MLB Wild Card: Noah Syndergaard and Phillies finish homestand with loss to Pirates

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No sweep for Phillies after quiet offensive day against talented young Pirates righty originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Facing the best starting pitcher they've seen all week, the Phillies were unable to solve impressive young Pirates right-hander Roansy Contreras in a 5-0 loss.

The Phils couldn't complete the sweep, which would have been the fifth in their last 12 series. They still went 7-4 on their homestand thanks to six straight wins this week over the Reds and Pirates.

Contreras, a 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic, was a Top 80 prospect at Baseball America entering the season. He was part of the Pirates' return when they traded Jameson Taillon to the Yankees in January 2021. The rookie has made several strong starts this season, including earlier in the week when he limited the red-hot Braves to two runs over seven innings.

The Phillies had just four hits, all singles. Their best scoring chance came in the fourth inning when Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto singled with nobody out. They were stranded after Jean Segura struck out, Bryson Stott popped out and Edmundo Sosa lined out with the bases loaded.

Contreras struck out seven over five scoreless innings with a nasty slider and 96-97 mph heat. The Phillies were glad to see him exit after just five innings but couldn't come back against the Bucs' bullpen, going 1 for 12 to end the game.

"Slider kept us off the barrel," manager Rob Thomson said. "He's got a good arm. We couldn't get much going. He pitched good, give him credit."

Noah Syndergaard made his fifth start as a Phillie and allowed hard contact. Oneil Cruz led off the game with a triple and scored on Ke'Bryan Hayes' well-struck single to right field. The Pirates tripled three times off of Syndergaard, all with less than two outs, and all three came around to score. They chased him with three more runs in the sixth.

Center fielder Matt Vierling left his feet on Cruz' ball in the first inning despite having little chance to reach it. It resulted in the ball rolling to the wall, allowing the speedy Cruz to get three bags rather than one. Vierling is not a natural center fielder and it has shown at times this season. He was starting for Brandon Marsh, who had the day off after returning Friday from knee and ankle injuries.

Rhys Hoskins was also off for the first time in 61 games. He last sat in the nightcap of a doubleheader in Washington on June 17.

Though he did not pitch well Sunday, Syndergaard has benefited from Realmuto's prowess behind the plate. Base stealers were 28 for 29 with Syndergaard on the mound entering play but Realmuto threw out both Pirates who tried him, Hayes and Greg Allen. Both are fast runners and both got good jumps but it didn't matter.

There's been just one successful steal against Syndergaard in his last four starts. Realmuto has thrown out 24 runners attempting to steal, most in the majors. His success rate of 41 percent is well above the league average of 24 percent.

Thomson said Syndergaard has been working with the Phillies pitching coaches on speeding up his delivery and being quicker to home plate.

"J.T. makes it a whole lot easier, he's the best catcher in baseball," Syndergaard said. "I think it will only be beneficial. That's always been my Achilles heel, being too methodical."

At 72-56, the Phillies remain in the second wild-card spot with a cushion over the Brewers, the first team out. The Phils' run against sub-.500 teams continues as they head out to Arizona for three games Monday through Wednesday.

Ranger Suarez, Aaron Nola and Bailey Falter are in line to start for the Phils in Arizona.

"A 7-4 homestand, I'll take that, especially after how it started," Thomson said. "We're healthy and we're getting healthier every day. Just keep moving forward."

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