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Realmuto hits HR out of Wrigley to spark Phils

@Russ_Dorsey1
May 23, 2019

CHICAGO -- The Phillies have aspirations of making a deep run in October. To do that, they’re going to be tested in the toughest of situations, and this week's four-game series against the Cubs provided one of their best tests yet. The Phillies had to cover 106 outs in the

CHICAGO -- The Phillies have aspirations of making a deep run in October. To do that, they’re going to be tested in the toughest of situations, and this week's four-game series against the Cubs provided one of their best tests yet.

The Phillies had to cover 106 outs in the series at Wrigley Field, and none of those felt easy to come by. Thursday’s 9-7 victory over the Cubs reminded the Phils of what they are capable of, but also what separates good from great.

Box score

“You always want it to be easy, but that would be a pie-in-the-sky fantasy," manager Gabe Kapler said. "It doesn’t work like that. Players are too good. You have to be prepared for things to go sideways.”

The Phillies had felt like they left runs on the field throughout the series entering Thursday, and came out like they had something to prove, starting the game by scoring seven unanswered runs against Cubs’ ace Jon Lester, who lasted just four innings.

The offense also had 12 hard-hit balls overall -- balls with an exit velocity of at least 95 mph -- according to Statcast. Two of those hard-hit balls came on a pair of mammoth homers by J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura.

Realmuto’s solo shot in the third, which sailed onto Waveland Avenue traveled a projected 456 feet, according to Statcast, making it the longest homer of his career.

“Our team and our lineup is pretty good,” said Segura, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games.

The Phillies’ bullpen, which endured most of the high-stress moments during the series, had more pressure applied during the victory. While Héctor Neris managed to close out the series finale, the Phillies' 'pen took a pair of losses and allowed nine earned runs over the four-game series, which equates to a 5.65 ERA.

Kapler’s bullpen that had been plagued by fatigue throughout the series was at full strength with Pat Neshek, Seranthony Domínguez, Adam Morgan and Neris all available. While Morgan and Dominguez avoided trouble, Neshek and Neris weren't as fortunate.

Neshek came into the game with an 8-3 lead and, following a leadoff single by David Bote, served up a two-run homer to Kyle Schwarber. Two batters later, Anthony Rizzo hit a solo shot to cut the lead to 8-6.

After Andrew McCutchen had pushed the lead back to three with an RBI double in the top of the eighth, Neris entered with two on and two out in the bottom of the eighth. He retired Javier Baez to escape the jam, but worked his way into more trouble in the ninth. Following a leadoff bunt single and a walk, Cubs pitcher Tyler Chatwood hit a pinch-hit RBI double to cut the lead to two with one out.

“I felt great today,” Neris said of his nerve-racking ninth inning.

Neris struck out Addison Russell, then forced Victor Caratini to fly out to end the game.

“I think there’s some anxiety, but I think that’s to be expected in a series like this,” Kapler said of his bullpen’s performance. “Two playoff-caliber clubs, and certainly both teams were going after that win. [Neris] had the gutsiest performance possible out there. That lineup is never-ending. Every guy can hit it out of the ballpark. The way it went today, you thought at any time, there could be more home runs.”

The bullpen managed to secure the win for Aaron Nola, who improved to 5-0 on the season and has a 2.76 ERA over his last six starts.

The Phillies are now 16-10 in their last 26 game and, despite walking away with two wins in a wild series, the team will look to continue to improve on its shortcomings as the Phils head to Milwaukee to face another National League contender.

“We learned that we can be better and, when you play better, you’ll win more games,” McCutchen said. “We played OK and split two. We didn’t play our best, and we won two. If we play better, that means next time we could win four.”

Russell Dorsey is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter @Russ_Dorsey1.