Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Rejuvenated Phillies keep Dodgers stumbling towards NL West crown

Hoskins four RBI pace Phils past Dodgers (Photo: LA Times)
I had the pleasure of taking in the Philadelphia Phillies 6-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Let me tell you, this was not the same Phillies team that sputtered through the 2017 season's first four months. It also was not the same Dodgers team that ran away and hid in the NL West race.

The win was the fifth in the last seven games for the once-again Fightin' Phils. Since just after the MLB All-Star Game break back in mid-July, the Phillies have a 31-31 record. They have been competitive for months.

"It was nice to beat the Dodgers with Kershaw and Darvish pitching," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said per Ben Harris for MLB.com following the game. "It's a great way to start the series. The guys have come alive."

The once dominant Dodgers are in free-fall coming down the stretch. Los Angeles has won just five of it's last 15 games.

On a night made extremely windy and at times wet thanks to Hurricane Jose spinning off the east coast, the Phillies got off to a cold start.

Dodgers' starter Yu Darvish shut the Phillies lineup down over 5.1 innings, allowing no earned runs on four hits. He struck out seven and walked just one batter.

The recent trade acquisition from the Texas Rangers was staked to a 2-0 lead. Yasmany Grandal pushed a wind-aided home run just over the left field wall in the top of the 3rd inning. In the very next inning, Curtis Granderson was robbed of a home run by that same wind, but his double scored Cody Bellinger for that 2-0 cushion.

The Phillies finally got to Darvish in the 6th, and as usual of late, it was rookie sensation Rhys Hoskins doing the damage. Hoskins slashed an RBI down the left field line to score Cesar Hernandez, cutting the lead to 2-1 and chasing Darvish from the game after 97 pitches.


LA skipper Dave Roberts went to lefty Tony Watson out of the bullpen, and when Nick Williams beat out a slow chopper for an infield hit, the Phillies had the bases loaded with just one out.

Roberts then rolled the dice, leaving Watson in to face the righty swinging Aaron Altherr. The gamble paid off when Altherr bounced into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

Down 2-1, the Phillies went right back to work in the bottom of the 7th against new Dodgers pitcher Pedro Baez. It was another rookie sparking the inning. Third baseman J.P. Crawford drilled a ball to an opening in center field. As the ball split the Dodgers outfielders and rolled to the wall, Crawford raced all the way around the bases, sliding headfirst into 3rd base with a leadoff triple.

Yet another rookie, catcher Jorge Alfaro, was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Maikel Franco followed by popping out easily to third base on the first pitch that he saw as a pinch-hitter for Phillies starter Aaron Nola. Fans have been frustrated with Franco's failures for some time, and let him know it with some lusty booing.

Hernandez drew a walk to load the bases. Freddy Galvis then popped a fast-sinking fly ball to right field. Curtis Granderson was forced to slide to catch it, and it appeared that Crawford could have tagged to score the tying run. However, he instead raced down the line as the ball fell, and was forced to retreat to the bag when Granderson made the catch.

With that baserunning blunder, it appeared that for a second straight inning the Phillies might waste a bases loaded opportunity.

Instead, Odubel Herrera showed some uncharacteristic patience, drawing a four-pitch walk that forced home Crawford with the tying run.

That brought Hoskins to the plate again. Once again, the 24-year old cleanup hitter played the hero role to perfection. Hoskins worked a classic at-bat against Baez, battling to a full count. Then he crushed a clean hit down the left field line. All three base runner rushed home as Hoskins cruised into 2nd base with a double.



"He made some good pitches too with good strikes, not really anything in the middle of the plate," Hoskins said per MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. "I was just lucky enough to put a good swing on the last one."

That quickly, the Phillies held a 5-2 lead. They would extend it out to 6-2 in the bottom of the 8th inning when Altherr drilled his 18th home run of the year through the teeth of the wind in left-center.

Hector Neris allowed a leadoff single to former Phillies hero Chase Utley in the bottom of the 9th inning. Utley had received his typical standing ovation from fans when he first came to bat back in the top of the 2nd frame.

Neris then settled in, retiring the next three Dodgers hitters in order to seal the victory for the Phillies.

Nola had given the club a strong start, nearly matching Darvish. The 24-year old Phillies righty surrendered just the two runs on five hits, striking out eight and walking a pair over seven innings. He would earn the Win thanks to that 7th inning rally, raising his record to 12-10 on the year.




"This is frustrating," said Roberts per Ken Gurnick for MLB.com, as LA saw their division lead slashed from 21 games to 9 1/2. "That team over there with a good pitcher, they've got speedy guys, put the bat on the ball, they play hard. Teams that have nothing to play for but are trying to establish themselves, those are dangerous teams."

Despite their latest loss, the Dodgers 'Magic Number' to clinch the NL West Division crown lowered to just 2 when the Arizona Diamondbacks also lost. Los Angeles can clinch as early as Wednesday night.

The Phillies will try to continue frustrating Roberts and the Dodgers on Wednesday night. Despite playing well for over a month, the Phils will be trying to string together three straight wins for the first time in that span.

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