PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler continues to search for value at the margins, even with long odds against the Phillies.He took advantage of his 40-man roster and pinch-hit for the left side of his infield in the sixth inning Tuesday night in a 5-2 victory over the Mets at
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler continues to search for value at the margins, even with long odds against the Phillies.
He took advantage of his 40-man roster and pinch-hit for the left side of his infield in the sixth inning Tuesday night in a 5-2 victory over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. The moves sparked a five-run rally, which moved the Phillies within 5 1/2 games of the first-place Braves in the National League East and kept Atlanta's magic number at seven with 12 games to play. The Phillies are five back in the loss column, meaning, even if the Braves finish 4-7, the Phillies would have to finish 10-2 to tie. The two teams play each other seven more times before the season ends.
The win moved the Phillies to six games back of the second NL Wild Card spot.
"We have a chance, for sure," Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola said. "Seven games against the Braves. Have to go over there, but just worry about what we can do and not really worry about the Braves right now. I think that's what'll get us to where we want to be -- worrying about our games and blocking everything else out."
The Mets carried a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning when left-hander Jerry Blevins walked Carlos Santana and hit Aaron Altherr with a pitch to start the inning. Kapler sent Wilson Ramos to the plate to pinch-hit for J.P. Crawford. Ramos ripped a single to center field against Mets right-hander Drew Smith to score Santana to make it 2-1.
Kapler then sent Justin Bour to the plate to pinch-hit for Scott Kingery. Bour doubled to left field to score Altherr and tie the game.
"The double was great," Kapler said. "But what I thought stood [out] was every time we had an opportunity to pinch-hit, no matter where we were in the game, [Bour] was always standing right there with his batting gloves on and his helmet on prepared for any situation. We really value that. It shows that you can be a selfless teammate.
"You don't have to start the game to make a big contribution in the game. That was as big a hit as we've had all season long. It stood out how ready and prepared he was for that moment and what a good teammate he was tonight."
Said Bour: "[Kapler has] done a really good job of communicating and letting me know it's possible that I'll be pinch-hitting early so I start my routine a little bit earlier than I usually do so I'm ready to go from second, third inning on."
Jorge Alfaro then smashed a three-run home run to left-center field to make it 5-2.
"To see him come up in that situation and hit that big home run for us, it kind of shows that the recipe of walks and home runs still works pretty well -- as long as you get those home runs," Kapler said.
Pinch-hitting two of the team's best hitters (Ramos and Bour) for Crawford and Kingery and Maikel Franco still being unavailable because of an injured right shoulder made for an interesting defensive infield as the Phillies tried to hold a three-run lead the final three innings. Santana moved from first base to third base. Rhys Hoskins moved from left field to first base. Pinch-runner Pedro Florimon, who ran for Ramos, played shortstop.
"While it wasn't the configuration we planned on finishing with, we optimized for offense, and that's what we ended up with," Kapler said. "We were pretty pleased with it."
And it kept the Phillies' postseason hopes alive just a little longer.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Nola's National League Cy Young chances have faded this month, but he should finish near the top of the leaderboard. He allowed six hits, two runs and two walks and struck out nine in 5 2/3 innings against the Mets. After he allowed eight home runs in his first 27 starts this season, he has allowed eight in his last four, including a solo home run to Mets pitcher Steven Matz in the third. Nola needs to pitch just two-thirds of an inning to reach 200 this season.
"We all strive for that," Nola said. "That was one of my goals, to get to 200 innings this year and stay healthy."
Hector Neris struck out two in the ninth inning to pick up his 11th save. Neris has a 2.57 ERA in 16 appearances since the Phillies recalled him from Triple-A last month. He has struck out 29 batters in 14 innings. Neris, who took the demotion to Triple-A hard, is enjoying himself again.
"Any job, if you're doing good, is better," Neris said. "The changes are that I stopped thinking. I enjoy the game and pitching. I don't think too much. That's it. I make my pitch, and I'm ready no matter what."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Alfaro's homer left his bat at 106.9 mph and traveled a projected 426 feet, according to Statcast™. It was Alfaro's 10th homer of the season. Alfaro was not available for comment after the game after getting hit by a pitch and banged up behind the plate.
"The power is there," Kapler said. "He uses the entire field. When he hits the ball, he hits it with incredible velocity. And he can get it in the air. If he just puts a few more balls in play, I mean, you could see a guy who could hit .300 for us. You could see a guy who could hit 20-plus homers for us. Obviously, given his defensive prowess and his ability to keep the ball in the zone and get borderline calls, you could see him as a five-day-a-week catcher on a championship-caliber team."
HE SAID IT
"This is a Hector Neris I'm not sure any of us have seen. This is a better version. Since he's been back, this is a better version of him than his best last season or the season prior. My personal opinion. I'm sure it's debatable. That's where I stand on the issue." -- Kapler
Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin (10-7, 4.26 ERA) faces Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard (12-3, 3.26) on Wednesday night at 6:05 p.m. ET in the finale of a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park. Eflin allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings last weekend against the Marlins. He had a 7.71 ERA in his previous five starts.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.