While the Atlanta Braves slugged their way to a win over one of the worst teams in baseball Tuesday night, the Phillies fell, 2-1, to the best team in baseball, the Boston Red Sox. Citizens Bank Park sounded like Fenway South at various points during the game, including when Brock Holt broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the eighth by slamming a first-pitch cutter from righthander Tommy Hunter off the scoreboard in right field.
The Phillies (65-53), after sitting atop the National League East for 38 straight days through Sunday, have fallen two games behind the Braves, who have won 13 of their last 17 and get another crack at the Miami Marlins on Wednesday. The Phillies, meanwhile, have lost five of their last seven and must play the Red Sox again Wednesday. If it's any consolation, Washington continued its meltdown, losing at St. Louis to fall back to .500 at 60-60.
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Even if you absolutely hate the haughty New Englanders who invaded Citizens Bank Park to cheer on their baseball team Tuesday night, you have to admit it must be a ton of fun to be a part of Red Sox Nation these days. It's the middle of August, and the Sox have already buried their most hated rival even though the Yankees are 31 games over .500 and have the second-best record in baseball.
With their 2-1 win over the Phillies on Tuesday, the Red Sox improved to 51 games over .500 and have a real shot at breaking the 2001 Seattle Mariners' record of 116 wins in a season. The Phillies, for the record, have never been 50 games over .500. Never. The closest they ever got was 46 games a couple of times in September 2011.
The ballpark might have been at its loudest when Boston pinch-hitter Brock Holt hit a solo home run that gave the Red Sox the lead in the top of the eighth inning. Whenever Red Sox Nation got a "Let's go, Red Sox" chant going, Phillies fans reacted in one of two ways: They loudly booed, an art form mastered in these parts long ago and a tactic used for years whenever the New York Mets are in town. Or they spelled the name of their favorite football team — E-A-G-L-E-S — the one that beat New England in the NFL's most recent Super Bowl.
If the New Englanders wanted to fight back, they could have started a "five to one" chant, letting Philadelphians know the Super Bowl title score. That, however, might lead to a riot and nobody wants to see that. If nothing else, it made for good theater and a great atmosphere that might help the young Phillies as they get deeper into the race for the National League East title.
"It's two pretty good teams going toe to toe," Phillies reliever Tommy Hunter said. "That's the way you like it, though. Throw blows and see who comes out on top."
Manager Gabe Kapler shuffled his lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Red Sox, moving Nick Williams up to the second spot and Asdrubal Cabrera into the three hole while moving Rhys Hoskins from second to fourth and Carlos Santana from fourth to fifth. The manager got a home run from Hoskins, but nothing else against Red Sox starter Rick Porcello and a couple of Boston relievers. The Phillies struck out 13 times and managed just two hits.
Nick Pivetta went through some turbulent times in June and July, but his ERA is at 1.50 in three August starts after he held the high-powered Red Sox to a single run over six innings Tuesday night. Give Kapler some credit for the turnaround. In my column, I point out how Kapler used a rather obscure stat (xFIP) to build up Pivetta's confidence.
Hector Neris is back in the big leagues after posting a 1.62 ERA and holding opponents to a .153 batting average in his last 17 games with triple-A Lehigh Valley. He struck out 29 and walked six in 16 2/3 innings and now will try to salvage what was a rough start to his major-league season. Columnist David Murphy takes a look at some of Neris' more advanced metrics to explain the reliever's struggles.
To make room for Hector Neris, the Phillies optioned rookie infielder J.P. Crawford to triple-A Lehigh Valley just four days after activating him from the disabled list. Kapler said that fellow rookie Scott Kingery is better suited to be part of the Phillies bench right now and that Crawford can benefit from getting regular at-bats in the minors after missing nearly two months of the season.
Tonight: Vince Velasquez faces Nathan Eovaldi in series finale vs. Bosox, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Two games for the price of one — Game 1 of doubleheader vs. N.Y. Mets starts at 4:05 p.m.
Friday: The country band Old Dominion plays postgame concert after Phils play Mets, 6:05 p.m.
Saturday: Jake Arrieta nickname shirt is the giveway for game vs. Mets, 4:05 p.m.
Sunday: Phillies close out five-game series vs. Mets at Williamsport's historic Bowman Field, 7:10 p.m.
On this date in 1990, Terry Mulholland pitched the seventh no-hitter in Phillies history and the first at Veterans Stadium. He beat the team that had traded him the year before — the San Francisco Giants — 6-0 and only a seventh-inning throwing error by third baseman Charlie Hayes prevented him from pitching a perfect game. Hayes recorded the final out by grabbing a hard-hit line drive down the line by Gary Carter. Kevin Millwood (on April 27, 2003) was the only other pitcher to throw a no-hitter at Veterans Stadium.
Love the Extra Innings newsletter! I read it every day, so thanks again! My question is, what do you contribute the inconsistent hitting to on this Phillies team? There are periods where they grind at-bats and wear down pitchers, but then they go into a swoon like they did last weekend.
Are they just too young right now? Are they still learning how to hit? Or, is this who they are and will be moving forward? If it is the latter, then I think they will not reach their full potential and would be desperate for a [Manny] Machado or [Bryce] Harper in the offseason to make the guys around them better.
Thanks, Nick M.
Answer: Thanks for the kind words and the questions, Nick. I think you hit the nail on the head when you asked if the Phillies are a young team still learning to hit. That's exactly what they are. Six of their eight regulars are 26 years or younger, and four of the eight had less than one year of big-league experience before this season.