Tag Archives: Juan Nicasio

Dodgers walkoff Phillies on Will Smith home run

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Rookie catcher Will Smith beats Phillies with walkoff homer

The Los Angeles Dodgers (40-19) got a walk-off homer from rookie catcher Will Smith on a 3-2 pitch with one out in the bottom of the 9th inning to beat the Philadelphia Phillies (33-25) by a 4-3 score on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium.

With the loss, the Phillies lead in the NL East Division standings shrinks to two games over the Atlanta Braves and 4.5 over the New York Mets, each of whom won earlier in the day.
Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler had few good traditional options as his starting pitcher for this one after Zach Eflin came up injured, so he chose to go with “The Opener”, using lefty reliever Jose Alvarez at the start. Alvarez would do the job, holding the Dodgers off the scoreboard over the first two innings.
Alvarez gave way to Juan Nicasio, who retired the lone batter he faced in the bottom of the 3rd inning before giving way himself to lefty Cole Irvin. Kapler hoped to get from between 3-4 innings out of the rookie.
The hosts got on the board first, this time scoring a run off Irvin, whom Kapler had brought in strategically with a couple of big left-handed bats due up. The rookie southpaw allowed a base hit to Max Muncy with one out, then walked Cody Bellinger with two outs to foil that lefty-on-lefty strategery. When Enrique Hernandez grounded a single up the middle, Muncy rolled home with the first run of the game.
The Phillies got back to even in the top of the 4th when Bryce Harper lined a one-out single, moved up to second base on a wild pitch by Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, went to third when Muncy couldn’t handle a slow roller by Rhys Hoskins that went for an error, and then scored on a base hit by J.T. Realmuto.
David Freese led off the bottom of the 5th with a solo home run off Irvin, his 5th of the season, to put the Dodgers back out in front by a 2-1 score. Then in the home 7th, they scored what appeared to be a huge insurance run.
Kapler made a change from Irvin to Vince Velasquez. Irvin had surrendered two runs, but gave the Phillies 3.2 innings and kept them in the game. He struck out five Dodgers batters, including the last four that he faced.
Velasquez started out strong, striking out Smith as the leadoff man in the bottom of the 7th. Matt Beaty, hitting for Kershaw, then reached on a swinging-bunt single and moved to second on a walk to Joc Pederson. Beaty then went to third when Velasquez tried to pick him off and bounced one into the outfield, and then scored on a sac fly by Muncy.
Though the Phillies offense was largely lifeless to that point in the game, they had finally gotten Kershaw out. That would prove a key. With one out, Andrew McCutchen was hit by a pitch from new hurler Julio Urias.
That brought Bryce Harper to the plate for a lefty-on-lefty matchup. Every Phillies fan knows that Harper hits southpaws well, and he did just that here, drilling an opposite-field home run to tie the game up at 3-3.
The two teams moved into the 9th inning still tied, and Urias set down the Phillies, giving his club a chance to win a game in which he had blown a lead. They would indeed get him off the hook.
In the bottom of that 9th inning, Kapler went to his closer, Hector Neris. The big right-hander got the first batter, Alex Verdugo, to ground out to second. Then up stepped Will Smith, who had struck out swinging in his previous two at-bats in this game.
The count went full, and then Neris came in with an 86 mph splitter. Smith jumped all over the pitch, blasting it out high over the left field wall, the no-doubter walking the game off in favor of the home team.
Smith was quoted by Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register after his first big-league home run had proven to be a game-winner: “That was awesome. I mean, that was the first walkoff I’ve ever had, first home run in the big leagues — couldn’t ask for a bigger stage or a bigger moment. I’ll remember that forever.
With this victory the Dodgers clinch a winning series. The Phillies will try to salvage one game here in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon with Nick Pivetta on the mound against veteran lefty Rich Hill for the Dodgers.


  • Jose Alvarez: 2 IP, one hit, no runs, two walks, no strikeouts. 30 pitches, 18 for strikes.
  • Clayton Kershaw: 7 IP, six hits, one earned run, no walks, six strikeouts. 95 pitches, 65 for strikes.


