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All-Star Reliever Strahm Fans Shohei Ohtani in 7th With Tying Runs on Base
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By Associated Press
Published 2 weeks ago on
July 11, 2024

All-Star reliever Matt Strahm struck out two-time MVP Shohei Ohtani in the seventh inning, the pivotal out that preserved Philadelphia's lead and helped the Phillies win again without Bryce Harper, 4-3 over Los Angeles on Wednesday night. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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PHILADELPHIA — All-Star reliever Matt Strahm got two-time MVP Shohei Ohtani flailing at an 83 mph slider for strike three in the seventh inning that saw the Dodgers slugger nearly lose his helmet and leave the tying runs on base, the pivotal out that preserved Philadelphia’s lead and helped the Phillies win again without Bryce Harper, 4-3 over Los Angeles on Wednesday night.

“He’s one of the greatest ever to pick up a bat,” Strahm said. “It’s cool.”

The 32-year-old Strahm is known in Philly as much for his stringy, shoulder-length hair and baseball card collecting as he is recording clutch outs out of the bullpen — the kind that earned him his first All-Star spot after nine seasons in the big leagues.

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Strahm’s Pivotal Out

The left-handed Strahm inherited runners on the corners in the seventh and the Phillies nursing a 4-2 lead when the left-handed sensation Ohtani was introduced to the tune of nearly 42,000 boos from another packed house in South Philly — “like a playoff game,” manager Rob Thomson said — and the game on the line.

Strahm threw one slider as part of two quick strikes and then a ball, a 1-2 count that fans had standing and roaring on a nationally televised game.

He got Ohtani — the Dodgers’ $700 million global phenomenon — and fans erupted in a scene straight out of Philadelphia’s crazed October atmosphere.

“You’re obviously aware of who’s in the box,” Strahm said. “Again, the energy of these fans is unmatched.”

With another batter due up, Strahm had no time to exhale and completely savor the moment. He retired Teoscar Hernández on a flyball to escape the jam and pushed the Phillies toward their 60th win of the season.

Phillies’ Winning Streak

The Phillies won the first two games of the three-game set in a showdown of two NL division leaders. At 60-32, only the 1976 team (in 88 games) reached that mark faster in a season in franchise history.

Kyle Schwarber hit his eighth leadoff homer of the season to help offset Harper’s absence.

The Phillies again beat Ohtani and the NL West leaders without Harper, out this time with a bruised left hand. Harper had missed the previous nine games with a strained left hamstring until he returned for Tuesday’s 10-1 win. A two-time NL MVP, Harper was hurt at an unspecified point, though he clearly grabbed his hand and hunched over in pain on a second-inning chopper by Miguel Rojas.

With an All-Star slugger sidelined, an All-Star reliever in Stram bailed out the Phillies.

The Dodgers made it 4-3 in the eighth. Jeff Hoffman — one of seven Phillies selected for the NL All-Star team — tossed a scoreless ninth inning for his ninth save.

“We know we stack up with those guys, they know that we stack up with them,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t won two games. I still think we have a pretty good ballclub.”

Phillies’ Injury Woes

Key cogs Harper, catcher J.T. Realmuto (out until after the All-Star break), outfielder Brandon Marsh and Schwarber have all been on the injured list for the Phillies this season. All-Star pitcher Zack Wheeler is fighting back stiffness.

Yet nothing has truly slowed a Phillies team determined to win the World Series they could not do — losing in Houston in 2022; losing to Arizona in the NL Championship Series in 2023 — each of the last two seasons.

If the Phillies are looking for that one last push ahead of the All-Star break to chase 70 wins at a franchise-record pace, a three-game weekend series against the Oakland A’s might get them there.

Game Highlights

Cristopher Sánchez (7-4) struck out five and allowed two runs in six innings for the Phillies on another sticky night in Philly. He coughed up a 2-0 lead and the Dodgers tied it on Ohtani’s RBI single in the fifth.

Sánchez has a 1.50 ERA (11 earned runs in 66 innings) in his 10 home starts this season.

Whit Merrifield — who led the AL with 10 triples in 2019 but hadn’t hit one since 2022 — opened the fifth with a lazy fly to center that Andy Pages lost in the lights. Merrifield hightailed it around first and landed on third for his 27th career triple. After Garrett Stubbs and Schwarber failed to hit the ball out of the infield, Merrifield scored on Trea Turner’s grounder. Turner made it to third on All-Star Alec Bohm’s NL-best 32nd double and scored on Bryson Stott’s infield single for a 4-2 lead.

Schwarber’s shot off Gavin Stone (9-3) was his 39th career leadoff homer. Stone allowed four runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings.

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