Bottom’s up used to have an ominous meaning at Citizens Bank Park. If the bottom of the order was due to bat, it probably meant the Phillies were going down in order or at least without scoring a run. But last season’s top of the order has become this season’s bottom of the order, and if you’re an opposing pitcher, there is no opportunity to exhale when you are facing the Phillies.
The bottom of the order came through again Wednesday in leading the Phillies to a 3-2 win over the New York Mets. Maikel Franco, the most productive No. 8 hitter in baseball, got the Phillies on the board with a sacrifice fly in the second inning, and No. 7 hitter Cesar Hernandez hit a solo home run in the sixth.
It helped that Jake Arrieta pitched another gem, holding the Mets to two runs on five hits before giving way to the bullpen duo of Adam Morgan and Hector Neris in the ninth inning. The Phillies took two of three games from the Mets and will meet them again next week at Citi Field.
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The Phillies boarded a charter flight to Denver after Wednesday’s game and will open a four-game series against the Colorado Rockies on Thursday night. The Rockies were a wild-card team each of the last two seasons, but got off to a 3-12 start this season. They had lost 12 of 13 games and eight in a row before finally beating the San Francisco Giants, 4-0, Sunday. They followed that up with a two-game sweep of the first-place San Diego Padres at Petco Park and had Wednesday off.
The culprit for Colorado’s slow start was a lackluster offense. The Rockies, behind Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon, have been a run-scoring machine in recent seasons, but during their 3-12 start, they hit just .203 with a .261 on-base percentage and .573 OPS and averaged just 2.8 runs.
During their three-game winning streak, they have averaged 5.7 runs and Arenado, in particular, has heated up, homering in each of the three Colorado wins. The Phillies have an all-time record of 43-60 in Denver.
Aaron Nola will try to turn his season around Saturday night against the Rockies. Coors Field can often be treacherous for opposing pitchers, but in Nola’s only career start there in 2017, he allowed just two runs on six hits over seven innings.
With Aaron Nola struggling, the Phillies needed Jake Arrieta to pitch like the ace he was during his time with the Chicago Cubs. So far, so good and, as our Scott Lauber wrote, Arrieta delivered one of his very best pitching performances in Wednesday’s 3-2 win over the rival Mets.
If Nick Pivetta looked around the clubhouse before heading off to triple-A Lehigh Valley on Wednesday morning, he would have seen a long list of teammates who had to overcome adversity to get there. That list included Wednesday’s winning pitcher, Arrieta; the two guys who got the final three outs (Adam Morgan and Hector Neris); and Jerad Eickhoff, the guy who is replacing Pivetta in the Phillies’ starting rotation. Here’s my column on that very subject.
In addition to Pivetta being optioned to Lehigh Valley, the Phillies recalled Malvern Prep grad Phil Gosselin from the IronPigs. The Phillies are the veteran utility man’s sixth team, and he earned the promotion by following up an outstanding spring training by hitting .419 in his first 10 games with Lehigh Valley. On the injury front, shortstop Jean Segura sat out Wednesday after suffering a left hamstring strain Tuesday and center fielder Odubel Herrera left in the fifth inning with a cramp in his right hamstring. The Phillies also transferred reliever Tommy Hunter (strained flexor tendon) to the 60-day injured list.
The day in photographs brought to you by our Michael Bryant.
Today: Zach Eflin opens series in Colorado vs. Kyle Freeland, 8:40 p.m.
Tomorrow: Vince Velasquez vs. Rockies ace German Marquez, 8:40 p.m.
Saturday: Aaron Nola tries to turn things around vs. Antonio Senzatela, 8:10 p.m.
Sunday: Jerad Eickhoff makes first start vs. Jon Gray, 1:10 p.m.
Monday: Jake Arrieta scheduled for series opener against Mets at Citi Field, 7:10 p.m.
Bryce Harper extended his on-base streak to 17 games with a walk during the Phillies’ game Wednesday, but he is definitely not a hot hitter right now.
Since batting .417 (10-for-24) with three homers and five RBIs in his first seven games, he has hit just .162 (6-for-37) with one home run and five RBIs in his last 10 games. Harper has walked eight times and struck out 14 times in that stretch.
Coors Field, however, might be just the elixir Harper needs. He is a career .387 hitter with nine doubles, three home runs and 11 RBIs in 20 games there.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Question: I’d like your opinions on some early-season impressions: Hoskins is a good guy but clearly a liability at 1st base. His talents are probably better suited as DH, which might happen in NL next year. Pitching is still the name of the game. Without better starting/relieving, the Phils are looking at a .500 year.
Gary O., via email
Answer: Hoskins has made a couple of costly errors in the early going — one in Washington and another in Monday’s extra-inning loss to the Mets — but he has also made some outstanding plays in the field. He is by no means a Gold Glove first baseman, but he is a lot better there than he was in left field and I think his comfort level there also makes him a better hitter.
As someone who watches Hoskins pretty regularly, I can tell you he works his rear off to get better defensively. I see him almost every day working with new infield instructor Bobby Dickerson.
As for the pitching, the rotation desperately needs Nola to turn things around and for Eickhoff to do a solid job as Pivetta’s rotation replacement. Arrieta has been superb, and the Phillies are getting what they should have expected so far from Eflin and Velasquez.