You would have had a hard time convincing me that Smith was going to end up as the Player of the Game on this night. He was intentionally walked in his first plate appearance, and then looked over-matched in striking out swinging over his next two against Irvin and Velasquez. But he put a beautiful swing on the 3-2 offering from Neris to become the walk-off hero.


Cubs walkoff the Phillies with rally in bottom of the 9th

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Kris Bryant led the Cubs past the Phillies on Tuesday night at Wrigley

The host Chicago Cubs (28-18) rallied to a 3-2 walkoff victory over the Philadelphia Phillies (28-20) by scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the 9th inning on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field on Chicago’s North Side.

The Cubs got on the board first thanks to the aggressiveness of Kris Bryant. The Cubs third baseman singled with one out in the bottom of the 1st inning and moved to second when Anthony Rizzo followed by drawing a walk.
Both runners were moving as Willson Contreras grounded to short, keeping them out of the doubleplay. The move paid off doubly as Bryant never stopped running while Jean Segura threw to first. Bryant slid in to home plate just ahead of the throw from Rhys Hoskins to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
The Cubs nearly put another on the board in the home 4th inning. With two outs, Kyle Schwarber drew a walk. Bryant followed with a double down the left field line as Schwarber raced home and crossed the plate.
However, a challenge from Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler went the Phillies way thanks to a “stadium ground rules boundary” ruling that changed the play to a ground rule double. Schwarber was put back at third base, and Eflin then retired Rizzo on a fly out to center to escape trouble.

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After making the final out in right field in the sixth inning, Bryce Harper trolls Cubs fans and LAUNCHED the ball out of Wrigley Field and on to the rooftop. 😂

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Maddon pinch-hit for Quintana in the bottom of the 6th inning. He had stymied the Phillies to that point, but also had reached 100 pitches for just the third time this season. It would prove to be just the opening that the visitors needed.

With Carl Edwards on to pitch in the top of the 7th inning, Cesar Hernandez led off with a looping single to left field. After Scott Kingery hit into a force out, Maikel Franco one-hopped a double off the ivy in left field. Kingery rolled around to third and the Phillies had runners at second and third with one out.
Kapler sent the slumping Odubel Herrera up to hit for Eflin. Herrera ripped a ball back to Edwards, who made a fantastic stab to grab the ball and retire Herrera at 1st base with the runners holding. Maddon then went to a pitching change again, and again it burned him.

Andrew McCutchen‘s clutch two-out, two-run single in the top of the 7th inning gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)
Andrew McCutchen stepped in against the new Cubs hurler, righty Brandon Kintzler. The Phillies veteran right fielder jumped on a 2-2 sinker, ripping it up the box for a two-run single that finally put the Phillies on the board with a 2-1 lead.
It was Kapler’s turn to go to his bullpen, and he called on 22-year-old Edgar Garcia for the bottom of the 7th. After surrendering a leadoff base hit to Bryant the young righty retired the next two batters.
Kapler then brought in Jose Alvarez to face the lefty bat of Jason Heyward. Alvarez sawed off Heyward’s bat, getting him to ground to shortstop for the final out. Alvarez then came back out for the bottom of the 8th inning and worked around a couple of baserunners to keep the 2-1 lead intact.
In the top of the 9th inning, Kingery drilled a one-hopper off the ivy in left off Cubs reliever Xavier Cedeno for a one-out double. Maddon then made another bullpen move, bringing in Kyle Ryan. The lefty got Franco to ground out to third base for the second out, then struck out pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin to end the threat.
Kapler brought out Juan Nicasio to try to close it out in the bottom of the 9th with a one-run lead. He promptly broke the baseball cardinal rule, walking Bryant as the leadoff man. Rizzo then followed by ripping a double into the right field corner and the Cubs had the tying run just 90 feet away, the winning run in scoring position at second base, nobody out.
Contreras then lifted a short fly into left field. Harper grabbed it and set to throw home, too shallow for the tagging Bryant to score. Kapler then ordered Heyward walked to load the bases. Almora  dribbled a ball in front of the plate. Nicasio grabbed it, but delivered a weak flip home as Bryant slid in with the tying run.
The next move in the chess match was Maddon’s, and he had a good one available to him. He sent the electric Javier Baez, normally the starting shortstop but out of the lineup the last two nights with a minor injury, up as a pinch-hitter. Baez wasted no time, ripping the walkoff base hit to right field as Rizzo trotted home with the winning run.
On Wednesday night for the first time in his career, Cole Hamels will take the mound to go against the Phillies team with which he won the 2008 World Series.


