Watching the New York Mets bullpen collapse in epic fashion on Sunday brought back memories of recent years that the Phillies fans hope will stay distant memories.

The Mets called on Josh Walker and Jeff Brigham to close out a 3-run lead in the 8th inning, only to allow 4 runs on 1 base hit and blow the game. Phillies fans were ecstatic to see the lineup force the Mets to throw strikes, something that this Phillies lineup has struggled with, swinging at bad pitches in the dirt and finding themselves in bad counts.

The Phillies ended up plating 4 runs in the bottom of the 8th, allowing them to call on Craig Kimbrel to close out the 9th.

One of the main differences this season compared to years past is that the Phillies have truly been able to depend on the back end of their bullpen to keep games close and close out victories.

Before the season, I wrote about the Phillies’ additions to the bullpen and how imperative it would be for them to be depended on to make a playoff run, and that is exactly what they have been. Although the Phillies come into the Cubs series with a bullpen ERA of 4.17, it doesn’t paint the full picture.

Since June 1st, the Phillies core of Kimbrel, Alvarado, and Soto have a collective era of 1.69, and when you add in Seranthony Dominguez (who is out with an oblique injury for a few more weeks), they have shutout opponents in 101 appearances out of 125 opportunities.

The core 4 will be depended upon all season, especially if this team continues to find themselves in the playoff hunt.

The main ingredient of success has been with Craig Kimbrel, an underrated signing this offseason that many fans feared had lost his groove after being left off the Dodgers postseason run as well as being taken out of the closer role entirely. The Phillies agreed to a 1 year $ 10 million deal with the hopes that his fastball and K rate would be a welcome addition to the bullpen. The Phillies seemed to have helped Kimbrel find some lost velocity, regaining some life on his fastball, where he is averaging just under 98MPH, where he had fallen to around 94-96 with the Dodgers.

During his meeting with the Phillies before his eventual signing, Kimbrel met with pitching coach Caleb Cotham and director of player development Brian Kaplan, where they discussed some mechanics issues and grip issues that they believed would help bring back his velocity. Those changes have seemed to work great as Kimbrel continues to show success with his new team.

Kimbrel is currently a perfect 11 for 11 in save opportunities, holding a 1.06 WHIP, a 50:14 K:BB ratio across his 33 appearances, and has a 14.5 K/9 with a 3.72 FIP. Not only that, Kimbrel has allowed just 3 runs in his last 19 games since allowing a walk-off grandy to the Dodgers.

After a disappointing start to the year with starting pitching, the Phillies have seemed to figure it out.

The most important part of starters being able to go deeper in games is that it gives the bullpen flexibility as well as stops the need for taxing out the bullpen arms. Multiple bullpen arms were on pace to blow past career highs, which is not a winning formula for a team hoping to contend in October. You can’t be successful when you are worried about arm fatigue constantly. We noticed it on Sunday when the Mets couldn’t use Roberson and were left to use two other relievers, leading to another blown loss for them.

As long as the Phillies starters can continue to pitch well, the Phillies will be able to depend on their core 4 to close out victories. The Phillies find themselves sitting at 3rd in the division but have one of the top 4 records in MLB in one-run games this season, which is a great sign as we near the end of June.

Once the hitting can stay consistent, this team will be ready to win.
One thing has been evident this season; The Phillies finally have a bullpen.

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