Phillies Game Story

Why Soto over Strahm? What happened with Alvarado? Thomson on bullpen moves

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LONDON — Sometimes it's possible to be too well-rested.

At least that's why Rob Thomson thinks a few of his relievers were erratic Sunday afternoon in a series-ending 6-5 loss to the Mets at London Stadium.

Gregory Soto, who gave up the game-tying hits in the sixth inning with the Phillies up three, had not pitched in six days. Matt Strahm had not pitched in five days. Jose Alvarado had not pitched in four days.

None of them had their best command. Soto allowed two inherited runners to score and another of his own. Strahm navigated his way out of a jam, but Alvarado couldn't wriggle out of his in the ninth. Alvarado walked two batters, hit one, gave up two singles and had a passed ball with J.T. Realmuto on a cutter that moved a way it usually doesn't.

The long layoffs are a byproduct of having the best rotation in baseball, but also having two days off Thursday and Friday, something that never happens during a regular season.

"I thought a couple of those guys were a little rusty but not Alvarado," Thomson said. "I thought his stuff was really good, he was just missing. But you have games like that. I still trust him a great deal. His stuff's great."

Alvarado pitched to a 1.40 ERA over his last 28 appearances and had walked multiple batters just once over that span. David Dahl gave the Phillies a one-run lead with a pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the seventh, and after a scoreless eighth from Jeff Hoffman, the Phillies were three outs away from sweeping the Mets out of London.

The bullpen had been so good for so long, with a 1.76 ERA since May 1 that has been by far the best in all of baseball.

One of those days.

"I felt fine today. We don't have to think about that stuff," Alvarado said, referring to the rust factor. "I look at it as it wasn't my day today. Something with my command.

"Make a good pitch and that's it. Today, the Mets, they got me. That's baseball."

The game might have turned out differently had Thomson gone a different route in the top of the sixth. Taijuan Walker pitched five brilliant innings to begin the day and with one out in the sixth had put just one man on base. Then nine-hole hitter Luis Torrens singled and Pete Alonso walked on four pitches with two outs.

Thomson walked out to get Walker.

"I just thought it was time to go," he said. "I wanted to end his day without giving up any runs. I wanted him to have a good day, feel good about it because he pitched great."

The other choice would have been going to Strahm rather than Soto. Strahm has been far more effective with 26 straight appearances without an earned run. Thomson's rationale was wanting to get Strahm a full inning coupled with the past success Soto had against Brandon Nimmo and J.D. Martinez, who were 1-for-7 in a tiny sample. Nimmo hit an RBI double and Martinez hit a two-run single.

"He's been actually pitching pretty well until today. He's had some pretty good outings the last five, six outings," Thomson said of Soto, who has a 4.81 ERA in 93 appearances as a Phillie.

"They've really simplified his delivery. Instead of the high leg lift then go to a slidestep, it's all slidestep and his arm's able to catch up. I chalk this one up to just rust."

The Phillies have four relievers — Alvarado, Hoffman, Strahm and Orion Kerkering — who have inspired supreme confidence with their performance over the past year. Seranthony Dominguez has also gotten on a roll with eight straight scoreless outings. Most teams don't have three relievers they can trust, much less four or five.

They need more from Soto, though.

"This team here, they can turn the page real easy," Thomsons said. "Tomorrow's a new day, it's an off day. They're gonna need it, and then we'll get back after it on Tuesday. Get some rest. Stay healthy."

The Phillies had a chance to walk it off in the bottom of the ninth. They entered trailing by two but Cristian Pache singled, Realmuto was hit by a pitch, Bryce Harper singled to load the bases and Alec Bohm walked to force in a run. There was still just one out.

Nick Castellanos dribbled a ball a foot in front of the plate and Torrens fielded it, retreated a step to touch home and fired to first base for a game-ending 2-3 double play. You hardly ever see a game end in that fashion.

Castellanos said he actually considered for a split second kicking the ball.

"I think that if I did, I think that I'm just called out and everything kinda stays the same," he said. "So in hindsight, I probably should have kicked it. But I didn't, I just decided to run to first."

What an ending that might have provided.

The 45-20 Phillies went straight to the airport from London Stadium for a flight to Boston. Don't sleep too much on the plane was the advice from the training staff because it would be around 10:30 p.m. when they land.

They've had some long trips the last two weeks. Philly to Denver to San Francisco back to Philly to London to Boston. They have only one more truly grueling road trip the rest of the season, to Seattle, Los Angeles and Arizona in early August.

"It was a great experience to be able to come over to Europe and play two baseball games," Castellanos said. "Ideally you want to win them both. Come away with a split. Now we go back and get ready for the Red Sox."

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