Going into today's game with the Miami Marlins, the Philadelphia Phillies had a record of 20 - 12 since the All Star Break. That unsustainable pace extrapolates to 101 wins, so the team has to cool off at some point. With a poor Marlins team facing Aaron Nola, would the Phillies continue to surprise?
The Phillies are going nowhere in 2015, so each game is less about wins or losses than player development. What did we see from the Phillies today?
The primary focus for me was Aaron Nola. Nola struggled in his last outing against the offensive juggernaut that is the Toronto Blue Jays, and his task today was much simpler: shackle a relatively free-swinging Miami team that is without Giancarlo Stanton.
Nola performed very well. Mixing mostly his 2 seam and 4 seam fastballs with an effective curve, Nola consistently worked ahead in the count and kept his pitch count low after hitting 18 pitches in the first inning. Nola kept the ball on the ground and got the occasional strikeout. He worked well with Cameron Rupp to control the running game with an effective move to first and a well-executed pitchout to help nail super speedy Dee Gordon on a steal attempt in the sixth.
Nola threw roughly 2 strikes for every ball. He struck out 6 while giving up 3 hits over 8 innings and 100 pitches. He faded in the 8th, walking Adeiny Hechavarria and running a deep count to Jeff Mathis before inducing a pop-out and striking out pinch hitter Casey McGehee on a nifty curve. The 27 batters he faced hit 9 ground balls, 2 infield flies, 8 fly balls, and 1 line drive. The balls and strikes were 36 and 64, respectively. It was an excellent outing in all respects.
Darnell Sweeney made his Major League debut as a centerfield starter, giving a much-needed day off to grizzled veteran Odubel Herrera. Sweeney appeared to be comfortable in center as well as at the plate. He struck out once and walked three times. The only negative on the day was a caught stealing to end the Phillies' eighth inning. On a high and outside fastball that appeared to be almost a pitchout, Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis made a great throw and nailed Sweeney by a mile.
Cameon Rupp had a nice game with an opposite field homer off the fair pole in right. It hit halfway up the pole to extend the Phillies lead to 2 - 0 in the 7th inning. Rupp is not a great hitter, but that homer showed how strong he is. He just muscled it out. HODORHODORHODOR! Rupp threw out two runners trying to steal, including the aforementioned Dee Gordon.
Aaron Altherr played again in left field. He drove in Cesar Hernandez (walk, advanced to third on an Andres Blanco single) with a sacrifice fly. No major defensive snafus.
Adam Conley did not pitch poorly for the Marlins. He went six innings, giving up just one run. He walked 4 and struck out 5, but was never hurt badly. Rupp's homer came off of reliever Chris Narveson.
Ken Giles closed it out uneventfully for the Phillies. He is now 10 for 10 since taking over for Jonathan Papelbon as the Phillies' closer. A nifty, over-the-shoulder grab by Freddy Galvis closed it out.
In all, it was a well-pitched, well-played game by both teams, with the Phillies managing to string together just enough offense to hold up the excellent pitching that they got from Nola.