It wasn't Hector Neris' fault that Nick Williams and Odubel Herrera allowed what was a catchable fly ball drop in between them Friday evening, turning what should have been an out into a triple for Andrew McCutchen. Then again, the ball that the San Francisco Giants star hit to deep left-center field may very well have been a home run in some other stadiums. And the two wild pitches that Neris threw later that inning - neither of which Andrew Knapp had much of a chance of blocking - were unequivocally his fault.
All things considered, Neris was lucky to only give up one run on three hits (and two wild pitches) in the seventh inning Friday. Still, his ERA now stands at 5.06.
He's using his split finger - which was one of the more dominant pitches in the league just two years ago - 55.6 percent of the time. That 55.6 percent is the highest clip that he's ever used his signature splitter at, and generally speaking, he's still getting good results with it. Opponents are hitting just .217 off of the splitter in 2018. The problem is that's still up rather significantly from the .158 that opponents hit off of the splitter in 2016. As the splitter has become slightly less effective, his fourseam fastball and sinker have been getting shelled.
Given what has been a rather disastrous month plus span, it may be time to give Neris a mental break. The 28-year-old has one remaining minor league option. There's been no indication that the Phillies plan to use that if Neris doesn't turn things around in the near future, except of course the performance of the veteran reliever.
The funny thing is, wedged in between an Opening Day loss in March and a month of May in which Neris blew two saves and posted a 6.75 ERA, was a very effective month of April. Manager Gabe Kapler has made clear that the team doesn't have one defined closer, but Neris essentially pitched in that role in April. With the exception of a blown save against the Cincinnati Reds on April 11, Neris was nearly perfect in the season's first full month. He posted an 0.96 ERA and recorded five saves in April.
But since the start of May, Neris has a 7.13 ERA in 10.1 innings. The Phillies, again, don't have a defined closer, but rookie phenom Sernathony Dominguez seems to be the person that Kapler will turn to if such a situation arises. If a high-leverage situation presents itself before the ninth inning and Dominguez isn't able to close, Luis Garcia and Edburay Ramos both recorded saves in the month of May. Even away from the ninth inning, Neris was asked to keep the Phillies within three runs Friday. He wasn't able to do that.
Perhaps Neris is a second-half pitcher. In 2017, the righty was spectacular after the All-Star Break, posting a 2.48 ERA and converting on all 13 of his save opportunities. That came after he posted a 4.97 ERA in April and a 4.50 ERA in June. Still, Neris posted a 3.52 ERA in the first-half of the 2017 season. He didn't have an ERA north of five. He wasn't bouncing pitches to the plate.
Regardless of what role he pitches in, the Phillies will need Neris to be effective in the second-half of the season again as they push for a postseason berth. He may figure things out while pitching at the major league level. But if that doesn't happen soon, optioning Neris may become a serious consideration.