The eighth inning is Pat Neshek's domain. But in the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, a 2-1, 10-inning win for the American League over the National League, Neshek got the call six innings earlier."They told me yesterday," Neshek said.All Neshek did Tuesday was what he's done all season for the Phillies
The eighth inning is Pat Neshek's domain. But in the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, a 2-1, 10-inning win for the American League over the National League, Neshek got the call six innings earlier.
"They told me yesterday," Neshek said.
All Neshek did Tuesday was what he's done all season for the Phillies as their sturdiest late-inning option out of the bullpen: post a zero on the scoreboard, just as he has done in 36 of his 38 appearances this season.
He retired his former Astros teammate Carlos Correa -- "You know he's swinging first pitch," Neshek said -- on a first-pitch, up-and-in sinker.
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"I think I broke his bat, so I felt really good," said Neshek.
The veteran right-hander conceded that Justin Smoak, the only hitter to reach in his scoreless second inning, got good wood on a meaty sinker, although it sounded like the pitch may have broken his bat as well.
"After that, we got the changeup to [Corey Dickerson], and [Salvador Perez] dumped one and [Bryce Harper] made a great play," he said of the lunging play Harper made to begin another familiar scoreless walk back to the dugout.
Oddly enough, in a season in which Neshek has induced the highest ground-ball rate of his career, all three outs were fly balls.
The softer-throwing sidearm reliever gave the fans a little treat in his own way.
"I see a lot of people on Twitter saying, 'Hey, it's a sidearm guy throwing 88 [mph],'" he said. "I'll run it up to 93. There, I did it for you."
That pitch, officially a 92.5-mph sinker according to Statcast™, was faster than 97 percent of his sinkers this year.
This year was a stark contrast from his first All-Star Game in 2014.
"The last All-Star Game, I was kind of lost in the moment, like star-struck," Neshek said. "They were like, 'You're in the game,' and I was like, 'I'm on the mound! This is crazy!'"
As the Cardinals' representative, he gave up two runs in one-third of an inning that July night at Target Field in Minneapolis and took the loss in a 5-3 AL victory.
"Last time, I think I pitched the fifth inning, got the loss, I was kind of in a bad mood the whole time. I didn't get to enjoy it. This one was way better," he said.
Pitching early Tuesday made up for time lost. He had seven innings afterward to engage with other stars and maybe even future teammates.
"I got to sit in the dugout and talk to a lot of guys, like [Daniel Murphy]. We talked about hitting, that was pretty awesome," Neshek said.
Neshek combined for a first-half 1.27 ERA in 35 1/3 innings with a 0.91 WHIP. He began the season with 12 2/3 scoreless innings, and then, after surrendering two runs to the Nationals, ripped off 18 consecutive scoreless innings over 43 days entering July. Of the 137 relievers with 30 innings logged, Neshek's ERA ranks fifth.
The timing of the Phillies' rebuild dictated they needed one-year stopgaps with trade potential. That's the only reason Neshek is a Phillie. The timing of his brilliance on the mound should thrust him onto a contending team in need of relief ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Even if Tuesday at Marlins Park, on a field void of Phillies, was one of Neshek's last few appearances wearing a Phillies cap, his time here will have been a benefit to all parties involved.
Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com.