Nine is a special number in baseball, but you already knew that. Nine innings, nine positions, ninety feet between each base.
Nine has also been an important number for the Phillies this season. They’ve cycled through nine different starting pitchers in the rotation – Wheeler, Nola, Eflin, Gibson, Suárez, Moore, Anderson, Velasquez, and Howard. They’ve tried nine different options in center field, too – Herrera, Jankowski, Quinn, Williams, Moniak, Haseley, Vierling, Kingery, and Bonifacio.
The Phillies are hoping to avoid a losing record for the first time in nine years, while the Braves’ magic number to clinch the division currently sits at nine.
On a more positive note, Manny Trillo became the ninth member of the 1980 World Series team to be enshrined on the Wall of Fame this summer. Trillo wore the number 9 when he played for the Phillies.
And now, Héctor Neris needs just nine more strikeouts to tie Ron Reed for the Phillies franchise record of most strikeouts by a relief pitcher.
Neris is striking out 11.53 per nine this season, and his career average is 11.42 K/9. In other words, striking out nine additional batters won’t be a difficult task for Héctor. What makes it tough, however, is that there are just ten games left in the Phillies’ season, and Neris is set to become a free agent this November.
If Héctor Neris continues to rack up Ks at his current pace, he’ll need 7 IP in the final ten games to tie the Phillies record for Ks by a reliever. That might sound like a lot, but he’s recorded 7 IP in a ten-game stretch plenty of times this year, including several times this month (09/06 to 09/16, 09/09 to 09/19, and 09/11 to 09/21). Neris is the most reliable reliever the Phillies have and every game from here on out is a must-win, so it’s safe to presume that Joe Girardi will be riding him pretty hard for the remainder of the season. If Héctor can get another 7 IP, he’s got a pretty good shot at tying the record.
But even though he’s done it before, 7 IP still feels like a lot, so here’s another way to look at it. Neris will almost certainly pitch in at least five more games this season. Can he strike out nine batters in five games? He’s done it before. Neris has recorded 9 Ks in a five-appearance span seven times this season alone. If he can pitch in six more games, his chances of tying the strikeout record get even better. Neris has recorded 9 Ks in a six-appearance span twenty-one times this season. That being said, there are – of course – many more six-appearance spans in which Héctor didn’t strike out nine batters. Nine strikeouts in six appearances isn’t easy, but it is possible.
If Héctor Neris can break the strikeout record, he will have officially carved himself a place in Phillies history. The accomplishment would come with several caveats (Neris pitches in a strikeout-heavy era, relievers pitch more often these days than they used to, Neris is also the Phillies leader in home runs allowed by relievers, etc.) but it would be a fun accomplishment nonetheless. If nothing else, it gives us one more thing to root for in the final days of the season and an excellent way to remember Hector Néris if his days as a Phillie are soon to be over.
The chase for 519 continues tonight at 7:05 PM.
Will Héctor Neris reach 519 strikeouts this season?
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