By Sam Bush
No Phillies fan could see this coming.
After jettisoning both Jonathan Papelbon and Ken Giles, the Phils now have a bullpen of true accomplishment!
Setup man Hector Neris (above) is tied for second in the major leagues with 21 appearances and closer Jeanmar Gomez is right behind with 20.
Before the Phillies’ 4-3 win over the Reds last night at Citizens Bank Park, manager Pete Mackanin said he wasn’t worried about their workload.
“The reason I’m not concerned is because I’m well aware of it,” he said before the game. “We’re going to take care of them. I’m going to be certain we’re not going to abuse them.”
What he didn’t say was that he had already made up his mind not to use either pitcher last night if there was any way to avoid it. So Andrew Bailey pitched a strong eighth and David Hernandez, with the help of a terrific throw from left fielder Tyler Goeddel to catcher Cameron Rupp to cut down the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, earned his first save since July 12, 2013.
The manager pointed out that Neris and Gomez have each pitched three days in a row just once this season. Their pitch counts are closely watched. It’s unusual, he pointed out, for a team to have as many close games as the Phillies have had.
“I’m aware that in the course of a long season we can’t keep up this pace. And there have been an unusual amount of situations with one-run games that when you try to win games, you’ve got to do it,” he explained.
Neris was on a pace to make 94 appearances this season and Gomez, who leads the big leagues with 14 saves, projected to 90 games pitched. The club record is 90, set by Kent Tekulve in 1987.
“Once again, I don’t feel like I’ve abused them in any way, shape or form,” Mackanin said. “The only thing that happens is, and it happens when you have good pitching and you’re playing one-run games, you use your best guys for the eighth and the ninth. Up until this point, Neris has been almost unhittable. Why would I use anyone else? But I have used Hernandez and I have used Bailey in tight situations earlier in the game. It’s almost like I’m looking forward to a lopsided game. Preferably in our favor.
“When every night it’s a one-run game, we’ve got to try to win the game. But I’m not concerned only because I’m aware of it. It’s not going to continue like this. And if it does, we’ll have other guys more involved.”