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Suddenly revived Phillies offense takes aim at Pirates again

Jul 28, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos (8) hits an RBI single  single against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies might have unearthed their offense, but now they might have to worry about giving up runs, if their series opener Thursday against the host Pittsburgh Pirates is an indication.

The Phillies — who recently went through a stretch of scoring three runs or fewer in 11 of 14 games — have scored 15 over their past two.

On Thursday, they racked up 15 hits and built an eight-run lead before turning it into a nail-biter by giving up five runs in the bottom of the ninth. They survived with an 8-7 victory. The cross-state teams play three more games in their first series of the season, which continues Friday.

Pittsburgh did not have center fielder Bryan Reynolds available on Thursday, and that will continue as he is on paternity leave.

On Friday, in a faceoff of left-handers, Philadelphia’s Bailey Falter (0-3, 5.18 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Pittsburgh’s Jose Quintana (3-5, 3.70).

Falter is will be appearing in his 11th game and seventh start this season. After four straight no-decisions, Falter took a loss in his most recent outing, a start Sunday against the Chicago Cubs. He allowed four runs and five hits in five innings while striking out five and walking two.

That didn’t seem to inspire a lot of confidence in Falter from interim manager Rob Thomson.

“He’ll probably get the next start, but he gave up some well-hit balls,” Thomson said. “He’s got to locate a little bit better and get after people.”

Falter is serving as essentially Philadelphia’s No. 5 starter while Zach Eflin is sidelined because of a knee injury. That is, unless the Phillies make some trade noise that could affect Falter’s spot.

“I’m not really too worried about that right now,” Falter said. “I’ve got to come up here (from the minor leagues) and do my job and help these guys win baseball games. That’s all I’m focused on. I don’t really care about the trade deadline; we just need to win games.”

Falter has faced the Pirates just once, when he threw a scoreless, hitless inning of relief last Sept. 23.

Quintana, too, could be affected by moves before the trade deadline — directly affected. Speculation that he will be dealt continues to circulate.

If his most recent outing was a showcase of sorts, he probably upped his stock. Quintana threw seven scoreless innings with four strikeouts and no walks in a win over the Miami Marlins on Saturday.

“Right now, I’m focusing on starting the second half strong,” Quintana said. “I know (there are) a lot of rumors around me. I’ve been in this situation before. I don’t pay attention to that right now. I just want to keep throwing the ball well.

“That’s all I have control of. I want to keep focusing on that.”

Still, it’s no secret that recently every start Quintana has made — or will make — could be his last for the Pirates.

“When you have guys on short-term contracts that perform really well, teams are going to inquire,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “It’s part of it. I think it’s really easy to see that even though there’s (speculation) out there, it did not affect how he went about his business (Saturday).”

Quintana is 0-0 with a 3.38 ERA in six career starts against the Phillies, none since 2019.

–Field Level Media