It’s a long and winding road that leads a team - let alone a team with a supposed interest in making the playoffs - to utilize a four-man starting rotation. The organizational failure that got us to this point will be discussed at length elsewhere, so let’s just focus on the fact that by only having four starters, every fifth game will be handled by a bullpen committee, and for the Phillies, that fifth game came on Thursday night.
Without a starting pitcher, the Phillies were forced to use seven relievers. Some of them pitched well. Some pitched poorly. One of them pitched exceedingly poorly. In total, they gave up eight runs, which is generally not something that happens in victories. But thanks to Bryce Harper and the rest of the Phillies’ offense, the Phillies were able to overcome the bullpen’s failings, and surged to a 17-8 win over the Chicago Cubs.
This one didn’t seem very “victoryish” early on. Cam Bedrosian and Matt Moore got through the first two innings without damage, but asking Moore to return for a second inning was asking too much. Two walks later, J.D. Hammer was brought into the game.
It was certainly “Hammer time” on Thursday night, and by that, I mean that the Cubs batters were hammering his pitches all over the ballpark. (Or at least the ones that he didn’t walk or hit with a pitch.) The Phillies have made a lot of sub-par hitters into homerun heroes lately, and for the second time this series, it was Matt Duffy’s turn.
Matt Duffy entered yesterday with 25 career home runs in over 1,800 at-bats.— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) September 16, 2021
He’s hit two in the last two games off the Phillies bullpen.
By the time the third inning was over, the Phillies were down 7-0, and most fans likely decided to see how the Giants-Football Team game was going. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned this series, it’s that the Phillies are never out of a game (Provided they’re facing a bad team that traded away most of their good players in deadline deals).
In the bottom of the fourth, the Phillies erased the deficit. To nobody’s surprise, one of the key figures in the comeback was Bryce Harper. Harper led off the inning with a double, and when his turn in the order came up again in the inning, he walked. But for once, he wasn’t the only one showing competence. The Phillies had five hits in the inning, and sent twelve men to the plate in scoring seven runs.
Just kept chipping away. pic.twitter.com/mMmMtPZaNE— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) September 17, 2021
Harper and the Phillies were just getting started. His RBI double in the sixth gave the team the lead, and Didi Gregorius knocked in two more with a single.
Y’all thought Bryce was finished? Nope. He gave the MVP voters something else to think about in the seventh:
A nice little 3-4, two walk, four RBI night for Harper that likely earned him another vote or two.
By the time the Phillies were done, they had scored 17 runs, and established a nine-run lead that even their bullpen was unable to blow.
The Phillies will now head to New York for a weekend series, and they have three actual starting pitchers scheduled to pitch. That is no guarantee of success, but it also means they probably won’t need to depend on 17-run showings from their offense in order to win the game. That said, I don’t think anyone would complain much if they do it again.