Last night, the Red Sox curb stomped the Phillies. It wasn’t a competitive game, especially once Aaron Nola was knocked out of the game. Today, the Phillies threw a rookie out there in Spencer Howard.
Who is Spencer Howard? He is a player that made his MLB debut last year, pitching a grand total of six games, all games against NL East teams except one outing against the Blue Jays. While he had mixed results, the scouting report was electric. Currently the #32 prospect in all of baseball, Howard mixes two 60-grade pitches in his fastball/changeup combo, and throws in two more 50-grade pitches in his slider and curveball. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it should, it’s an archetype the Phillies like a lot in their pitching prospects.
The first bit of controversy from the game came following a hit-by-pitch, as a back foot breaker hit Danny Santana on the foot. A few pitches later he attempted a steal of second. On first look, he was out, thanks to a stellar throw by Rafael Marchan, a rookie in his own right. The play was overturned on review, but it was too close for comfort, and too close for me to be comfortable with the result. Howard rebounded by striking out the next two batters. Through the first two innings, he struck out 5 Red Sox batters.
But Howard is still a rookie. That showed in the third inning, as he walked the pitcher, Nate Eovaldi after a long plate appearance. Then, he walked Enrique Hernández on a shorter one. Rafael Devers drove a ball into right field, down the line, that Bryce Harper was unable to catch (it would have been an insane play if he made the play). Devers ended up on second, and the Red Sox scored their first run. Then he walked J.D. Martinez to load the bases. A sacrifice fly by Xander Bogaerts scored the second run. 2-0 was all the Sox were able to muster, as Howard escaped the inning, but the Sox had a lead. Howard returned in the top of the 4th but walked Bobby Dalbec to begin the inning, which spelled the end of his night. Bright future. But today belongs to the Sox.
The Red Sox had a pretty good pitcher on the mound too. His name is Nate Eovaldi. Perhaps you have heard of him?
Eovaldi didn’t start the game by striking out five batters in the first two innings. What Eovaldi did do however was lock down the game. Through the first three innings, he kept the Phillies off the board, and scrambling to get back into things. In the fourth inning, Eovaldi surrendered a run, following a sacrifice fly to deep center field, but kept the Phillies down at 2-1.
Bogaerts added another run to the Red Sox side of things with a solo home run in the 6th inning, to make it 3-1, his 10th home run of the season. But it wasn’t just Bogaerts feeling the love, as Danny Santana launched his own solo shot immediately after, his first in a Red Sox uniform, to make it 4-1.
Eovaldi, who had been sharp for the first five innings on the whole, did give up a solo home run to Rhys Hoskins, his 100th career home run, to make it 4-2. More importantly, it was the end of Eovaldi’s homerless streak.
Eovaldi had gone 68 innings without allowing a homer. Was the only qualified pitcher in MLB to not have allowed one before that shot.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) May 23, 2021
Anyway, his night is over. Taylor is in.
His night ended with a line of 5 1⁄3 innings, five hits, two walks, and four strikeouts, with two earned runs allowed. He turned it over to the bullpen. The first entry of the night: Josh Taylor, coming in with one out, and a runner on first base. Taylor, who has turned things around after a rough stretch, got two easy outs to retire whatever threat the Phillies had cooking.
Phillips Valdez came on in relief, in a high leverage situation, something that many Red Sox fans have been begging for in the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately he was nowhere near as clean as Taylor. The inning began with a single from Marchan, a walk from Ronald Torreyes, and an ugly hit by pitch for Jean Segura. With only one out in the inning, Alex Cora saw enough, and turned to Darwinzon Hernandez to salvage the inning, facing off first against Bryce Harper with the bases loaded. Maybe Valdez isn’t the answer.
He struck out Harper. On three straight pitches. Then he hit Hoskins in the chest to bring a run in. Then he got strike three against Brad Miller, which should have ended the inning except the umpire decided at that moment to be blind. Then he got strike four to get out of the inning for real this time. 4-3 after 7 full.
Adam Ottavino was next out of the pen, and brought his vicious slider to the party, as he carved through the bottom of the Phillies order, striking out the side. It was disgusting. Those guys have families. Either way, it set up one final showdown between Matt Barnes and the Phillies, to secure a series win.
First up, Torreyes. He slapped a single up the middle. Andrew McCutchen stepped in, representing the winning run. Barnes struck him out swinging. Segura? Walked after an intense plate appearance. With the tying run on second, and the winning run on first, in stood Bryce Harper, who entered the confrontation with an 0-4 hanging on his record, and three strikeouts. In his last 7 games, as the Fox broadcast reminded us, he was 2 for 24. Harper grounded to first. Dalbec made a good throw, but Segura threw his hands in the air, and made it a difficult play for Bogaerts to navigate. They were able to get the out at second, but that was it. The tying run was on third, and the winning run on first. In stood Hoskins. Barnes locked it down. Strike three.
Never a doubt.
The Red Sox and Phillies play one more tomorrow at 1:05 ET. The Red Sox are aiming for a sweep. The Phillies are aiming to salvage something of a home series playing by their own rules. It’s going to be fun hopefully.
The Sox improve to 29-18. Exhale.