CINCINNATI -- After a six-game road trip of mixed results and generally not enough offense, the Phillies will get a day off Thursday.
Everyone except Kyle Schwarber.
He will report to Citizens Bank Park for some treatment on his strained right calf muscle and final clearance to get back in the starting lineup when the Phillies play the first of four against the New York Mets on Friday night.
Barring an unexpected development, Schwarber will be the Phillies’ designated hitter.
The team needs him.
The Phillies concluded their road trip with a 1-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday afternoon.
Jose Barrero walked it off for the Reds with an RBI single against Seranthony Dominguez in the bottom of the ninth inning. Dominguez allowed a one-out walk and two-out single on his way to taking the loss. He had not allowed a run since July 10, a span of 11 games.
Dominguez was hardly the reason the Phillies lost this game. The offense did nothing against rookie lefty Nick Lodolo and the Reds’ bullpen. Less than 24 hours after bashing five homers in an 11-4 win over the Reds, the Phils were held to five hits and struck out 11 times in wasting seven shutout innings from Ranger Suarez. Lodolo, the Reds’ top pick in the 2019 draft, matched Suarez with seven shutout innings in his 11th big-league start and first against the Phils. He struck out eight.
The Phils won two of three in Cincinnati and went 3-3 on the trip that took them from the edge of Flushing Bay to the banks of the Ohio River. Playing .500 ball on the road has merit, but the Phillies’ three losses were tough to take. All of them came via shutout. The Phils were also shut out in the final game of their most recent homestand. That’s four shutouts in the last seven games.
“Well, in New York we faced a couple good pitchers,” manager Rob Thomson said. “And today, we faced a guy that we'd never seen before. Our hitters just couldn't pick up his slider, it seemed like. And then he threw that high heater above the barrel. He pitched good. That's probably his best outing of his major-league career. You've got the tape, and you've got all the analytics, all the numbers. But until you see it in person, sometimes it's hard.
“We won the series, but it would've been nice to win the road trip.”
The Phillies did see some top pitching to open the trip in New York. They survived Max Scherzer in a 2-1, extra-innings win then lost by shutout in games started by Jacob deGrom and Chris Bassitt.
The Phillies will see Bassitt again when he pitches against Aaron Nola on Friday night. They will not see Scherzer and deGrom in the series.
The main narrative surrounding the Mets’ visit will surely be how they’ve dominated the Phillies this season. The Mets have won all five series against the Phillies. The Phillies are 4-11 against the Mets and 61-41 against everyone else.
The Phillies are trying to get to the postseason for the first time in a decade and are in control of a wild-card spot. It’s not out of the question that they could see the Mets in October. A good showing against the Mets in the final series of the season against them wouldn't be a bad thing for the Phillies’ confidence.
“Yeah, I mean, it's always important to play well, especially against the good teams,” Thomson said. “But I think we've proven, by beating the Dodgers, beating the Padres, beating the Cardinals, all those teams in the season series, that we're a good club. I think it's important, but it's just important, for me anyway, just to play well, play good, solid baseball.”
Schwarber agreed that it would be nice to win a series against the Mets.
But it’s not a season killer for these Phillies if they don’t.
“Trust me, in 2015, when I was with the Cubs, we swept the Mets (7-0) in the regular season and they swept us in the playoffs,” Schwarber said. “We were feeling as high as we could and the next thing, we didn’t have a lead.
“So, obviously, we want to win these games. I feel like we’ve played some good baseball games against them and the more we continue to do that, good things will happen and we’ll see where we are at the end of the year and if we run into them, we run into them. But it’s not going to change our mindset just because we haven’t won a series or we have won a series. We have to take it one at a time against them and see what happens.”
The Phillies' season came back to life on Schwarber’s shoulders in June. He leads the National League with 34 homers. The Phillies will be happy to have him back Friday night. After wasting some good pitching in three shutouts on the road, they need him.
“You put that bat back in the lineup and feel pretty good about it,” Thomson said.