From the team’s middle relief to closer Hector Neris, the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen wasted an offensive effort that included a Grand Slam in Wednesday’s loss to the Washington Nationals.
By Chris Murray
For the Philadelphia Sunday SUN
There is no doubt that the Philadelphia Phillies can hit and score runs just as good, if not sometimes better, than most teams in Major League Baseball.
The issue for the Phillies in 2021, just as it was in 2020, has been stopping other teams from scoring when they take the lead.
That was something that once again bit the Phillies on the rear end again as Phillies pitching struggled to keep the Washington Nationals off the scoreboard.
After the Phillies rallied to take a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI single by Ronald Torreyes that scored Alex Bohm, Phillies closer Hector Neris failed to close the deal by allowing two runs in the top of the ninth to give Washington a 13-12 win on a wild Wednesday afternoon at Citizen’s Bank Park.
“Today was a bad day and we need to [do] better,” said Phillies manager Joe Girardi.
In that fateful ninth inning, Neris, who has three blown saves in the last five games, allowed Nationals’ first baseman Josh Bell and second baseman Josh Harrison to reach on singles. A sacrifice bunt by catcher Alex Avila moved the runners to second and third. Starlin Castro’s single to center put Washington up for good.
“What killed us was that we walked about seven guys in those two innings and maybe even seven scored and that’s the frustrating part,” Girardi said after the game. “We had leads and we gave it away by issuing so many bases on balls and you just can’t do that.”
After Neris’s blown save on Wednesday, Girardi said he would use the day off to think about putting someone else in the closer’s role.
Girardi said he didn’t have four of his relief pitchers-Ranger Suarez, Connor Brogdon, Spencer Howard, and Bailey Falter. Between starting pitcher Vince Velasquez and the relievers, the Phillies gave up eight walks that led to runs.
Meanwhile, the Phillies have a huge three-game road series against the National League East-leading New York Mets that could either get them back in the race or sink them further behind. The Phillies (34-37) are 4.5 games out of first place.
“We’re going to be in for a tough weekend in New York, but we gotta keep going, keep playing our game and score runs and control the things we can each night we go out there,” Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper said. “You could go one way or the other way. As a team, we need to regroup as quickly as possible. We need to come out on top there. If we don’t, it’s going to be miserable coming back from that and we can’t afford to do that right now.”
For the four innings, Velasquez was having a strong outing against the Washington Nationals and was seemingly in complete command of his pitches. He had five strikeouts with zero walks and just one hit.
Velasquez even helped his cause with an RBI single to give the Phillies a 5-0 lead after four innings.
But in the fifth inning, things began to fall apart for Velasquez in an emphatic way. He walked Harrison and Avila. Castro doubled to left, scoring Harrison and sending Avila to third.
Centerfielder Victor Robles hit a pop fly to shallow center field that dropped between second baseman Brad Miller and centerfielder Odubel Herrera. Avila scored.
After striking out pinch hitter Gerardo Parra, Velasquez was replaced by relief pitcher Archie Bradley, who gave up a three-run homer to Nationals’
leftfielder Kyle Schwarber to tie the game at 5-5.
Velasquez allowed four runs on three hits, along with those two walks.
“We looked at the walks and the counts (Velasquez) was getting into, he just wasn’t locating anymore,” Girardi said. “We thought we would bring in Archie who’s been pretty good in those situations. He hung a breaking ball.”
In their half of the fifth inning, the Phillies responded with a grand-slam home run from Andrew McCutchen, who is batting .466 with runners in scoring position since June 1. That gave the Phillies a 9-5 lead that they would give right back in the top of the sixth inning thanks to the team’s much-maligned bullpen.
The Nationals came back to score six runs in the top of the sixth. Trea Turner singled home two runs off Phillies reliever David Hale that scored Castro and Robles. Later in the inning, Bell hit a grand-slam home run to give Washington an 11-9 lead.
To their credit, the Phillies’ offense came back in their half of the seventh to cut the lead to 11-10 on an RBI single by pinch-hitter Luke Williams that scored Alec Bohm. They would take the lead in the bottom of the eighth only to lose it in the top of the ninth.
The Phillies will have time to think about what to do to keep from getting swept by the Mets when they travel to Citi Field for a three-game series starting on Friday at 4:10pm.