Altherr's clutch hit overcomes late inning bullpen implosion for Phillies

Aaron Altherr hit a game-winning double on Monday for the Phillies
Sending your incumbent closer to triple-A while a division rival bolsters their bullpen via trade on the same day isn't necessarily a promising sign, but that's what happened on Monday.

Preceding Monday's series opener against the Cardinals, the Phillies optioned Hector Neris to Lehigh Valley with the hope he clears his head and returns to the form that earned him the closing role last season.

Ironically, the Phillies faltered again in the ninth inning on Monday, this time with Victor Arano and Adam Morgan combining to cough up a two-run lead before Aaron Altherr came through in the 10th inning with a walk-off two-run double to lift the Phillies to a 6-5 victory over the Cardinals.

It's an entertaining way to win, but far from ideal.

Victor Arano started the ninth inning for the Phillies and ran into trouble issuing a one-out walk to Yadier Molina and surrendering a double to Jedd Gyroko. Arano proceeded to strikeout Harrison Bader for the second out and seemingly had Yairo Munoz down on strikes too, but Andrew Knapp failed to block a slider that rolled to the backstop allowing Molina to cross the plate. Adam Morgan then relieved Arano to close the inning, but not before Kolten Wong singled to center allowing the Cardinals to even the contest 4-4.



Tommy Pham took Jake Thompson deep in the 10th for a solo shot to give the Cards a one-run advantage before Altherr came through for the Phillies in the bottom of the frame.

The bullpen ineptness tarnished a stellar outing from Nick Pivetta who struck out a career-high 13 batters in 7 1/3 innings.

Yeah, the Phillies have a bullpen issue, though manager Gabe Kapler seems content without defined bullpen roles and naming an everyday closer despite having two quality arms in Seranthony Dominguez and Edubray Ramos that appear to ready to step into the role.

"I think anything is possible. I don't think it's out of the question that we give the ninth inning to Seranthony," Kapler said afterward (see video). "I'm not sure that's what is best for the Phillies and I will always do what I think is best for the Phillies.

"Sometimes that will be matching up in the ninth and sometimes it will be giving a guy a chance to take the entire ninth and sometimes it will be using Seranthony earlier in the game or [Edubray] Ramos earlier in the game. I don't know that it is necessary to designate somebody for a particular inning, especially given how much confidence we have in several guys."

Rather than use defined roles, Kapler plays matchups and uses relievers based on how they square up to the tendencies of whoever is at bat. It's an analytical take that at times blurs the line of overmanaging.

Still, Kapler remains steadfast.

"Everybody wants to have a guy that's lights-out dominant," Kapler said. "Those guys don't grow on trees, and I really like our guys."

Altherr entered the contest off the bench, replacing Nick Williams who was forced to leave after a ball hit off the scoreboard caromed off his face leaving his nose a bloody mess.



The game-winning hit landed in left field and bounced off a diving Marcell Ozuna's glove, allowing Carlos Santana to scamper home with the winning run.

"Altherr, he's worked so hard," Kapler said. "He's had so many struggles. He's had so many lineouts. It was really nice to see a ball bounce in his direction tonight."

The two clubs resume their three-game set on Tuesday with Vince Velasquez facing Luke Weaver.
_____________________________________________
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

No comments: