PHILADELPHIA — Phillies manager Joe Girardi said whether a game lasts seven or nine innings, baseball barely changes.
“You got to make plays,” he said before the Phillies played a doubleheader consisting of two seven-inning games against the New York Yankees on Wednesday. “You got to make pitches. You have to get timely hits. That will never change.”
The Phillies got timely home runs from Bryce Harper and J.T Realmuto and beat the Yankees 11-7 in the doubleheader’s first game at Citizens Bank Park.
Phillies starter Zack Wheeler allowed three runs in six innings for the win to improve to 2-0 this season. Wheeler got better as the game wore on, allowing no runs and just two hits in his final four innings. His fastball topped 96 mph in his final inning.
Major League Baseball this season has instituted seven-inning games in doubleheaders as a concession to the new coronavirus.
In a sign of just how topsy-turvy things are this season, New York was the home team in the first game, and Philadelphia was home in the second. That’s because the first game was a makeup of a contest scheduled Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium that was postponed due to Tropical Storm Isaias.
Despite the home/away designation, the Yankees (8-2) wore their road grey uniforms and not their home pinstripes Wednesday. The Phillies wore their home uniforms.
The Yankee hitters, however, did get to use their walk-up music before batting. In a concession to the seven-inning game, the Phillies played “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in the middle of the fifth inning. The song “New York, New York” was played when the game ended as it does at Yankee Stadium.
Girardi said before the game the biggest difference for him between a seven and nine-inning game would be how he managed the bullpen.
“An eighth-inning (reliever) might be in the sixth inning. He could be in the end of the fifth inning,” he said. “You might pinch-hit a little bit quicker. Besides that, it’s still baseball.”
The Phillies (2-3) initially fell behind 3-0 but rallied to take the lead for good with four runs in the top of the third.
Harper had the big hit — a two-run home run that cut the Yankees’ lead to a run and gave the Phillies the momentum. Harper pulled a sinker from New York starter J.A. Happ 383 feet into the right field stands.
Realmuto gave the Phillies a two-run lead in the top of the fifth when he lined a home run that curled fair around the left-field foul pole.
The Phillies took complete control when they sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six runs in the top of the sixth.
The doubleheader — even though the games were just seven innings — gave the Phillies a chance to find some rhythm. Before Wednesday, Philadelphia had played just once in the previous 10 days primarily because it was caught up in the Miami Marlins’ COVID-19 outbreak.
Wednesday’s first game allowed the Phillies and their fans to see — for the first time all season — the blueprint the team is counting on for a success. A strong effort from a starting pitcher combined with a powerful lineup that produced 11 hits.
Phillies fans also got another look at the team’s biggest weakness — the bullpen.
Relievers Austin Davis and Trevor Kelley almost undid all of Wheeler and the lineup’s good work. The pair combined to give up six hits and four runs in the bottom of the seventh.
Philadelphia closer Hector Neris came into the game to get the final out and the save.