Final Score: Rays 6, Phillies 2
There was a lot of talk heading into this weekend about strategy. Joe Girardi hinted at a new media policy designed to keep certain bits of information in house for strategic purposes. All of this was happening as the Phillies began a series against baseball’s new-age trendsetters who do strategy better than anyone else in the league.
Unsurprisingly, the Phillies were swept this weekend by the Rays, who are the best team in the American League.
The Tampa Bay Rays struggled in the early going, but they have now won 15 of their last 16 games. The Phillies, meanwhile, have lost nine of their last 14 and are struggling to make basic plays, hit with a few regulars out of the lineup and get outs near the end of the game.
They’re three games below .500 and are still in the race to win the sport’s most mediocre division. But if they continue to rack up losses at the pace they are at right now, the Phillies won’t be able to say that much longer.
- Two singles from Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto set up first and third with two outs for Brad Miller, who grounded out to end the first inning. Collin McHugh, the Rays opener, was pulled from the game in favor of Josh Fleming after 14 pitches. Zach Eflin countered with a 12 pitch 1-2-3 first inning.
- Rays catcher Mike Zunino opened the scoring with a two-run home run to left that jumped off the bat. Eflin could have been out of the inning if Alec Bohm caught a pop-up in foul territory in the first at-bat of the inning. Instead, Austin Meadows worked an eight-pitch walk, Joey Wendle reached on a fielder’s choice, Taylor Walls struck out and Zunino brought Wendle home on the round-tripper.
- Didi Gregorius, who is on the injured list with an elbow injury, consoled a visibly frustrated Bohm in the dugout. Bohm leads the National League in errors among third basemen.
- Last year’s World Series hero Brett Phillips caught a hanging slider and deposited it into the right-field seats to give Tampa Bay a three-run lead. Eflin allowed two more hits and was pulled for Ranger Suárez with three lefties due up after 4 2/3 innings.
- The Rays scored another run on a double from Ji-man Choi. Suárez ended the inning with a flyout against Wendle, stranding the bases loaded.
- The Phillies offense finally looked fairly competent against Fleming in the sixth. Realmuto knocked in a run on a sacrifice fly and Miller plated Segura on a ground-rule double. It turned out Segura’s stolen base earlier in the at-bat was huge. He would have scored easily from first on Miller’s double if the ball didn’t go over the wall and Segura did not attempt to swipe second on the new pitcher Andrew Kittredge. The stolen base ensured that he could score in the ground-rule double.
- The worst defense in baseball had another one of those Bad News Bears type innings in the seventh. After a solid inning and two-thirds from Connor Brogdon, Girardi opted to bring in Archie Bradley with a runner on second. He walked Meadows and surrendered a single to right against Wendle. The right fielder Miller missed the cutoff man and the ball went to the backstop. Knapp retrieved the ball in an attempt to throw Meadows out at home, but the ball got away from Bradley. They were able to tag out Wendle in a rundown between second and third. Somehow, they didn’t mess that up.
- Rays closer Diego Castillo needed a ton of sliders to do it, but he closed the game by stranding the bases loaded. Herrera represented the tying run at the plate, but he flew out to Kevin Kiermaier at center for the final out.
Shibe Vintage Sports Starting Pitching Performance
Josh Fleming: 4 2/3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO, 75 pitches
Collin McHugh was technically the Rays’ starter for today’s game, but Fleming was Sunday’s “bulk inning” guy. The 25-year-old has performed well in this unique role, as he now has a 2.98 ERA in 45 1/3 innings pitched.
Zach Eflin: 4 2/3 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO, 2 HR, 86 pitches
Sunday’s was Eflin’s shortest start since September 13 when he failed to give the Phillies length in the second game of a doubleheader against the Marlins. He was on pace to go at least six, but then he ran into a long fifth inning where he gave up three consecutive hits with two outs.
Phillies Nuggets Player of the Game: Brett Phillips
The birthday boy went 2-for-3 with a home run. According to Phillips, it’s the first time he ever played a game in the big leagues on his birthday. Good teams have bottom-of-the-order guys who grind out at-bats and get key hits when the top of the lineup needs a boost. In three at-bats, Phillips saw a total of 18 pitchers.
- After the game, Girardi confirmed the inevitable: Roman Quinn is out for the remainder of the 2021 season with a left Achilles injury.
- Girardi also spoke about his decision to add Travis Jankowski to the active roster over Mickey Moniak: “His ability to play center field is probably the biggest thing. He was probably swinging the bat the best down there. We envision Mickey more as a corner outfielder than a center fielder.” Moniak is 3-for-25 with 12 strikeouts since being sent down to Triple-A in April.
Ticket IQ Next Game
- Monday, May 31 vs. Cincinnati Reds at 2:10 pm
- Great American Ballpark
- NBC Sports Philadelphia
- 94 WIP
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