CHICAGO — Pat Neshek was sitting Monday night in the Phillies bullpen when the phone rang as trouble began to brew on the mound.
The Phillies were two innings away from celebrating their biggest win of the season. But that was hard to imagine as Wrigley Field rocked in the eighth inning of a 5-4 win over the Cubs. Seranthony Dominguez started the inning by throwing four straight pitches to leadoff batter Victor Caratini. He then threw a first-pitch ball to Jason Heyward.
“I got on the mound and threw two pitches,” Neshek said before Tuesday’s game. “He said, ‘Is he ready?’ And I said, ‘No. I’m not ready yet. I’ve thrown two pitches.’”
The Phillies wanted Neshek to be ready for Albert Almora, who was up after Heyward. Dominguez walked Heyward, but Neshek needed more time.
“A minute,” Neshek said when asked how much time he needs. “Not 20 seconds. I’m, like, the best in the league at getting ready. My whole career has been coming in like that.”
Almora was retired on a sacrifice bunt, but the play was reviewed, which Neshek said provided enough time for him to be ready for Daniel Descalso, the next batter. But manager Gabe Kapler elected to stick with Dominguez, who was scuffling in his second inning of work.
Descalso’s line drive to left-center field dropped between Odubel Herrera and Andrew McCutchen. The tying two runs scored and then Descalso was awarded home when the relay throw spiked his leg as he slid into third. It was the big play that felt so predictable when Dominguez opened the inning with consecutive walks.
Perhaps it would have been avoidable had Neshek been warmed up in time to face Almora and then stuck around to face Descalso.
In the ninth, the Phillies were down to their last strike before McCutchen worked a walk. Jean Segura tied the game with a single and J.T. Realmuto won it with a homer in the 10th. The Phillies, despite what had happened in the eighth inning, had the biggest win of the season.
“It looked really bad on TV and people were, like, ‘Neshek isn’t ready,’” Neshek said about criticisms he read on social media. “If they’re going to characterize me as I’m not coming into the game, then know that was my first pitch. No one saw when the phone call was made.”