PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies cleared the first half of a challenging first two weeks in the schedule, going 5-1 against the Braves and Mets at Citizens Bank Park. They play their next seven on the road against the same two teams.
Here are a few observations about the Phillies’ start:
Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin had a remarkable season-opening series against Atlanta. They allowed three earned runs in 20 2/3 innings, striking out 24 and walking one. Matt Moore and Chase Anderson pitched a combined 8 1/3 innings in their first starts, then Nola struggled in four innings on Wednesday.
Still, the rotation has a 2.18 ERA.
The bullpen has a 3.27 ERA, which is nearly four earned runs better than last season. Remove Vince Velasquez’s four-walk, four-strikeout performance on Tuesday and it has a 1.74 ERA, striking out 22 and walking seven in 20 2/3 innings.
“I think everybody has a ton of confidence,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said about the bullpen. “I like the arms. I like how they prepare. I like the personality of our bullpen. It’s been fun to watch and we need it to continue.”
Big Fella barreling
Rhys Hoskins is the fourth player in Phillies history to have seven extra-base hits through the team’s first six games. He has six doubles and one home run. Hoskins joins Ryan Howard (2010), John Kruk (1993) and Del Ennis (1950).
“It’s really encouraging that he’s found his swing so early in the season,” Girardi said. “It took him a little bit last year, because he made some changes with [hitting coach] Joe [Dillon], but he was getting on base all the time. And now he’s doing a ton of damage for us.”
Since Hoskins made his big league debut on Aug. 10, 2017, he is tied for ninth in baseball in home runs (92) and is 34th out of 384 qualified players with an .866 OPS.
Sinker vs. cutter
A wise baseball man on Wednesday remarked several times that Nola threw few sinkers against the Mets, if any.
According to Statcast, Nola threw none (although he thought he threw a few) and only four against the Braves. Nola threw his sinker 20.7% of the time last year. It is a good pitch. Phillies closer Héctor Neris said last month that if he could steal a pitch from any teammate’s arsenal that he would take Nola’s sinker because of its ability to generate ground balls.
“It hasn’t been feeling as good as the four-seam,” Nola said about his sinker. “There will be times that it feels better than other times. I’ll just try to stick with the four-seamer right now until the two-seamer feels a little bit better. But it’ll come around, for sure.”
Nola has introduced a cutter, which Mets outfielder Michael Conforto said he liked.
“He gives me a different look almost every time I go up there,” Conforto said. “He used to have a slider that I remember, but he’s featuring a little cutter that got me off the barrel in an RBI situation.”
Bohm handling third
Alec Bohm has made some nice plays at third base. He has worked hard on his defense.
“He’s always asking questions, which is good,” Phillies infield coach Juan Castro said this spring. “That’s why I feel like he’s going to continue to get better.”
Castro said Bohm reminds him of Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, whom he used to coach when he worked with the Dodgers. Seager is 6-foot-4. Bohm is 6-foot-5.
“I remember they wanted [Seager] to move to third base and he was so [upset],” Castro said. “He’s like, ‘Juan, I don’t want to go to third base. I don’t like third base. I want to be a shortstop.’ I remember I told him, ‘OK, but you need to stay in shape. You’re a big guy and everybody is probably thinking that you’re going to get bigger and wider or whatever. If you stay lean, man, you can play shortstop your whole career.’
"And now I look at him, and I’m proud of him because I see that he’s still in good shape every year. He’s kind of like Bohm. He’s a worker, he’s smart. I’m seeing the same mentality, the same desire to get better every day.”