BOSTON -- To hear the Phillies tell it, they were whisked here from Chicago in the middle of the night Thursday on the wings of Air Momentum.
“I feel it,” said manager Joe Girardi, buoyed as much as ever this season after 39 runs and three wins in four games at Wrigley Field. “You feel it in the dugout. You feel confident with the lineup we’re throwing out there every day. There is a little something going.”
And then, a thud.
The Phillies showed up to Fenway Park on Friday amid the remnants of a tropical storm. The rain cleared out with time to spare before the first pitch, but they still got washed away, 11-5, by the Boston Red Sox. Vince Velasquez got fewer outs (seven) than runs allowed (eight). Girardi’s lineup couldn’t hang with the second-highest scoring offense in baseball. The drumbeat went on. And on. And on.
Maybe the Phillies will win the next two games and surge into the four-day All-Star break with a .500 record for the first time since June 19. That would be just like them. It’s the quality that Girardi likes most about his players. They’re like those inflatable tube men on the side of the highway that get knocked down by the wind and pop right back up.
“They’re resilient,” Girardi said before the game. “I mean, I think you could argue we’ve had probably as many tough losses as anyone. We had a 10-day stretch [last month] where it was absolutely brutal, and they kept bouncing back.
“You think how we lost the first one [in a June 25 doubleheader] to the Mets; we win [the second game]. We lose the third game to the Mets on the Saturday, a tough loss; we come out and win Sunday. They continue to do it. They play hard. They fight, they fight, they fight. That’s what stands out about this club to me.”
But there’s a difference between whipping up on the Cubs, who went from trade-deadline buyers to everything-must-go sellers in the span of 12 losses in 14 games, and trying to trade haymakers with the Red Sox, winners of 11 of 14. And the Phillies’ inability to do the latter in a series-opening “stinker” (Girardi’s word) probably says as much about them as successfully accomplishing the former, which is to say, not very much at all.
If anything, the last five games only reinforced what everyone already knows. When the best players on the Phillies’ $200 million roster are at their best, they’re a team that can compete with anyone. When they don’t, there isn’t enough depth through the middle and the bottom of the roster to compensate.
Velasquez has been a part of that for six years. He reels off stretches like a 2.30 ERA in six starts after reentering the rotation in late April. But the bad times, such as a 7.82 ERA in his last eight starts, overwhelm the good. And the alternatives in the big leagues or down in triple A -- Matt Moore, Chase Anderson, and Spencer Howard this season; Nick Pivetta, Jerad Eickhoff, Cole Irvin, and others in the past -- haven’t been any better.
So the Phillies stick with him. Girardi plans to do so after the break.
“He’s a starter for me, for us,” Girardi said. “We haven’t made any changes.”
The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the first inning and a 3-2 lead in the second against Red Sox starter Garrett Richards. Both times, Velasquez let it slip. Boston scored twice in the first inning, three times in the second, then broke open the game with four in the third. Kiké Hernández, Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, and Rafael Devers combined to go 7-for-14 with three homers and eight RBIs, and that was plenty.
Here’s the thing, though: The Phillies don’t have to be as good as the Red Sox to win the National League East. Heck, they don’t even have to be 18 runs better than the Cubs at a time when Wrigley’s friendly confines couldn’t be friendlier. The Mets are the only team in the division with a winning record, and they’re on pace for 86 wins. The Phillies would have to finish 44-32 to get there. Easy? No. Doable? Maybe, with some help from the front office before the July 30 trade deadline.
“You always have thoughts and you share it, but I leave that with them,” Girardi said. “We talk about it amongst ourselves, but we’re not to that point. We have to continue to play well.”
Which means they have to bounce back. Again.
That’s a relief
After burning through four relievers, including Jose Alvarado for 31 pitches, Girardi turned to infielder Ronald Torreyes to pitch a scoreless eighth inning, the third time this season that the Phillies have put a position player on the mound. (Andrew Knapp and Nick Maton are the others.)
With the Red Sox leading by six runs, they brought in Brandon Workman in the top of the ninth. Workman was miserable for the Phillies after being acquired in a trade last August. In 14 appearances, he posted a 6.92 ERA and blew three saves.
In 13 appearances for Boston this season, Workman has a 1.29 ERA.
A slice of history
This road trip marks the sixth time in the last 100 years that a team has played consecutive road series at Wrigley and Fenway.
Before the game, several Phillies players ducked into the Green Monster and took a look around. Right-hander Aaron Nola remembered where he signed the wall inside the Monster a few years ago and found his John Hancock.
Moore (0-1, 5.60 ERA) will be opposed Saturday by Boston’s Martín Pérez (7-4, 3.89) in a matchup of veteran left-handers. Moore hasn’t gone beyond the fifth inning in five starts this season.