Bad weather could not prevent the Phillies from having a good day Sunday at Citizens Bank Park. The crowd of 31,175 sat through the rain after a nice tribute to the 1993 team that went from worst to first to win the National League pennant a quarter-century ago. I was a beat writer for that team, and the memories come flooding back whenever I see those guys. It was especially good to see former general manager Lee Thomas, who never got enough credit for putting together that team at a time when the Phillies’ resources were far more scarce than they are now. The 2018 Phils, meanwhile, squeezed four runs out of four hits and ended a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory after being outscored, 24-7, by the Brewers in the first two games of the series.
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Tommy Hunter’s quick save
The Phillies gave Tommy Hunter a two-year, $18 million deal during the offseason because they wanted a veteran presence in first-year manager Gabe Kapler’s bullpen. It was the same reason they gave Pat Neshek a two-year, $16.25 million deal to return after he was traded to Colorado in the middle of last season.
Neshek (strained right shoulder) has not pitched, and Hunter seemed to be dropping in Kapler’s pecking order. In fact, before Hunter was called upon Sunday to record the game’s final out, six of his seven appearances had come with the Phillies trailing. That’s not what they brought him here to do, and he is well aware that his career in Philadelphia is not off to a great start.
“Baseball, man,” Hunter said. “Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear bites the [expletive] out of you. He’s been biting a little more than I’ve been biting, so hopefully that … changes.”
Hunter was asked to get only an out Sunday, but it was a huge one. After Lorenzo Cain doubled to put runners at second and third in the bottom of the ninth, Kapler waved in Hunter to replace Luis Garcia. After missing with his first pitch, Hunter retired the dangerous Christian Yelich on a grounder that shifted second baseman Cesar Hernandez fielded in shallow right field.
Two pitches, one out, and a save. It was the 18th save of Hunter’s career, and the one out lowered his ERA to 4.32 for the season.
“It was good to get an out,” he said. “I’m going to hopefully keep getting outs, and hopefully balls keep bouncing to the right position players, which are all of the ones behind me and sometimes the one in front of me, too. I hope it bounces to him sometimes, too.”
Odubel Herrera provided the game-winning RBI Sunday when he just beat out a fielder’s-choice grounder in the fifth inning to allow Andrew Knapp to score. But the Phillies center fielder is still mired in a horrible slump. Less than a month ago, he was leading the National League in hitting. Now, his batting average is down to a season-low .288.
You never know exactly how manager Gabe Kapler is going to deploy his bullpen when the Phillies have a late lead in a close game. All you can predict is that Seranthony Dominguez will make an appearance that lasts longer than one inning before Kapler starts mixing and matching the rest of his guys. Here’s my column about how that all unfolded in Sunday’s 4-3 win.
Dominguez, Luis Garcia and Hunter recorded the final nine outs, but Sunday’s win would not have been possible without the work of starter Zach Eflin, who solidified his spot in the starting rotation. He also contributed a huge sacrifice bunt that led to a three-run fifth inning for the Phillies.
Former Phillies ace Curt Schilling was the headliner at the 1993 reunion over the weekend, and it gave him a chance to reunite with Kapler. The two played together in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox ended that franchise’s 86-year World Series title drought. Schilling spoke glowingly about the Phillies’ rookie manager and said he would have loved to have been his pitching coach.
Rhys Hoskins (hairline jaw fracture) returned from the disabled list Saturday, wearing a helmet with protective flaps covering both sides of his face. He said the odd-looking helmet did not bother his vision at all, and his home run and five RBIs in two games seemed to prove it.
The two hottest players at triple-A Lehigh Valley led the first-place IronPigs to a 6-2 win over Charlotte on Sunday. First baseman Joey Meneses slugged his 11th and 12th home runs of the season, and lefthander Cole Irvin improved to 8-1 by allowing just two runs in seven innings. Here’s the full minor-league report.
It wasn’t all good news down on the farm. Top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez has landed on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.
The Phillies did a terrific job remembering the 1993 team, but it just was not the same without the troubled Lenny Dykstra and the late Darren Daulton there.
Today: Off day
Tomorrow: Ace Aaron Nola opens series against Colorado, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Nick Pivetta vs. Tyler Anderson, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Vince Velasquez vs. German Marquez, 1:05 p.m.
Friday: Phillies open three-game series in Milwaukee, 8:10 p.m.
Stat of the day
The good news for the Phillies is they do not have to face Ryan Braun at Citizens Bank Park again this season. Braun, who is harassed in Philadelphia for his 2013 performance-enhancing drug suspension, has reached base safely in every game he has played in Philadelphia since that suspension. In fact, he extended his streak of reaching base at Citizens Bank Park to 16 games Sunday with a two-hit game. During that streak, he has hit .418 (28 for 67) with 16 extra-base hits, including six home runs, and 27 RBIs. Braun’s .406 career batting average at Citizens Bank Park is the highest by any player at the ballpark.
The bad news for the Phillies is they’ll see Braun again this weekend in Milwaukee, where the slugging left fielder also does quite well against them. In 36 career games at Miller Park against the Phillies, Braun has batted .359 with 11 home runs and 29 RBIs.
From the mailbag
Happy the Phillies are back at CBP after that 3-7 road trip. Usually the West Coast trips include San Diego or Arizona. I see the schedule includes that as a separate trip later in the year. The interleague schedule has made some interesting changes including the 2 game road series, Home and home series in consecutive days. My question is, could you think of three better ballparks to visit on one road trip than Dodger Stadium, AT&T Park and Wrigley Field?
Chris N., via email
Answer: I was not on the Phillies’ most recent road trip, but I have been to all three of those ballparks many times and they are all incredible places. Dodger Stadium and Wrigley Field have stood the test of time as well as some major renovations, while AT&T Park is a more modern treasure trove that features the incomparable McCovey Cove. All three places are among the top five ballparks in baseball in my opinion.