Ian Kennedy’s inconsistency as the Phillies closer reared its head again last night. This time in a heartbreaking fashion when he let up a go-ahead two-run home run to Ryan McMahon with two strikes and two outs in the bottom of ninth. The damage didn’t stop there either, as the following batter hit another home run to increase Colorado’s advantage to two runs.
Since coming over from the Texas Rangers, Kennedy has struggled to keep the ball in the yard. His very first opportunity against the Pittsburgh Pirates shined a light on that. A consistent troubling trend for the man who was supposed to serve an integral role in fixing the Phillies late-inning troubles.
September isn’t a month that’s treated this team well in recent years. Currently, this September, they’re 3-5. Meaning a shake-up in the late-inning rotation needs to occur for the Phillies September fortunes to take a positive swing.
That shake-up should see Hector Neris return to assuming the closing responsibilities. For some odd reason, Neris has to fight through this perception that he’s not clutch and struggles to get critical outs. While’s he’s faced struggles, no doubt, and there’s been more than a handful of times where he’s left fans with the same feeling Kennedy did last night.
At this moment in time, Hector Neris is a changed man. His uptick in positive body language is noticeable, and simply put, he’s just in the zone. This was best illustrated in the Brewers series after he recorded his 500th strikeout from my vantage point. Jon Kruk pointed out that Neris didn’t seem aware of the accomplishment after recording the strikeout as he casually tossed the ball into the dugout per his teammates’ request on the bench.
In past outings that have seen Neris struggle, he becomes rattled in pressure situations and struggles to regain his wits. That argument can no longer be levied on the hefty right-hander.
In the last 30 days in 12.2 innings, Neris boasts a 0.71 ERA, with 23 K’s, allowing four walks, five hits, and only one earned run. In contrast, in his last 9.1 innings, Kennedy has a 4.82 ERA, with 12 K’s, allowing three walks, nine hits, and five earned runs.
Neris isn’t the only option that deserves consideration, though. Coonrod and Alvarado have looked impressive in recent outings. Still, they don’t have the experience like Neris does closing for this team consistently.
Time is fleeting fast on the remainder of the Phillies season, and a change must occur in the back end of the bullpen to turn around an already rocky September. Despite the fact, Neris has had many frustrating moments this season. He’s put together a run over the last couple of months to regain the confidence that he can again assume the closing responsibilities.
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