  • Zach Eflin, Phillies: 6 IP, 6 hits, 1 earned run, 4 walks, 2 strikeouts. 104 pitches, 62 for strikes.
  • Jose Quintana, Cubs: 6 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts. 100 pitches, 59 for strikes.


The Cubs third baseman went 3-4 with a walk and a pair of runs scored. His hustle led to the Cubs first run of the game back in the bottom of the 1st inning. And that walk started off the rally in the bottom of the 9th inning that won it for the home team.

Big four-game series between Phillies and Cubs continues at Wrigley Field

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Wrigley Field is the site of a four-game series between Phillies and Cubs

The Philadelphia Phillies (28-19) woke up this morning in the Windy City with the club sitting at nine games over the .500 mark for the first time since last September 2.

On Tuesday night at Wrigley Field the Phillies will try to clinch at least a tie from this four-game series with the host Chicago Cubs (27-18) as the two first-place teams continue their battle. In last night’s wild series opener, the Phillies captured a 5-4 victory in 10 innings.
The Phillies have now won four straight close affairs to fashion their first four-game winning streak since capturing the first four of the 2019 season. During this stretch, the Phillies have won three times by a single run and won by two runs in the other game.
From July 31 through August 5 of last season the Phillies won five in a row. That pushed the club to 15 games over the .500 mark for the first time since the 2011 season. It was also the last time that the team won five straight games. They won six in a row twice during last season. On Tuesday night they will try to get five straight for the first time in the 2019 season.



  1. Andrew McCutchen LF
  2. Jean Segura SS
  3. Bryce Harper RF
  4. Rhys Hoskins 1B
  5. J.T. Realmuto C
  6. Cesar Hernandez 2B
  7. Scott Kingery CF
  8. Maikel Franco 3B
  9. Zach Eflin P


  1. Kyle Schwarber LF
  2. Kris Bryant 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo 1B
  4. Wilson Contreras C
  5. Jason Heyward RF
  6. Albert Almora CF
  7. Daniel Descalso 2B
  8. Addison Russell SS
  9. Jose Quintana P


Phillies: Starting pitcher Vince Velasquez hopes to throw a bullpen this week after suffering a strained elbow and being placed on the IL back on May 11. Relievers David RobertsonTommy HunterEdubray Ramos and Victor Arano remain on the Injured List. None is close to a return at this point. Outfielder Roman Quinn has ramped up running as he continues recovering after suffering a groin strain. He will not return for this series.
Cubs: Electric shortstop Javier Baez will miss a second straight game in this series with a heel injury suffered in Sunday’s game. He could see action as a pinch-hitter and is considered day-to-day at this point. Reliever Pedro Strop is on the IL with a hamstring injury and will miss this series. Also out from the Cubs pen mix are Brandon Morrow and Kendall Graveman, both with elbow injuries. Graveman underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2018.


  • Zach Eflin: 5-4, 2.89 ERA, 1.089 WHIP, 52 hits allowed over 56 innings across nine starts with a 45/9 K:BB ratio.
  • Following three straight Quality Starts, Eflin was whacked around by Milwaukee last Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. He surrendered four earned runs on seven hits over five innings in that afternoon affair.
  • Eflin is 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA over three appearances against the Cubs, against whom he has not allowed a home run over 19.2 innings. The righty has made two career starts at Wrigley, one in each of the past two seasons, and lasted at least seven innings in both.
  • Jose Quintana: 4-3, 3.68 ERA, 1.266 WHIP, 50 hits allowed over 51.1 innings across nine outings, eight starts with a 50/15 K:BB ratio.
  • The 30-year old lefty from Colombia lasted just five innings in his most recent start on Thursday in Cincinnati. He surrendered three earned runs on six hits in suffering his second straight loss.
  • Quintana has faced the Phillies just four times over his eight-year big-league career. He tossed a pair of no-decisions against them last season, allowing just six hits over 11.2 innings, striking out 17 while walking just three batters.


