A day after seemingly regaining some confidence on the mound, the only thing saving Hector Neris from a most epic meltdown on Sunday was manager Gabe Kapler making the decision to pull another arm out of the bullpen with the Phillies needing just one more out to preserve a series victory against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Neris entered the game in the ninth inning with a 10-5 lead to protect to close out a second-straight win, Neris promptly gave one run back with a leadoff home run served up to Jesus Aguilar. Soon enough, even a four-run lead was not to be considered safe with Neris on the mound. Back-to-back hits put two runners in scoring position and after getting two outs, including a strikeout of Ryan Bruan, Eric Thames brought the Brewers to within one run in a wild game in Miller Park. Kapler came to the mound, took the ball from Neris and asked Jake Thompson to record the final out which he did with one single pitch.
With the Phillies now getting ready for a quick home series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Phillies announced a roster change that will see Neris be sent to Lehigh Valley to get some things sorted out on the mound. The Phillies called up Austin Davis from the IronPigs to fill in the bullpen.
Given how this season has gone along and where the Phillies still somehow fit in the National League playoff picture, the margin for error is very slim, and coming up on the wrong end of late-inning drama has really cost the Phillies some crucial games. The Phillies sit just a half-game out of a wild-card spot in the National League, trailing the Washington Nationals and tied with the Cardinals (thus making this a pretty critical week for the Phillies) while the Cubs sit relatively comfortable with a three-game cushion on top of the wild-card standings. With all of the struggles the Phillies have had closing out games and letting games slip away as a result of an imploding bullpen, the team can not afford to hope relievers will simply figure things out on the mound right now.
Neris can still prove to be a valuable arm out of the bullpen, but he has been trending downward over the course of the past couple of seasons. His ERA, WHIP, and H/9 have all gone up over the past couple of seasons, while his BB/9 and SO/9 have remained fairly steady. But at 1-3 and after nearly blowing a five-run lead in a series finale, the time is now for Neris to get taken out of the bright spotlight and allow him to redeem himself with the IronPigs.
If all goes well, Neris will find his splitter and have it down when the time comes for Neris to make his next appearance in red pinstripes.
The Phillies had no choice but to send Neris down. Neris had more than enough time to prove he could be a consistent asset out of the pen, and that just simply has not transpired into mid-June. A change of scenery could do Neris well right now, and if it does, that can only be good news for the Phillies down the line.