The Phillies hope Saturday is a preview of a sequel from one of baseball’s best offenses in 2020.
Bryce Harper smashed an 0-2 fastball for a two-run home run in the first inning Saturday against the Tigers at BayCare Ballpark, and Didi Gregorius hit a grand slam to right in the third inning of the 9-3 victory. Philadelphia set up Gregorius’ slam with Andrew McCutchen’s leadoff double on a 2-2 pitch and a pair of walks from Rhys Hoskins and Harper. Hoskins and Harper each fell behind, 0-2, before walking on eight-pitch and six-pitch at-bats, respectively.
“Those are the at-bats that you love because you make the pitcher work,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “And when they’re working that hard, they’re going to make mistakes. That’s usually what’s going to happen.”
It is exactly what happened.
“[I] had [Harper] 0-2; really, really nice plan that we’d kind of planned out,” said Tigers pitcher Casey Mize, who was the first overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. “Had him right where we felt like we wanted him, but I didn’t get the four-seamer up enough, left it over the heart of the plate, and he smashed it. Didi Gregorius hit a splitter that I left up a little bit.”
The Phillies were tied for fifth in baseball last season in scoring. They ranked third in on-base percentage (.342), 10th in slugging percentage (.439) and seventh in OPS (.781). They return everybody from that lineup.
“That’s what we’re shooting for in the season,” Gregorius said. “You want everybody to get on base and drive guys in. It’s not just hitting a grand slam, or getting a walk or whatever -- the lineup is deep; that’s the thing. Everybody gets on base and we get it going.”
‘X’ marks Eflin’s spots
Right-hander Zach Eflin threw 39 pitches in four scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out four. Eflin worked so efficiently -- Philadelphia budgeted him to throw 65 pitches -- that he threw the remaining pitches in the bullpen.
Eflin previewed what might be this season, throwing his fastball-slider/cutter combo to both corners of the plate, which Greg Maddux, Roy Halladay and others called the "X" effect. In Eflin’s case, for example, an inside sinker to a lefty might look like it is going to hit the batter’s hip, only to break into the zone, while Eflin’s cutter might look like a pitch over the plate, only to break onto the batter’s hands. (He can break a lot of bats that way.)
Eflin then throws the cutter outside the zone, only to have it break onto the corner for a strike, while the sinker breaks out of the zone. Eflin can elevate up and down on the corners with his four-seam and two-seam fastballs, too.
“I have too good of command to not play that game and not play the X’s,” Eflin said. “Being able to learn that and understand it, it’s just another thing for hitters to keep in the back of their mind. I’m really trying to nail down that part of the game and keep guys off balance and keep them guessing the whole time they’re up there.”
Eflin’s hard breaking ball is described as a slider, which has more vertical break, while a cutter has more horizontal break. He said he throws both, depending on the batter and the count.
Miller scratched with rib cage injury
Brad Miller was scratched from the lineup shortly before the game after he felt something in his right rib cage while running. Girardi said Miller will be evaluated again Sunday, with the possibility of a MRI exam. It is unclear how much time Miller might miss. There are fewer than three weeks before Opening Day.
“It’s significant, because he’s dangerous with a bat in his hand,” Girardi said.
Get that ball!
It had been so long since Jean Segura got a hit this spring that he either forgot about it or felt like he needed to commemorate the second one. So, after he singled to left field in the first inning against Mize, he asked for the ball.
He got it.
Segura doubled in a March 1 game, but he went hitless in his next 13 at-bats.
The Phillies announced their first-round of cuts from camp: left-handers Kyle Dohy, Bailey Falter and Damon Jones; right-handers Mauricio Llovera, Adonis Medina, Francisco Morales; and outfielder Simón Muzzioti have been optioned to Minor League camp.