The Phillies won an absolute rollercoaster of a game on Tuesday night, despite Corey Knebel’s best efforts to blow it. Ranger Suárez pitched a terrific 7.0 innings, and Connor Brogdon kept the Brewers’ lead at one in the eighth. Jaw-dropping heroics from Alec Bohm and Matt Vierling gave the Phils a 3-2 lead in the ninth, and Knebel closed it out after walking the bases loaded.
It was a terrific contest from the Phillies, as they received important contributions from some unlikely sources. Ranger Suárez had struggled to the tune of a 4.69 ERA coming into tonight, but he locked up a loaded Brewers lineup. Suárez hurled 7.0 strong innings of two-run work, surrendering six hits and no walks, while striking out five. If Suárez can get back on track and go deeper into games, it’ll go a long way towards helping out a beleaguered Phillies bullpen.
Alec Bohm faced the best closer in the game, Josh Hader, to lead off the top of the ninth. Bohm has struggled mightily over the season’s first two months, posting only a .657 OPS coming into tonight’s action. To add to the gravity of the situation, Hader entered the game with 40 straight scoreless appearances under his belt. And yet, despite the odds being stacked against him, Bohm crushed a 1-1 fastball into the left field seats to tie the game.
Two batters later Matt Vierling strode to the plate. Vierling had been tabbed as the Phils’ Opening Day centerfielder, but was eventually demoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after putting up an anemic .472 OPS through his first 23 games. With Zack Wheeler placed on the paternity list this morning, Vierling was recalled to take his place on the active roster. After falling behind in the count 1-2, Vierling smoked a slider into the left field bleachers to put the Phillies on top 3-2.
It was an incredible turnaround for the Phillies, and they seemed destined to take this one home. We all know they ultimately did, but Corey Knebel came as close as he could to blowing the save. It took the former All-Star 32 pitches to finish things out, and he only threw 17 of them for strikes.
The Brewers didn’t manage a hit, and yet they still loaded the bases. Knebel walked former Phillie Andrew McCutchen to begin the frame, and then issued free passes to Victor Caratini and Jace Peterson with two outs. He finally punched out journeyman Pablo Reyes to close it out, removing all of our hearts from our stomachs.
Corey Knebel will likely be unavailable tomorrow after laboring so much tonight, and the worst part is that it was all self-imposed. He also let a lead off walk come back to bite him on Sunday against the Angels, before Bryson Stott walked things off in the bottom of the ninth.
Phillies fans are ecstatic watching this five-game winning streak, as well we should be. However, let’s not let the euphoria of the moment overshadow some clear warning signs. If Corey Knebel can’t rein things in, a serious discussion needs to be had about who the closer will be moving forward. With Seranthony Domínguez looking like his old dominant self, and three-time All-Star Brad Hand shutting down lefty hitters, Interim Manager Rob Thomson does have other options. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out, and which direction Thomson will take.