There are members of the Phillies team right now that should be very, very happy that no fans are allowed in the stadium.
The game started off well for the Phillies. Bryce Harper continued his march squarely into the middle of the MVP discussion by hitting a home run approximately back to the Philadelphia.
470 FEET!— MLB (@MLB) August 22, 2020
Wow, @bryceharper3. pic.twitter.com/zEYC9urNjU
Say what you want about the bullpen, rotation and bottom half of the lineup, but Harper has been absolutely incredible this season. Must be that first birthday dad power. That long home run gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead.
From there, starter Zack Wheeler was on cruise control for much of the game. One of the things that we’ve noticed about Wheeler this year is that even with a high octane fastball and top tier secondary pitches, he hasn’t been striking out a lot of batters. His K/9 entering the game sat at around 4.5 which is way below his career average. He’s been focusing more on getting contact on the ground it looks like, and he’s been very effective with it. Tonight was a different story. Through the first six innings, he struck out seven Braves hitters and allowed only three hits. Staked to a 3-0 thanks to an Austin Riley error that prolonged the fifth inning and allowed an unearned run to score, Wheeler went into the seventh looking to continue his dominant outing.
In that inning, the Braves had Adam Duvall hit by a pitch to lead off the inning before Matt Adams struck out for the first out. Riley atoned for his error by drilling a 1-2 pitch into the left field stands, making it 4-2. Still a lead, still ok.
Unless you have the Phillies’ bullpen.
Hector Neris, who has reverted back to 2018 Hector Neris, crossed up his catcher, allowed the first three hitters to reach, Marcell Ozuna’s single scoring Dansby Swanson and bringing the Braves within one. Joe Girardi wasted no time, bringing in Brandon Workman for his first save situation...which he promptly blew.
Even with the addition of Brandon Workman, the #Phillies bullpen blows another late lead.— Today in MLB (@TodayintheMLB) August 23, 2020
Matt Adams puts the #Braves ahead. pic.twitter.com/lXFEPs2JnR
This being the Phillies, though, they couldn’t just let the fans die in peace. No, they had to get the game tied in the ninth thanks to Harper hitting bases loaded, one out sacrifice fly. They couldn’t scrape another run across, but the game was thankfully tied.
But again - the bullpen.
Tyler Flowers led off the ninth with a single, Swanson sent him to third with a single, then went to second on the throw, which meant that Freeman would be intentionally walked to load the bases. On the next batter, Workman got a groundball to Didi Gregorius, who came home for the force that was inexplicably called safe before replay reversed the call. The out was made, but on the next batter, Adam Duvall sent the Braves home happy.
That’s Duvall, folks!#ForTheA pic.twitter.com/rMkMg74t9L— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) August 23, 2020
It’s almost comical at this point. There is about no one in that bullpen left who can reliably get an out when one is needed. There is no need to sugarcoat it. The facts speak for themselves.
The Philadelphia Phillies bullpen currently holds an 8.33 ERA which is the worst in MLB History #RingTheBell— Sports Are Philly (@SportsArePhilly) August 23, 2020
There needs to be a lot of looking in the mirror by the members of that bullpen right now. It’s easy for us to sit here and spout off vitriol at the bullpen, at the general manager for allowing this bullpen composition, but it’s true. This is a bad, bad group of relievers. Hoping that one or two guys will ride in on their horse and save the collective isn’t a wise decision.
2020 is running out fast. There’s still time, but the confidence, already low, is waning.