Hector Neris

Phillies mount late rally to squeeze past fast-fading Marlins

Phillies mount late rally to squeeze past fast-fading Marlins

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MIAMI — It was revenge for Nick Pivetta, who lasted just four outs the last time he faced the Miami Marlins.

It was redemption for Maikel Franco, who had stranded four runners in a pair of two-out at-bats.

And it was sweet relief for Jorge Alfaro, Andres Blanco and Hector Neris, three of the heroes of a ninth inning that saw the Phillies turn an apparent loss against a pitcher making his major-league debut into a rousing 2-1 comeback win on the road (see observations).

Let’s start with the starter, Pivetta, who left with a no-decision, yes, but with his pride intact.

In two previous starts against Miami, Pivetta was 1-1 but with an ugly 12.15 ERA. On Friday, he pitched six innings, struck out six, allowed four hits and just one run — on a wild pitch.

He had a respectable 4.73 ERA in the first half of this season. But entering Friday, he had a 9.22 ERA in the second half.

“The work I’m doing is coming together,” said Pivetta, a rookie with a 5-9 record and a 6.28 ERA. “I had a rough August, but I’m looking forward to [a better] September and finishing strong.”  
  
Franco’s night was interesting.

The Phillies had very little in terms of a scouting report to go on against rookie lefty Dillon Peters, who stepped on a big-league mound for the first time on Friday.

Threats of two men on base were mounted in the first and sixth innings. But Franco squashed both of those opportunities, striking out swinging in the first and grounding into a force play in the sixth. On the latter play, another Marlins player making his big-league debut, Brian Anderson, made a diving stop.

But in the ninth, Franco got his first hit of the game, a leadoff double to the left-field corner, and that set the Phillies up for victory.

Franco moved up to third on a grounder by Nick Williams and scored when Alfaro singled softly to right.

“I was trying to put the ball in play,” Alfaro said. “I wasn’t as anxious as earlier in the game.”

The game-winning RBI wasn’t hit that hard, either. With runners on the corners and one out, Blanco grounded out to second baseman Dee Gordon. But Blanco gave it all he had to first base, avoiding a double play.

“That’s how you create a run and win a ballgame,” Blanco said. “Everybody was doing the little things, and I didn’t want to be left behind. I wanted to do something too.“

Neris pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 18th save of the season, but it wasn’t that easy, especially that last out.

Christian Yelich hit what should’ve been a fairly easy comebacker. However, Neris bobbled the ball and threw wildly to first, where Blanco stretched out for a great grab.

It was ironic that Neris, who specializes in saves, needed a save from his teammate, but that’s exactly how it went down.

“I didn’t expect a good throw,” Blanco told CSN’s Gregg Murphy. “I knew something crazy was going to happen. He bobbled it so many times. … But we made it.”

Phillies open road trip with total team effort in win over Marlins

Phillies open road trip with total team effort in win over Marlins

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MIAMI — When your organization has the worst record in baseball, you search every game to find something, anything, to build on for next year.

On Thursday night at Marlins Park, there might have been more than just one thing in a harrowing 3-2 win for the Phillies over the Miami Marlins (see observations).

But you would be hard-pressed to find anything more impressive than what left-hander Adam Morgan accomplished in the seventh inning, striking out the side against three impressive hitters.

After allowing a leadoff single to speedy Dee Gordon, Morgan, protecting a one-run lead, could have crumbled right there.

After all, this is his first year as a major-league reliever.

After all, Morgan had to find some way to get out Giancarlo Stanton, who leads the majors in homers; Christian Yelich, a Silver Slugger winner last year who has 16 homers this season; and Marcell Ozuna, a 2017 All-Star who has 31 homers and 103 RBIs.

As it turned out, Morgan got all of them to swing at air for strike three.

“I just stuck to my strengths,” said Morgan, who is 2-1 with a 4.46 ERA this season. “It feels good, but I have to keep going. I want to finish strong.”

Morgan, a 27-year-old native of Marietta, Georgia, was once one of the Phillies’ top prospects. But shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff caused him to miss the entire 2014 minor-league season.  

He made his major-league debut on June 21, 2015, as a starting pitcher. He had a promising rookie season, going 5-7 with a 4.48 ERA. But last year, he slipped to 2-11 with a 6.04 ERA, opening the door for his conversion to reliever.

Morgan, though, said part of the issue was just getting back to normal after his surgery.

“The more you throw after a surgery,” he said, “the more you use whatever body part was surgically repaired, the more loose it gets and the more it gets back to normal.”

Morgan wasn’t the only hero on Thursday as the Phillies improved to 50-83. Starter Ben Lively (2-5) earned the win by allowing just two runs in six innings. He also delighted in driving in two runs in an all-around performance.

