July 13, 2024

Brighton Journal

Complete News World

Trea Turner hits home run, Michael Mercado impresses in first major league start for Philadelphia – NBC Sports Philadelphia

Trea Turner hits home run, Michael Mercado impresses in first major league start for Philadelphia – NBC Sports Philadelphia

CHICAGO — Two weeks ago, Michael Mercado was in Allentown to start against the Norfolk Tides.

Taijuan Walker was healthy. Spencer Turnbull was healthy. And the idea that Mercado would find himself on the mound at Wrigley Field in his first major league game against the best team in baseball just two days later seemed far-fetched.

But he was in attendance for Philadelphia’s series opener against the Cubs, playing in the first five games that could be a start before the July 30 trade deadline.

The 25-year-old rookie allowed solid contact here and there — especially with Cody Bellinger — but made a promising start in the Phillies’ lineup by allowing just one run on two hits over five innings in a 6-4 win, a good task for any fifth baseman on any team.

Mercado got two points with two outs and a 2-0 count for Ian Happ in the first period but rebounded to get him out.

He threw 28 batters in the third inning and allowed an RBI double, then easily homered in the fourth and fifth innings.

“The most important thing is to stay calm and continue to compete without getting upset,” said Trea Turner.

“That tells you a little bit about his build and his poise,” manager Rob Thompson added. “He threw strikes, the fastball had good speed, and it seemed to have good staying power. Kater was really effective and hit the breaking ball enough to keep them away from everything else. I thought he was really good.”

Mercado didn’t even start the year as a starting pitcher for Philadelphia. He was acquired in November from the Rays, who didn’t have a spot on their 40-man roster, and he began the season as a relief pitcher for Triple-A.

See also  The NBA All-Star captains choose the rosters directly on game night

But the struggles of key players like Colby Allard, David Buchanan, and Mike Apple, among others, gave him a chance.

“It was actually (assistant pitching coach) Brian Kaplan who came up with the idea because we had two guys who weren’t good at pitching in Division III at the beginning of the season,” Thompson said. “With his high-speed repertoire, his ability to throw fast and the way he could throw the ball, and his efficiency, he thought he could be a great addition to us. Thank God he came up with the idea because it really worked out.”

Mercado’s first-round finish was particularly impressive. He struck out the last seven batters he faced and needed just 21 pitches to get through the fourth and fifth innings before he was given the ball to the bullpen, which struck out nine batters in a row until Jose Ruiz allowed all three batters he faced in the ninth to score.

“Both times I felt more nervous during the warm-up before the game,” Mercado said of his first appearance as a substitute and his first start. “It’s like making my debut, it’s one of those things you dream of in a historic place. It was a great win for the team too. I’m happy to have been able to contribute.”

“I think the confidence I have in myself and the confidence the players have at this club is the reason. We’ve gone back to what we’ve always done, and for me, that’s throwing. Being able to settle in and treat it like any other game is great.”

See also  Alison Corpuz wins the US Women's Open at Pebble Beach

It helped that Philadelphia had him backed up early. Garrett Stubbs, who prides himself on game planning and the strategic element of catching, led Mercado off first and also helped him with a double that led to two runs down the third-base line in the second inning.

Turner hit a solo home run to left center in the top of the third inning, then hit a 94-mph fastball off Hayden Wisniewski in the fifth, hitting it 439 feet off the field to Waveland Avenue for a two-out hit. After two innings, Turner trailed in a 1-2 count before hitting a single from the outfield to the opposite side.

“Definitely,” Thompson said of the positive impact of early support, “but it can also have the opposite effect. It can put more pressure on a player because he’s coming through and he doesn’t want to give up. But he held on. It was great.”

Turner scored twice to win the game Sunday and will be even more important than usual over the next week to 10 days as the Phillies await the return of Bryce Harper (hamstring strain), Kyle Schwarber (groin strain) and JT Ralmotto (recovering from right meniscus surgery). The Phillies’ three injured starters are making progress. They each ran on the field Tuesday, Ralmotto did receiving drills and took batting practice in the outfield for the first time since his June 12 surgery, and Harper and Schwarber hit in the cage indoors.

Harper and Schwarber could return on July 9. Realmuto may have to wait until after the All-Star break, though Thompson hasn’t closed the door.

See also  Kaitlyn Clark breaks Lynette Woodard's record, 18 points short of passing Pete Maravich

“We’ll see what happens,” the Philadelphia coach said Tuesday afternoon. “He’s a quick healer.”

Philadelphia has gone 11-9 in Ralmotto’s absence, and has gone 3-1 since Harper and Schwarber were injured. The team has also gotten big contributions from Turner and Nick Castellanos, as well as Stubbs.

Stubbs treats his offense like “icing on the cake,” but he has held up in the outfield since Ralmotto’s surgery, averaging .275 with one strikeout in 10 of 11 games played.

Philadelphia’s next man up mentality in 2024 was more than just talk.

“A lot of players want to play, everyone is excited about the opportunity and that’s really important,” Turner said. “I don’t know if that’s always the case, but I feel like the players are eager to play and that’s really great. When their names are called, that’s their time to prove themselves and we have a lot of good players on top of that. That’s the mix you see.”

Philadelphia has a season-best 56-29 record, 27 games over .500. The Braves lost to the Giants, so their lead over Philadelphia is back to nine games. The two teams meet this week for the first time since the first three games of the year.

But first, the team will try to win at least two of three games against a Cubs team that has lost six of seven series and 16 of its last 24. Zack Wheeler will begin practice Wednesday night and Christopher Sanchez will begin practice on the afternoon of July 4.