Phillies vs. Red Sox: Phillies snap 6-game losing skid and avoid Red Sox sweep
Phillies snap 6-game losing skid and avoid a Red Sox sweep originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
By Phil Sheridan
When he moved Kyle Schwarber to the leadoff spot, Phillies manager Rob Thomson said the struggling Schwarber preferred batting first. After all, he led the National League with 46 home runs last season, mostly from the 1-hole.
So Sunday, when Schwarber snapped an 0-for-21 slump with a 2-run home run and an RBI single, Thomson couldn’t resist the temptation.
“He really likes the 5-hole,” Thomson said with a wry smile.
Schwarber was supposed to provide pop in the Phillies’ modified lineup. So were Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos and Trea Turner. The addition of Taijuan Walker was supposed to give them a third high-end starting pitcher, along with Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. The bullpen was set up to finish games after a quality start by someone in the rotation.
It was supposed to look a lot like the Phillies’ 6-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox Sunday. Playing in front of the largest sellout crowd of the season at Citizens Bank Park – 44,669 – the Phillies played a clean, balanced baseball game.
“It feels good going into an off day (Monday) with a win,” Thomson said. “We played extremely well today. So that feels really good.”
It hasn’t been a familiar feeling around the Phillies lately. The team lost 6 consecutive games, its longest losing streak of the season. They never lost more than 5 in a row last season.
With Toronto (21-14 after a win in Pittsburgh Sunday) coming in for two games Tuesday and Wednesday, the Phillies could have been desperate to end a 7-game losing streak. After Sunday, they will take on the Blue Jays with a 1-game winning streak.
Not that big a deal? Every winning streak, no matter how long, begins with a single win.
“A great team win,” Schwarber said. “Get off that little streak that we had there and hopefully take that momentum into the next series.”
Walker got the game started for the Phillies by making a statement. He has not been quite the pitcher the Phillies were looking for when they signed him in the offseason. On Sunday, he was exactly that pitcher. Walker struck out the leadoff batter and then, after giving up a base hit, picked Masataka Yoshida off first base.
Walker faced the minimum number of batters through 4 innings, thanks to that pickoff play and J.T. Realmuto throwing out Raimel Tapia trying to steal second in the 4th. Triston Casas hit a solo home run in the 5th, but Walker was otherwise dominant.
The reason, he said, was that he stuck with his fastball and his split-fingered fastball instead of mixing in curveballs and other secondary pitches.
“I stayed with my 2 best pitches,” Walker said.
Walker threw 85 total pitches in 6 innings of work; 46 of them were splitters. He allowed 3 hits, struck out 6 and walked nobody.
“He was outstanding,” Thomson said. “He threw those splitters and it kept them off balance.”
Boston’s Tanner Houck kept pace with Walker – for a while. They both got through 3 innings facing the minimum 9 hitters. They both struck out 3. But the Phillies got to Houck in the 4th, and it was a fitting example of Thomson’s lineup manipulation paying dividends.
Bryson Stott, the man Schwarber replaced in the leadoff spot, was back there Sunday. Stott kicked off the Phillies’ 2-run fourth with a clean single up the middle.
“He really is a leadoff guy,” Thomson said.
Trea Turner singled and Bryce Harper drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. Nick Castellanos hit a grounder to third baseman Rafael Devers, who bobbled the ball, gathered it in and beat Turner to third for a fielder’s choice that scored Stott.
Schwarber followed with an RBI single to left.
Two innings later, with Harper on second, Boston manager Alex Cora played the percentages and brought lefthander Richard Bleier to face Schwarber. Schwarber was not impressed. He cranked Bleier’s second pitch into the seats behind right field.
It felt like the kind of game the Phillies expected to play when they went to Clearwater in February. But they were missing Harper after his elbow surgery. They lost Rhys Hoskins to a knee injury. They lost reliable starter Ranger Suarez to elbow soreness.
The season was not going according to the blueprint. On Sunday, for one game out of 162, it did. And the blueprint looked pretty good.