As the Jewish people of the world celebrated the turning of a new year on Friday night, the Phillies may have turned a corner. The past week has not gone very well for the team, but Friday night offered hope that they may have moved past that, as they swept the Blue Jays in a doubleheader.
The first game was relatively easy. Much like Aaron Nola did a week earlier, Zach Eflin pitched a seven-inning complete game. Eflin may have been aided a bit by a strong wind blowing in, but any time a Phillies starter can go the distance, its a huge relief (pun intended).
Exactly the kind of start the Phillies needed from Zach Eflin with Game 2 likely a bullpen game.— Corey Seidman (@CSeidmanNBCS) September 18, 2020
6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K on just 77 pitches.
Offensively, Didi Gregorius got things started with an RBI double in the first, but that was all they could manage for a few innings. Just as fans began to have visions of yet another blown early lead, the bats came back to life in the fifth. Bryce Harper got things started with a blast so mighty that even the wind couldn’t stop it.
Phil Gosselin drove in another run, and then Andrew Knapp tripled home two more to extend the lead to six. Alec Bohm drove in another run the following inning, and thanks to the stellar work of Eflin, that’s how things ended.
With a dearth of healthy starting pitchers, the Phillies went with a bullpen game in the nightcap, which didn’t fill anyone with much optimism. And sure enough, the assortment of relievers didn’t pitch very well, giving up seven runs in seven innings. But as it sometimes happens, the Phillies offense was able to overcome the bullpen’s shortcomings.
Once again, Didi Gregorius drove in a first inning run, and Andrew McCutchen extended the lead to three with a two-run home run in the third. After a combination of relievers gave those runs - plus a couple more - back, the Phillies were able to tie the game thanks to an unexpected source.
TIE GAME!— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) September 19, 2020
Rafael Marchan with his first professional home run to lock things up at 5-5-. pic.twitter.com/oJm4K9OCED
Any euphoria brought about by Marchan’s home run was quickly extinguished by Heath Hembree and Connor Brogdon giving up two runs the following inning.
We’ve seen plenty of losses like that this season, but on Friday night, the Phillies’ offense would not be denied. With two outs and two runners aboard in the bottom of the sixth, Bryce Harper once again came through in a big way.
Alec Bohm followed with an RBI single to give the Phillies the lead, and I think I’m going to enjoy having Harper and Bohm in the middle of the Phillies lineup for the next several years.
Of course, the Phillies still had to protect that newly gained lead in the seventh. And while it was not without angst, Hector Neris was eventually able to get the job done.
With the sweep, the Phillies have maintained their hold on a playoff spot in the National League. And while the bullpen is still fraught with peril, the way that Harper and the rest of the offense have hit lately, maybe they have a chance at holding on to it for the duration. After all, they haven’t lost a game all year!