  • Monday night’s extra-inning victory was the first win for the Phillies this season when trailing after eight innings. They had been 0-14 prior to last night’s rally.
  • Jean Segura‘s game-tying base hit in the top of the 9th on Monday night extended his hitting streak out to 11 games.
  • Bryce Harper worked a walk on Monday night and has now reached base safely in all 19 career games that he has played at Wrigley Field.
  • Hector Neris has converted 10 straight Saves since last May 21, the second-longest streak of his career. In those last 10 save opportunities, Neris has pitched 11.1 innings, allowing just three hits and a walk with 15 strikeouts. He has a miniscule 0.98 ERA since allowing a pair of runs on Opening Day.
  • Juan Nicasio earned his first Save with the Phillies on Monday night. The veteran right-hander has not allowed an earned run in his last 11.1 innings over 10 appearances.
  • In a 14-game stretch at the start of May, 27-year-old third baseman Kris Bryant slashed .377/.500/.906 with eight homers and 17 RBIs. But after going 0-5 in Monday’s series opener he is now just 1-12 over his last three games. Hopefully the Phillies are catching him just as he cools down.
  • Joe Maddon is now in his fifth season as the Cubs manager. He was at the helm of the Tampa Bay Rays during their 2008 World Series loss to the Phillies. Maddon now has a 1,195-1,008 record as a big-league skipper. The wins total is 43rd all-time in MLB, with only Bruce BochyTerry Francona and Clint Hurdle ahead of him among active managers.
  • The Phillies have announced that their recent “Phantastic Auction” raised a record $205,000 to benefit Phillies Charities, Inc.


Phillies search for a closer is over as Hector Neris seizes the role

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Hector Neris has seized the Phillies bullpen closer role

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler began the 2019 season without a named closer at the back-end of his pitching staff. There were a number of options who appeared to be reasonably attractive. The skipper chose to simply use whichever option appeared best at an important moment over the late innings based on specific match-ups.

What began as a group of a half-dozen arms who Kapler hoped would fill those end-game roles has gradually shrunk to dangerously low levels.
David Robertson started slowly, producing a 5.40 ERA and 2.100 WHIP over seven games. The veteran free agent signee allowed eight hits over his first 6.2 innings with a 6/6 K:BB ratio before going down with a flexor strain in mid-April. It had been assumed by many that he would ultimately see the bulk of any “closer” opportunities.
Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano have also wound up on the Injured List. Youngsters Seranthony Dominguez and Edgar Garcia, the former who many believe has the pure stuff to one day serve as a closer, have been inconsistent at best. Pat Neshek has mostly succeeded despite not having dominant stuff and getting hit hard at times.
But one arm has emerged to save the day. That would be the big right arm of 29-year-old Hector Neris.
Neris had been the Phillies closer entering the 2018 season. But he began the year blowing a series of games, and by the end of June his ERA had skyrocketed to the 6.90 mark. Mercifully, he was demoted to Triple-A in order to rediscover his mojo.
Over 19 games with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Neris regained his confidence. He dominated minor league hitters, allowing just nine hits over 18.2 innings, striking out 31 batters while walking just seven in that time.
In mid-August, the righty was called back to Philadelphia. He immediately carried over that minor league success to the big-leagues, becoming the National League’s Reliever of the Month even though he didn’t appear in a single game with the Phillies until the 15th of the month.
From his August 15 return until the end of the season, Neris allowed just 11 hits over 17.2 innings with a dominating 35/5 K:BB ratio. He recorded a 2.04 ERA and .172 batting average against over that time while registering one Save and four Holds.
Neris has continued that dominance into the 2019 season. He has allowed just a dozen hits over 20.1 innings with a 27/6 K:BB ratio and has seized that closer role, earning seven Saves. Most importantly, Neris has suffered just one loss. Otherwise, he has blown no opportunities to close out a ball game over 20 appearances, 11 of those as chances to finish things off.
After Neris closed out a win this past Saturday night over the Colorado Rockies, Kapler was quoted by Matt Breen at Philly.com:

“When we see the splitter biting from the dugout – and when I say ‘biting,’ it doesn’t tumble and roll, but it takes a sharp downward action and guys are fouling the ball straight into the dirt or they’re swinging and missing – we know we have it…When we see that from the dugout, we know we have a dominant force.”

