One month ago, if I told you the Phillies would win both games at Fenway Park, you might have looked at me with skepticism. If I told you that the driving force behind the sweep would be the bullpen, you would have likely told me to shut my lying mouth. But it was indeed the relief corps that led the way as the Phillies prevailed 5-2 over the Red Sox on Wednesday night.
In July, the Phillies’ bullpen was decimated by injuries, and most of the healthy relievers caused high levels of angst every time they were called upon. But thanks to some shrewd in-season pickups and a return to dominance by closer Hector Neris, the August version of the bullpen has turned into a team strength.
The relievers needed to cover 5.1 innings on Wednesday because starting pitcher Drew Smyly was once again unable to pitch deep into the game. He was visibly frustrated by the strike zone of umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, and was removed with the bases loaded in the fourth inning.
Jared Hughes sprinted in to escape the jam, and (somewhat surprisingly, because Phillies pitchers tend to struggle when left in for another inning) also handled the fifth. He was followed by Ranger Suarez, Mike Morin, Jose Alvarez, and Hector Neris, and not a run was allowed among them.
The Phillies’ offense was far from overpowering, but they were good enough. After the Red Sox took an early 2-0 lead, the Phillies answered back in the fifth. Cesar Hernandez got on base with a double, and allowed the Red Sox to send him home thanks to a wild pitch/throwing error. A few batters later, Bryce Harper did as he often does these days: Hit a home run to put the Phillies on top.
Thanks to Corey Dickerson, the relievers were given some breathing room. He hit a two-out RBI triple in the seventh, and added another two-out run with an RBI single in the ninth.
The Phillies will enjoy an off day before a weekend series with the Marlins. Going against a last place team will hopefully give the starting pitchers a chance to thrive. But even if the rotation continues to struggle, as long as the relievers continue to dominate, it might not matter.