings.
Hoskins snaps slump
The Phillies needed Rhys Hoskins to get going as they fielded a lineup without Segura and Harper. He wasted little time. Hoskins broke his 0-for-33 slump with a homer to left field in the first inning. It was Hoskins’ first hit since June 5.
“It’s a long season, man. It’s a grind,” Wheeler said. “That’s why these guys are professionals. Rhys has kept it professional the whole time. I know he’s been struggling but he always has a good attitude coming to the field, out there on the field. He doesn’t carry it out there into the field when he gets frustrated. You always kind of respect that. To see him come out of it the way he did tonight was pretty cool.”
RISP problems, again
The Phillies scored enough to win, but they missed plenty of chances to make it a comfortable night. The Phillies went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base. The Phillies went 2-for-30 with runners in scoring position over three games at Dodger Stadium.
Williams doubled with one out in the second but could not advance. Alec Bohm doubled to start the fourth and was not brought home. Wheeler and Odubel Herrera singled to open the fifth and were left on base. The Phillies, again, failed to cash in. This time, they survived.
Is it the jerseys?
The Phillies wore red jerseys on the road for the first time since 1992 after the players requested the team to switch up their look. They’ll wear them again on Sunday against the Giants. In 1992, the Phillies tried wearing their red batting practice tops - which did not have names on the back - for a game in San Diego to turn the tide of a rough stretch. It didn’t work as the Phils lost anyway. Nearly 30 years later, the Phils looked better in red.
“I’m going to sleep in it,” Girardi said.
The Phillies will spend Thursday’s off day in San Francisco before opening a three-game series on Friday against Gabe Kapler’s Giants, who have the best record in the National League. Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola, and Spencer Howard will start for the Phils.