By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
Yet another tough loss to the Orioles last night means the Phils head into Thursday afternoon’s (4:05 p.m.) contest just trying to avoid the sweep. The Phillies have lost four of their last five games.
The most frustrating part about the last two nights has been that the Phillies could have easily won either game. They just capitalize so infrequently on big opportunities.
Rhys Hoskins hit into three double plays all by himself last night. Honestly, that’s so hard to do that I can’t help but be a tad bit impressed. I’ll talk more about Hoskins later.
At this point, we have enough of a sample size to know what the Phillies are. They’re an inconsistent team that, to put it simply, just does not have that it factor you always hear people talk about in sports.
Sure, they have a couple of great individual ball players. But as a whole? There’s just way too many holes in this team for them to overcome if things don’t change drastically, and fast.
Phillies Lineup vs. Thomas Eshelman (0-0, 3.68 ERA)
1. Andrew McCutchen DH
2. Jean Segura 2B
3. Bryce Harper RF
4. J.T. Realmuto C
5. Didi Gregorius SS
6. Alec Bohm 3B
7. Jay Bruce LF
8. Neil Walker 1B
9. Roman Quinn CF
The Phillies made a big move earlier this afternoon when it was reported that they would be calling up their number one prospect, Alec Bohm. Boy did they need him. With Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery struggling the way they were, this was the perfect time for Bohm to make his major league debut. This team needs a spark. Maybe he’ll be that spark, maybe he won’t, but there’s only way to find out: throw him into the fire.
As for the Phillies star of the present, Bryce Harper is playing like the superstar the Phillies are paying him to be. With another two hits last night, including a beautifully placed bunt against the shift that the new age of baseball analysts are cringing over, Harper’s average is up to .341.
Even with the amount of hits Harper has gotten, he still continues to work the count and get walked. His on base percentage is up to an other worldly .491, which is second in all of baseball to the reincarnation of Ted Williams, Mr. Charlie Blackmon.
Ben Davis of NBC Sports Philadelphia pointed out in the broadcast last night that no matter the result of the plate appearance, it just always seems as if Harper has a competitive at-bat. For once, I couldn't agree more with something Ben Davis said.
Bryce Harper has been on base as many times this season (26) as he’s made an out.— Corey Seidman (@CSeidmanNBCS) August 13, 2020
I know I touched on this yesterday, but the performances of the top two guys in the order last night are begging for me to talk about them, yet for different reasons.
Andrew McCutchen swung the twig the best he has all season last night. He roped two base hits and was robbed of a third because Andrew Knapp is slower than molasses. Both of his hits topped 100 miles per hour off the bat, which is a great sign.
Andrew McCutchen has two hits tonight, both at 100+ miles per hour off the bat.— Alex Carr (@AlexCarrMLB) August 13, 2020
Excellent to see him picking up the ball a bit better.
However, that’s not the thing about McCutchen’s game that was most glaring to me last night.
McCutchen seems like he is not fully recovered from his ACL injury that he suffered last June. He limps every time he runs, and it is really starting to affect him in the outfield. There were two instances last night where he could have gotten to the ball, but he looked like he was struggling to get into another gear. I’d imagine that this is the reason Bruce is starting in left field today with McCutchen at DH.
Boy oh boy, was there anyone more in need of an off day than Rhys Hoskins? I’ve already pointed out his incredible feat of hitting into three separate double plays that all looked exactly the same, grounders to third base. He’s been pulling everything he has hit this year, seemingly. That’s a product of rolling over, a sign of a pretty major fundamental issue in his swing.
The visible show of frustration also isn’t a sign of a player that’s confident in his play, especially considering Hoskins has never been the type of guy to show a lot of emotion. It was extremely troubling to me that Joe Girardi was watching Hoskins from an even closer perspective than we all are, and continued to have him in a crucial spot in the batting order.
