After dropping two close games to the Dodgers, the Phillies salvaged a win in the series finale, mostly behind the solid arm of Zach Wheeler, and the spicy new red road jerseys the players insisted upon wearing. One wonders if these will be one-hit wonders like the ill-fated blue light specials, or if they’ll stick around. I’d prefer the latter.
In what could have been one of the greatest pitching matchups of the year, Wheeler faced off against Clayton Kershaw, but neither ace was as sharp as they have been known to be. Wheeler pitched six scoreless, scattering five hits and four walks, against six strikeouts. Kershaw, on the other hand, was decent, but had a couple rough spots.
In the first, with one out, Rhys Hoskins broke out of his length 0—fer with a solo home run to left center.
That run would be all Wheeler and the Phillies would need, but they did get another in the 3rd, when JT Realmuto doubled in Odubel Herrera.
After six, Wheeler sat down with 98 pitches, and there was some concern about who would relieve him. After all, the back of the Phillies’ bullpen has decent stuff, but also maddening inconsistency, which is not a good thing against a potent lineup like the Dodgers’.
But our concerns were set to rest. Jose Alvarado came in and struck out the side in the seventh on just 11 pitches. Then he came back for the eighth and retired the side with another strikeout. He retired Mookie Betts, Gavin Lux, Chris Taylor, Andy Burns (who got Disco Inferno from the organist) and Albert Pujols, in order, on 22 pitches.
José said "make it spicy." ️ pic.twitter.com/KfzyE8oqHp— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) June 17, 2021
If that Alvarado showed up every day, he’d be the best relief pitcher since Mariano Rivera.
For the ninth, Joe Girardi had to turn to his closer, Hector Neris wasn’t as sharp, and seems contractually obligated to make things more exciting than needed. He hit the leadoff batter, then Luke Williams turned a nifty double-play. Then Neris hit the next batter, bringing up Betts. Who hit a deep fly ball. And everyone in their heart knew it was a home run.
But it wasn’t. It was an out. The Phils won. Weeeeeee!
This was Kershaw’s sixth loss to the Phillies in his career. This is the guy who has been perhaps the best pitcher in baseball for most of the last fifteen years, who has 183 career wins, three Cy Young awards and an MVP. And the Phillies, who have been bad for much of that time, have more wins against him than any team outside the NL West. Which is bonkers.
Something needs to be said about the umpiring in this series. It was all bad. How bad?
Bad on both sides.
But I guess we’ll take it.
The Phillies improve back to .500 at 33-33, and the Dodgers are 41-27. Thursday is an off-day, before the west coast series continues on Friday with a three-game set against the Giants. Vince Velasquez is expected to start Friday against who knows.
Thanks for staying up late with me this week, folks.