Last night at Wrigley Field, Neris came on for the bottom of the 9th inning after the Phillies had tied things up in the top of the frame. He shut the host Chicago Cubs down, striking out Victor Caratini to end the frame and send the game into extra innings.
The Phillies would take the lead on a J.T. Realmuto homer in the top of the 10th, Adam Morgan and Juan Nicasio would combine to shut the Cubs down in the bottom of the inning to end it, and Neris would be credited with the win.
Put it all together and Neris has allowed only 23 hits, just two home runs, over 38 innings across 40 games since his recall last August. It’s not just plain-old success, he has dominated opposing hitters with a 62/11 K:BB ratio. Neris has shown himself to be born again hard. He is as automatic as any closer in the game today. It’s time that we begin to expect it.

Gabe Kapler needs to halt Phillies frustrating habit of losing series openers

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Gabe Kapler needs to figure out what’s up with opener losses

The Philadelphia Phillies (23-16) have built up a four-game lead in the National League East Division standings over the course of the first seven weeks of the 2019 regular season.

In so doing, the Phillies have been far from dominant. In fact, the club has just one series sweep over what is fast approaching the two-month mark. That sweep came at home over the Atlanta Braves in the first series of the season back in late March.
Rather than dominating teams, the Phillies have demonstrated tremendous resiliency in fashioning an 8-3-2 series record. The club has now gone five straight match-ups (4-0-1) without losing a series. One big problem for the team has been the series opener. The Phillies have dropped the opening game in seven of the last eight series.

Only once, when they lost three out of four games at Coors Field to the Colorado Rockies in mid-April, did they fail to win the next game after losing that opener. Even that took a near-miracle for the host Rockies. In the second game of that series, Charlie Blackmon delivered a two-out, two-strike, walkoff two-run homer in the bottom of the 12th inning off Juan Nicasio to give Colorado a 4-3 win.
The Phillies have a very difficult stretch coming up. The schedule calls for them to meet the top teams in the National League over the next seven series when they face the Milwaukee Brewers twice and the Rockies, Chicago Cubs, Saint Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres once each.

Nola takes the mound on Monday night hoping to help snap the Phillies frustrating streak of losing series openers.
It all begins with tonight’s (Monday) game against the Brew Crew at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies will host the Brewers and Rockies for six games this week. It will be an important home stand in which to come away with a winning record since 13 of their following 16 will be on the road against that difficult competition.
The Phillies will look to begin reversing that series opener jinx when they send Aaron Nola to the mound. Nola has been on the mound for a pair of series-opening losses. On April 15 he lasted just four innings against the Mets, surrendering five earned runs on seven hits. He pitched well in a series opener against the Marlins just 10 days later, but received no support in a 3-1 loss.
A solid outing from Nola will not be the only key tonight, nor will Friday night’s series opener with the Rockies depend solely on rookie lefty Cole Irvin, who certainly earned the opportunity with his brilliant big-league debut on Sunday.
The Phillies position player lineup has produced just 16 total runs over the last eight series openers. For a group of hitters who often look like an offensive juggernaut most in many of their other games, their collective disappearance in openers has been perplexing.
But tonight is another night. The offense will try to get to Milwaukee’s 23-year-old Freddy Peralta, who has a 6.75 ERA coming into the game, and give Nola some runs with which to work. And manager Gabe Kapler needs to have his club ready to hit the ground running in this important home stand.
You can’t sweep a series without winning the opener first. The Phillies have taken the lead in the NL East by bouncing back to win series despite consistently dropping the first game. If they want to pull away, they are going to need to overcome this annoying habit of losing the opener, get out the brooms, and sweep a few teams along the way.