It’s fairly obvious that whatever Hoskins issue was in the back half of last season has not been corrected. How much longer of a leash can the Phillies give him? In a 60-game season, you can’t wait for guys to turn it around.
Similar to Scott Kingery’s situation, it is unclear whether Hoskins getting the day off today is just that, or if it’s a prolonged benching. Girardi’s comments after last night’s game make it seem like it may just be an off day.
Joe Girardi says the Phillies don't plan to move Rhys Hoskins down in the order at this time.— Tim Kelly (@TimKellySports) August 13, 2020
No matter what it is, let's hope that Hoskins receives help to get him back to the hitter he was when he was first called up to the show in 2017. He’s flashed his potential, now he just needs to figure out what’s preventing him from being the guy who hit 18 home runs in his first 35 career games.
Orioles Lineup vs. Jake Arrieta (1-1, 2.45 ERA)
1. Hanser Alberto 2B
2. Anthony Santander RF
3. Jose Iglesias DH
4. Rio Ruiz 3B
5. Renato Nunez 1B
6. Dwight Smith LF
7. Pedro Severino C
8. Austin Hays CF
9. Pat Valaika SS
Jake Arrieta gets the start for the Phils tonight, and he has been a pleasant surprise so far through two appearances. After giving up three runs in his first start against the Yankees over five decent innings, Arrieta put together what might have been his best performance in a Phillies uniform in start #2.
Arrieta pitched six shutout innings, allowing just three hits and striking out six batters against a very deep Braves lineup. He’s been locating his pitches exactly where the catcher sets up and actually looks healthy so far this season. The Phillies will need him to replicate this performance if they want to avoid the sweep.
The big thing that Phillies pitching need to do this afternoon is keep the ball in the ballpark. Easier said than done, and not too hard hitting of an in-depth analysis, but with Arrieta on the mound this is imperative. Jake is a ground ball pitcher, and if the Orioles begin to hit fly balls, we’ll know that Arrieta doesn’t have his best stuff working.
Keep the ball on the ground, and the Phillies will hopefully be in good shape by the time Girardi turns the game over to the bullpen.
The Orioles lineup has been exactly what the Phillies were not yesterday: timely. In game one, all the O’s needed to do was put the ball in play and the Phils would have found a way to botch something. They capitalized on the Phillies fielding and bullpen woes and held off the Phils offense enough to get the win.
Last night, the Orioles continued their timely hitting and recorded three home runs. Eflin pitched well, striking out ten Baltimore batters. Yet, the Orioles again took advantage of the few mistakes he did make. Anthony Santander and Rio Ruiz each hit solo home runs off of him, and Chance Sisco followed up his two-run single in the fourth with what would end up being the game-deciding home run in the seventh off of Adam Morgan.
The aforementioned Santander has been the thorn in the Phillies side this series. He has four hits in nine at-bats, three runs scored, two RBI’s, and last night’s round-tripper. Keeping him in check will go a long way for the Phillies keeping Baltimore's offense from lighting up the scoreboard.
If the Phillies are going to be on national television at this point in the season, I’m happy that it’s on a Thursday afternoon during rush hour. This team has been that hard to watch as of late. But, if they are going to play in front of the nation, thank goodness it’s in the beloved powder blues coupled with the debut of their prized young prospect.
I think Alec Bohm goes 1-3 with a base hit in his first at-bat.
Jake Arrieta pitches another solid six innings, giving up two runs and striking out seven. The Phillies get home runs from Didi Gregorius and Jay Bruce off of Tommy Eshelman to make the score 3-2 when Girardi turns to the ‘pen.
Renato Nunez hits a two-run homer in the eighth inning to give the Orioles the lead, and the score remains 4-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth. That's when the power of the powder blues strikes again, as Bryce Harper comes up with the bases loaded and hits a walk-off two-run single. The Phillies win 5-4 and give the fans some false hope about the season being saved.
Time: 4:05 p.m.
TV: NBCSP, ESPN, MLB Network
Radio: 94.1 FM WIP & WTTM1680