Just when you thought nobody was on a better roll than Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola during the Phillies’ two-week escalator ride up the National League standings, manager Joe Girardi submitted this gem of a move Friday.
In deciding to sit slumping star Bryce Harper for one game, Girardi gave utilityman Phil Gosselin his first career start in right field – against a right-handed starting pitcher, no less. Sure enough, Gosselin delivered a two-out double and scored the go-ahead run in the seventh inning of a 5-3 victory over the Mets in the opener of a four-game series at Citi Field in New York.
Hey, when you’re hot, you’re hot.
The Phillies, incidentally, are blazing. In grabbing their 10th victory in 11 games for the first time since 2011 – and improving to 16-7 against National League East opponents, including 4-0 against the Mets – they got a Joel Embiid-sized rebound from Jake Arrieta, who followed the shortest start of his career with seven solid innings, and Hoskins’ diving stab of a line drive that put the brakes on a Mets rally in the eighth.
“There were a lot of things that happened in this game for us to win this game,” Girardi said, “and that play was as big as any.”
But Girardi continued to make all the right moves, too. Never mind that Gosselin gets most of his playing time against lefties, or that lefty-hitting Adam Haseley could’ve stood in for Harper. Girardi felt that Gosselin was the choice against Mets righty Rick Porcello.
“We just liked the matchup,” Girardi said. “I talk to my coaches a lot, especially [hitting coach] Joe [Dillon], about bat paths and who they match up well against. We just liked it.”
So much, in fact, that Girardi doubled down.
Gosselin, dubbed “Barrels” by teammates, went 0-for-1 with a walk in two plate appearances against Porcello and was due to bat with two outs in the seventh inning of a 2-2 game against righty reliever Jared Hughes.
For most of the season, Girardi has turned to his bench in that situation, and Haseley likely had a bat in his hand. Instead, on a hunch, Girardi stuck with Gosselin.
“We thought he was due to hit a bullet,” Girardi said. “Barrels was due to find a barrel, and he did.”
Indeed, Gosselin sat on a sinker in a full count and stroked a double to left field. Roman Quinn, fast becoming a Girardi favorite in center field, followed with a single to center to drive home Gosselin to break the tie.
From there, Girardi stuck with Arrieta, even though he had already thrown 91 pitches and was coming off a brutal start five nights earlier in which he allowed seven runs in 1⅓ innings against the Atlanta Braves. Arrieta rewarded the manager’s faith by retiring the side on 11 pitches, marking the first time since June 15, 2019 – a span of 17 starts – that he topped 100 pitches in a game.
“For starters, when you falter and have a tough outing like I did last start, it makes for a long week,” Arrieta said. “You want to do everything you can to make the adjustments, get back on track, and throw well for your team the next time you go out there. That was my focus for the past four days.”
Arrieta worked out of a two-on, none-out jam in the first inning, then cruised through the second and third and struck out Jeff McNeil to strand two runners in the fourth.
The Phillies, meanwhile, staked Arrieta to a two-run lead on an RBI single by Jay Bruce in the second inning and back-to-back singles and a force out in the third. But the Mets tied it in the fifth when Michael Conforto unloaded on a sinker for a game-tying two-run homer.
Arrieta didn’t make any other mistakes. And on a night when his manager didn’t make any, the Phillies kept right on winning.
“We’ve got so many pieces in our lineup and on defense and in our bullpen now where we’re a really good team,” Arrieta said. “This is absolutely a team that can contend deep into the playoffs. There’s no question about it. Once you get into October, you want to roll the dice and see what happens. but we have that group.”