Half of the Phillies’ six losses this season have come at SunTrust Park, and the latest one was just as disturbing as the previous two during the season-opening series against the Atlanta Braves. This time, it was the return of the blunderous world of Odubel Herrera that contributed most to the end of the Phillies’ six-game winning streak.
Herrera, after hitting a home run in the first inning, appeared to have hit a double with one out in the third inning, but instead was thrown out at second base by right fielder Nick Markakis because he failed to slide. Instead of runners at second and third with one out for Rhys Hoskins, the Phillies had just a runner at third with two outs and failed to score.
Herrera also failed to call off right fielder Aaron Altherr on a fourth-inning fly ball that resulted in a game-winning sacrifice fly by the Braves’ Kurt Suzuki. Manager Gabe Kapler said afterward that Herrera, as the captain of the outfield, needed to take charge in that situation because he had the better angle to throw home. I’ve said this before: Odubel Herrera is a really good player who can be great only when he erases the plays such as the two he made Monday night.
— Bob Brookover (email@example.com)
Difficult decisions ahead
Rookie reliever Victor Arano was at it again Monday night, providing the Phillies with two perfect innings to complete a perfect game-plus of sorts. He has retired all 22 batters he has faced this season, and he retired the final seven batters he faced a year ago when he posted a 1.69 ERA in 10 appearances. That’s 29 batters in a row, two more than it takes to pitch a perfect game. Our Matt Breen described in Monday’s newsletter why Arano has become so effective.
Arano’s emergence as a bullpen weapon that Kapler can use in crucial situations is going to create some difficult roster decisions soon. Tommy Hunter (hamstring) is likely one rehab appearance away from coming off the disabled list, while Pat Neshek (shoulder) is playing catch and Mark Leiter Jr. (arm) is throwing off the mound, which means they, too, are taking steps toward returning to the active roster.
The Phillies, of course, are going to find room for veterans Hunter and Neshek because they are paying them a combined $16.75 million this season. Arano, however, is not the only young reliever who has done the job in the absence of those two veterans. Edubray Ramos also has not allowed a run in eight appearances, Hoby Milner has a 2.70 ERA, and Yacksel Rios has a 2.08 ERA in six appearances. If Hunter, Neshek and Leiter all return, then one of the young pitchers who has been effective so far is likely to end up back in the minor leagues.
It was a good night on the farm for the Phillies. Dylan Cozens and Mitch Walding both homered in triple-A Lehigh Valley’s victory, and Ranger Suarez provided eight shutout innings in double-A Reading’s win at Harrisburg.
Aaron Nola ended up the hard-luck loser in Monday night’s game against Atlanta and Odubel Herrera offered insight into what teammate Rhys Hoskins told him after his third-inning base-running blunder.
Remember all those in-game outfield switches manager Gabe Kapler made during spring training? They have disappeared since the regular season started, and Kapler explains that the Phillies are still investigating the “emotional impact” of making such moves.
Tonight: Nick Pivetta vs. Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz, 7:35 p.m.
Wednesday: Vince Velasquez vs. Atlanta’s Brandon McCarthy, 7:35 p.m.
Thursday: Start of a four-game series vs. Pittsburgh at Citizens Bank Park, 7:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
On this date in 1976, Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt went 5 for 6 with four home runs and eight RBIs in an 18-16 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Schmidt homered twice off Rick Reuschel, once off his brother Paul Reuschel, and again off Mike Garman to tie the major-league record of four home runs in a game. Schmidt was the 10th player to hit four homers in a game and the first since Willie Mays in 1961. Now, 18 players have done it, but the Phillies are the only team with three players to hit four home runs in a game. The others are Ed Delahanty in 1896 and Chuck Klein in 1936.
From the mailbag
With the Phillies surging and the Rangers slumping, if the Phillies are buyers in July, what are the chances Cole Hamels returns? He would be a much-needed lefty and another veteran to add to the rotation. Thank you.
Answer: If the Phillies are a clear-cut contender for a playoff spot near the trade deadline, it is certainly feasible that they will attempt to get help in the starting pitching department, but there are so many variables that must play out before then. Hamels, for instance, is not pitching like an ace you’d typically look to add at the trade deadline. In fact, he has surrendered a major-leagues-high seven home runs through his first four starts. The Phillies also want to continue to look at their young arms in the rotation. To this point, Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez have pitched well. So, yes, it’s possible the Phillies will try to obtain Hamels or someone like him if they are in contention. The one thing we know about Hamels is that he is already on the record as saying he would not mind returning to Philadelphia one day.