LOS ANGELES — When the Phillies embarked on this West Coast road trip, after coming off of a homestand in which they lost five of six games, expectations weren’t terribly high. Three, or maybe four, wins against a young and talented Mariners team and a perennial juggernaut Dodgers team seemed like a good outcome.
Five games later, things look very different. The Phillies took two of three in Seattle, and with a 12-10 win over the Dodgers on Friday night, they have at least split a series with one of the best teams in baseball. The Phillies left for Seattle with only two series wins under their belt. They could return to Philadelphia next week with four.
“It’s huge, because if we’re going to get back in it, we have to win series,” said Phillies manager Joe Girardi. “You have to win series against good teams. And we’ve played the Dodgers tough these first two games.”
These two wins against the Dodgers came with their fair share of excitement.
On Thursday night, the Phillies blew a 7-1 lead for the second time in the span of a week, but were able to climb back to a 9-7 win in the end. On Friday night, starter Kyle Gibson had the roughest outing of his season thus far, allowing eight hits, six earned runs and one walk in three and two-thirds innings of work with one strikeout. The bullpen had a few hiccups in the late innings, and reliever Jeurys Familia made things even more exciting, by allowing a two-run home run by Justin Turner in the bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings.
But the Phillies, again, were able to climb back on Friday night. In the top of the tenth inning, with runners on second and first, Nick Castellanos hit a two-RBI double. He stole third base, and scored after a throwing error from Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes.
“That’s honestly what we’ve been doing really, really well these past two games,” Castellanos said of the Phillies’ ability to rally late in games. “I don’t know if it’s just us becoming more familiar with each other, new faces on the team, learning how to play with each other, learning how to play together. And it’s fun.”
Twenty-two year old Francisco Morales, who was making just his second appearance of his young MLB career, loaded the bases with no outs, but Mookie Betts grounded into a double play. Morales walked Freeman, but then Trea Turner grounded into a fielder’s choice, giving Morales the save.
“We knew that we were going to have some guys to step up tonight, and a lot of guys did,” said manager Joe Girardi. “It’s a huge ask (of Morales). It was a big performance by a young man.”
The offense is red-hot
Kyle Schwarber stepped up to the plate at Dodger Stadium in the top of fourth inning. He saw two of Walker Buehler’s pitches, a four-seam fastball and a knuckle curve that both landed far out of the zone. Then came the third pitch, the pitch he was looking for, a cutter up and in, which he promptly launched into the right field bullpen.
Schwarber’s home run evoked comparisons to Matt Stairs’ Dodger Stadium home run in game four of the 2008 NLCS, a legendary moonshot that sailed deep into the right field bleachers. Stairs’ home run was hit before the Statcast era, so we don’t know how far it traveled. But Schwarber’s seemed to travel just as far, and his landed 430 feet away from home plate.
It was just the latest indication that the Phillies offense has heated up in a major way. Rookie Bryson Stott entered Friday night’s game with an 0-for-13 streak. He went 2-for-3 with two walks on Friday, driving in three runs. Odúbel Herrera, Stott, Johan Camargo, Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos and Alec Bohm all had multi-hit games. Harper, who hit a towering home run of his own on Friday night, is now leading MLB in extra-base hits, with 22.
By the end of the night, they’d totaled 15 hits and 12 runs. And they did it with their hottest hitter, Jean Segura, out of the lineup.
“Their staff is fantastic, but our guys have just grinded out at-bats, and done a really good job,” said Girardi. “We think we have a pretty good offense, and at times we’ve struggled this year, but we’ve seemed to get it going on this road trip.”
After Friday night’s game, the Phillies now rank second in MLB in SLG (.428), OPS (.747), and batting average (.256). They rank third in hits (284), fourth in RBI (152), fifth in runs (160), and sixth in home runs (40). The plan heading into this season was for the Phillies to hit, a lot, but it proved to be especially important for them on Friday night, given Gibson’s outing.
“Our hitters thankfully are really swinging the bat well, which was able to make up for some of my mistakes,” Gibson said after the game.
Another exciting night for the bullpen
After an Alec Bohm sac fly, a Harper RBI double and a Nick Castellanos RBI single drove in three runs to give the Phillies an 8-6 lead in the top of the sixth, the Phillies bullpen quickly found itself in hot water again. Andrew Bellatti put runners on first and third base by allowing two singles. Brad Hand came in to replace Bellatti with two outs, but instead of ending the inning, walked Freddie Freeman, and hit Trea Turner with a pitch to cut the Phillies’ lead from 8-6 to 8-7. Hand struck out Max Muncy to end the inning.
After walking a batter to start the bottom of the seventh inning, Hand was replaced by right-handed reliever Nick Nelson, who was terrific. Nelson went one and two-thirds innings, allowing no hits, no runs and no walks, with two strikeouts. James Norwood also had an impressive outing. He came in for Gibson in the fourth inning, and went one and one-third innings, with no hits, no runs, no walks, and three strikeouts.
Girardi acknowledged before the game that some relievers wouldn’t be available to him on Friday night, as he’d used five relievers in Thursday night’s game, when José Alvarado gave up four earned runs in the eighth inning. With Gibson not making it past the fourth inning, Girardi was forced to turn to his bullpen earlier than expected, and used four relievers on Friday night. For obvious reasons, the heavy workload on Thursday and Friday doesn’t set them up well for the remaining two games of this series against the Dodgers on Saturday and Sunday.
Girardi said after the game that he didn’t decide to use Morales in lieu of Hand and Bellatti, who had pitched the night before, because Morales is short on experience. The right-handed reliever was called up on May 8, but looked terrific in his first MLB outing on May 9, when he pitched two innings, allowing no hits, no runs, and only one walk with three strikeouts.