MLB

Héctor Neris exorcises demons in save vs. Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — Héctor Neris exorcised old and new demons Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.

He wasn’t the only one.

“Eventually, everyone gets over everything, I believe,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said after a 2-0 victory over the Dodgers. “Hopefully, that’s gone.”

Girardi could have been talking about Rhys Hoskins and José Alvarado, too. Hoskins homered in the first inning to snap a 0-for-33 skid. After Zack Wheeler pitched six scoreless innings without his best stuff, Alvarado dominated in two scoreless innings of relief, striking out the side on 11 pitches in the seventh. It followed a rough performance last week, when Alvarado walked three batters and allowed runs to score on a wild pitch and passed ball in a game against the Braves.

They all set up Neris’ ninth.

It was natural to wonder if Neris could bounce back, too. He was 0-2 with an 11.81 ERA and one blown save in six career appearances at Dodger Stadium. He had allowed five home runs in 5 1/3 innings, including home runs in three consecutive plate appearances in an unforgettable loss in April 2017. He had that history coming off a pair of blown saves last week against the Braves and Yankees at Citizens Bank Park.

“It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, especially here,” Neris said.

But for a moment, it looked like it might. Neris hit Steven Souza Jr. with a 2-1 pitch to start the ninth.

Neris refocused. He said he learned a few things from his struggles last week.

“Attack, you know?” he said. “Attack, attack, attack and attack. When you attack, you get good results. Don’t give too much credit to the hitter. Just attack the guy and see what he does.”

He got Austin Barnes to ground into a double play, but he hit Will Smith with a pitch to send Mookie Betts to the plate representing the tying run. Betts had two big hits on Tuesday, including a go-ahead homer in the eighth and a insurance run-scoring single in the eighth.

But Neris attacked. He got Betts to fly out to center field to end the game.

It must have felt especially nice for Hoskins to snap that hitless streak the way he did. He had been carrying the Phillies before he started the slump on June 5, and he was just three at-bats away from tying the franchise record at 0-for-36, held by Desi Relaford (1998), Len Matuszek (’82-83) and Danny Murtaugh (’42-43).

“It’s a long season, man,” Wheeler said. “It’s a grind. That’s why these guys are professionals. Rhys has kept it professional the whole time. I know he’s been struggling, but he always has a good attitude coming to the field, out there on the field. He doesn’t carry it out there into the field when he gets frustrated. You always kind of respect that. To see him come out of it the way he did tonight was pretty cool.”

It must have been nice for Alvarado to fill the strike zone, too. He struck out Betts swinging on a 98.8 mph sinker to start the seventh. He struck out Gavin Lux swinging on a 100.4 mph sinker for the second out. Chris Taylor struck out looking on a 100.6 mph sinker on the inside corner to end the inning.

Taylor hated the call. It didn’t matter.

The victory avoided a series sweep and gave the Phillies some good vibes as they boarded a flight for San Francisco. They open a three-game series on Friday night against Gabe Kapler and the Giants.

It will not be easy. The Giants have the best record in the National League. The Phillies will play without Jean Segura and Didi Gregorius, both of whom are on the injured list.

At least they will have Bryce Harper back on Friday.

They will have their red jersey tops, too. The Phillies got tired of wearing the same old gray jersey tops every game, so they switched it up this week. They will wear them again in Sunday’s series finale at Oracle Park. The Phillies are 1-0 in the reds. They are 11-21 in the grays.

“I like it,” Girardi said. “I’m going to sleep in it.”


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