The starting pitching is delivering standout performances most days and Bryce Harper is consistently getting on base. It is a combination enabling the Philadelphia Phillies to ascend into first place in the NL East.
The Phillies attempt to incorporate both elements again Sunday afternoon when they host the Cincinnati Reds in the finale of a three-game series.
Philadelphia heads into Sunday with a 1.38 ERA (six earned runs, 39 innings) from its starting pitchers in the past eight outings since Aug. 6. During that stretch, the Phillies have gotten 43 strikeouts from their starters, who are limiting opponents to a .117 average (15-for-128).
On Saturday, Philadelphia kept it going with an unlikely source and nearly made history. Matt Moore pitched six hitless innings, allowed two walks and combined with Hector Neris, Archie Bradley and Ian Kennedy on a three-hitter.
“I hated to take him out, but we felt like we couldn’t push him any further,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “He pitched outstanding. We need people to step up, and he stepped up big today.”
Moore returned to the rotation due to a triceps injury to Chase Anderson, who along with Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez is on the injured list.
Still even with injuries to the back end of the rotation, Philadelphia is on a 10-3 run since a 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh on July 31. That loss capped a 4-8 stretch that pushed the Phillies 4 1/2 games out of first place, but they have held a share of the lead since a 4-2 win over the New York Mets on Aug. 6.
Harper is also helping by getting on base in 22 straight games, the longest active run in the majors. He hit an RBI triple in the eighth and scored on an error Saturday and is hitting .358 with a .791 slugging percentage during the streak.
The Reds, who are 12-6 over their past 18 games, are hoping Saturday is a blip for an offense that scored 24 runs in the previous three games before striking out 12 times and totaling five baserunners Saturday.
Tyler Stephenson prevented the Reds from getting no-hit by homering in the eighth inning while Tyler Naquin and Kyle Farmer had the other two hits.
Joey Votto was 0-for-3 but despite a quiet showing, he is hitting .350 (28-for-80) with 14 homers and 33 RBIs over his past 21 contests and enters Sunday two shy of 2,000 career hits.
“We had some really well-hit balls,” Stephenson said. “They just happened to make some great plays. Sometimes it’s like that. I know on their end, they smoked some balls right to Joey at first base. That’s the game for you.”
Aaron Nola (7-6, 4.35), who is coming off three straight no-decisions, starts for Philadelphia. Nola’s last start was his best of the three no-decisions as he allowed one hit in four innings before a rain delay that preceded the Phillies’ 5-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday.
Nola is 3-1 with a 3.92 ERA in seven career starts against the Reds. He last faced them June 1 in Cincinnati when he allowed three runs on eight hits in five innings of Philadelphia’s 17-3 win.
Sonny Gray (4-6, 4.40 ERA), who opposed Nola in that June 1 game, is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in three career starts against Philadelphia.
Shortly after his previous start against Philadelphia he landed on the injured list for 22 games with a right groin strain and then missed six games surrounding the All-Star break with a strained right rib cage.
Since returning, he is 2-2 with a 7.50 ERA in five starts. Gray’s last outing was his best since coming back as he allowed two runs on three hits in five innings and took a no-decision in a 3-2 loss in Atlanta on Tuesday.
–Field Level Media