Phillies eye sweep in Boston

Field Level Media

August 21, 2019 at 7:24 am.

It’s just a two-game trip to Boston for the Philadelphia Phillies, and yet, it could be among the more important series for the club as the final month of the season nears.

A rare sweep of the Red Sox is within the Phillies’ sights as the interleague rivals ready for the second contest of the series Wednesday night. Philadelphia last swept Boston over the course of a full series in 2000 despite the teams meeting in 15 of the subsequent 19 years.

In fact, the Red Sox had held a 36-18 edge in their matchups since that sweep, though the Phillies won Tuesday’s opener 3-2 after a series of Boston rally attempts in the late innings fizzled out.

Left-hander Drew Smyly (2-6, 7.09 ERA) will take the mound for the Phillies in the conclusion. The Red Sox will counter with right-hander Rick Porcello (11-9, 5.49).

Philadelphia scored all three of its runs Tuesday in the first inning, holding off Boston despite the hosts having the tying run in scoring position with no outs three times over their last five innings. None of the failed rallies stung more than in the ninth, when shortstop Xander Bogaerts doubled to lead off the frame and was thrown out at third on a baserunning gaffe following a J.D. Martinez grounder to the left side.

“He knows,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of the poor decision. “The ball is right in front of him. Obviously, that’s a big mistake right there.”

Bogaerts concurred, telling reporters he we trying to push the envelope after the other scoring chances had fallen flat. He also said he twisted his ankle rounding first on the double and hoped it would be fine for Wednesday.

The result ended Boston’s five-game winning streak. Philadelphia halted a two-game skid to remain within two games of a National League wild-card berth.

“It was big,” said Aaron Nola, the Phillies’ starter in the win. “(The Red Sox) were World Series champs last year. In an environment like this, in Fenway, it’s historic, it’s loud, it’s live. You get to play here toward the end of the year, it’s good for the team.”

Despite the victory, the Phillies continue to be plagued by offensive inconsistency. After the first-inning explosion, the bats fell cold, with a handful of Red Sox relievers retiring 15 straight Phillies from the fourth until a two-out walk in the ninth.

Boston’s bullpen has held opponents to two runs, one earned, over 23 1/3 innings (0.39 ERA) over the past five games.

If Porcello pitches anything like his last start, the Red Sox might not need to lean so heavily on their relievers yet again. The veteran righty held the Baltimore Orioles to one run over six innings in a 9-1 win Friday, improving to 2-1 with a 3.71 ERA in three starts this month.

Smyly, meanwhile, has been tagged for 16 runs (14 earned) in 15 2/3 August innings (8.04 ERA). The southpaw allowed five runs over five innings against the Chicago Cubs last time out, a no-decision on Thursday.

Porcello is 2-1 with a 4.32 ERA in four career starts against the Phillies. Smyly is 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA in 10 games (eight starts) versus Boston, though he hasn’t faced the Red Sox since 2016.