There was an ominous feeling in the air in South Philly tonight as storm clouds loomed over Citizens Bank Park. Despite little rain, the game was delayed for roughly an hour, and just got started a little bit after 8PM. I don’t know about you, but rain delays always give me a bad feeling for the coming game. No rhyme or reason for it, it just happens.
Thankfully, the rain did nothing to stop the Phillies.
On the mound for the Reds was Luis Cessa, who was starting his first game since 2018. He is typically used for short relief work, but he was the headliner tonight for Cincinnati.
For the Phillies was Noah Syndergaard, who has secured a win in each of his previous 3 starts since becoming a Phillie at the trade deadline. He has been solid thus far, but none of his wins have been particularly dominant. However, it has been an improvement over what he was doing in Anaheim the first half of the season. The Phillies pitching staff saw changes to be made, and they have been drastic.
By Stuff+, Noah Syndergaard has one of the worst four-seam fastballs in the game. So he's cut his usage from 21% with Angels to 7% with Phillies. The changeup is below average, so he's cut that from 23% to 10%. Changing your mix is the easiest way to improve.— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) August 22, 2022
On to the game. Through the first 2 innings, Syndergaard was cruising. One hit, no runs, and pitching to weak contact. The Phillies offense gave Syndergaard some needed run support in the bottom of the 2nd. Nick Castellanos was able to extend his hit streak to 12-games, with a mammoth home run to deep center field.
Bye-bye baseball! Nick Castellanos puts the Phils up early. pic.twitter.com/d1jbsGfhBj— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 23, 2022
Following Castellanos, was Bryson Stott. In case you’ve been under a rock lately, Stott is improving quickly and has been dominant in August. Hitting .323 this month, Stott showed once again that he is just getting started here in Philadelphia. He flashed the pop in his bat as he launched a no-doubter into the second deck out in right field. Back to back!
BACK-TO-BACK BOMBS. pic.twitter.com/IjTCTrFqNV— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 23, 2022
Cessa’s night was over quickly for Cincinnati after 2 innings, and they moved to reliever Joel Kuhnel. However, that did not matter as the Phillies added to their lead in the bottom of the 3rd. It got started with a J.T. Realmuto 2-out single, followed by (you guessed it) a double down the right field line from Castellanos. With some great baserunning from J.T., the Phillies were now up 3-0, and feeling it.
The Reds finally got to Syndergaard in the top of the 5th inning, as 9-hole hitter Austin Romine took him deep to left field with 2 outs. That would be all from the Reds offense tonight.
The Phils countered in the bottom half of the 5th. Alec Bohm knocks the second of his three hits in tonight’s ballgame, setting up J.T. to rip one into the right-center field gap, scoring Bohm from first. Castellanos, J.T., and Bohm have been on fire lately, and with Schwarber slumping and Harper gearing up to return next week, you could not ask for more from these guys right now.
Syndergaard ended the night with 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, and 1 K. Efficiently done on only 89 pitches. Easily his best start as a Phillie. Yes, it is the Reds. Even so, if Syndergaard is able to keep giving the Phillies quality starts as the fifth starter on the team, you are in really good shape heading down the stretch when you are trying to grab a wild card spot.
After the bullpen disaster against the Mets on Sunday, I had my fingers crossed headed into the final two innings of the game. Sam Coonrod entered in the 8th, and was lights out. Three up, three down with two strikeouts. Bellatti is the choice for the save opportunity, and despite walking Johnathan India to start the 9th, he was able to settle in. Two strikeouts and a flyout to right field later, Bellatti slammed the door shut on the Reds and earned his second save on the 2022 season. Phillies win.
This is a big stretch of games for the Phillies. After tonight's win, they have 21 consecutive games against teams who are currently under .500. Those teams being the Reds, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Giants, Marlins, and Nationals. They have a chance to not only separate themselves from the Padres and Brewers in the NL wild card race, but perhaps even gain ground on the Braves.
Getting Bryce Harper back as early as next Monday is near perfect timing for the Phillies. This is a playoff caliber team, and they have put themselves in this position without their best player. On to the next one.