“I feel if I swing hard enough and get a hold of it right, good things will happen,” said Lively, who is hitting .235 with one homer and four RBIs this season.

The Marlins stranded runners on second and third in the second inning and also left the bases loaded in the third, letting Lively off the hook.

The credit for working out of those jams apparently goes to catcher Cameron Rupp.

“I stuck with Rupp — he knows these guys better than I do,” said Lively, who broke a personal five-game losing streak. “I believed in him, and I believed in my pitches.”

This was the Phillies’ first one-run win since Aug. 9, but it almost didn’t happen because of some late-inning issues after Morgan departed.

The Marlins appeared to have tied the game in the eighth on a swinging bunt by Tomas Telis. Reliever Luis Garcia’s throw to first bounced into right field and allowed Derek Dietrich to score. However, Telis ran out of the baseline and was called out.

“You don’t see that very often, but it was the right call,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “You’ve got to give the pitcher a place to throw the ball.”

Stanton was held in check all night, going 0 for 5. And he was involved in Miami’s failed ninth-inning rally against Phillies closer Hector Neris, who earned his 17th save the hard way.

Neris hit pinch-hitter Mike Aviles with his first pitch and allowed a single to Gordon. Stanton then hit a deep fly out to center, but Aviles did not tag up. Yelich hit a low liner to left that was grabbed on a diving play by Hyun Soo Kim for the second out.

After a walk to Ozuna loaded the bases, J.T. Realmuto was caught looking at a 2-2 fastball that was either low or right at the knees to end the game.

“Good thing Lively drove in two runs,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “We won, and we’re happy about that.”

Phillies-Marlins observations: Ben Lively bounces back in 3-2 win

Phillies-Marlins observations: Ben Lively bounces back in 3-2 win

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MIAMI — It wasn’t a fatal blow, but the Phillies landed a damaging dagger to the heart of the Miami Marlins and their fading playoff hopes with a 3-2 win on Thursday night at Marlins Park.

Ben Lively (2-5) earned the win by allowing just two runs in six innings. He also drove in two runs in an all-around performance. (OK, he made a throwing error, but still …)

Hector Neris earned his 17th save the very hard way, loading the bases before striking out J.T. Realmuto, who watched a 2-2 fastball for strike three.  

With the win, the Phillies (50-83) became the last team in the majors to reach 50 victories. The Marlins (66-67) fell six games behind the Colorado Rockies in the battle for the final wild-card berth in the National League.

• The Marlins appeared to had tied the score in the eighth inning on a swinging bunt by Tomas Telis. Reliever Luis Garcia’s throw to first bounced into right field and allowed Derek Dietrich to score from first. However, Telis ran out of the baseline at first and was called out, crushing the rally. The Phillies dodged the proverbial bullet.  

• Left-hander Adam Morgan turned in an impressive relief outing, striking out the side in the seventh. Morgan got all three batters swinging. And these weren’t just any three batters. They were Giancarlo Stanton, who leads the majors in homers; Christian Yelich, a Silver Slugger winner last year who has 16 homers this season; and Marcell Ozuna, a 2017 All-Star who has 31 homers and 103 RBIs (see story).

• The power versus power matchup — Stanton against Phillies rookie Rhys Hoskins — never materialized. Stanton went 0 for 5 with a fly out, two strikeouts and two pop outs. He is 1 for 15 this week.

Hoskins, who has 11 homers in 22 games, didn’t go deep, but he went 1 for 3 with a single and a walk. Hoskins became the first Phillies rookie to produce a 13-game hit streak in the first month of his major-league career since Hall of Famer Chuck Klein accomplished the feat in 1928.

• The Phillies were sloppy on defense, making three errors. Shortstop Freddy Galvis, who could be forced to give up his spot upon the imminent arrival of minor-league standout J.P. Crawford, made one of the miscues. Galvis charged in on a slow roller but couldn’t make the grab.

The other two errors happened on the same play as a Dee Gordon bunt turned into — in net effect — a triple because of throwing errors by Lively and second baseman Cesar Hernandez. 
 
• Lively, who entered Friday 3 for 14 with one homer and two RBIs as a competent (for a pitcher) big-league hitter, doubled his RBI count with a two-run single in the fourth. He raised his batting average to .235.

• Left-swinging Phillies rightfielder Nick Williams has had fairly even splits against right-handers and left-handers this year. He entered Thursday batting .281 with an .844 OPS against right-handers and .280 with a .785 OPS against left-handers.

Having even splits is the key to playing every day, especially for a rookie such as Williams, who is still trying to prove himself. But in the seventh inning, with a runner on third and one out, Williams hit a grounder to third base, failing to get the run in against rookie lefty reliever Jarlin Garcia.