DENVER — The Phillies’ road trip turned nightmarish Saturday night when rookie Nick Pivetta gave up five runs in the first and three more in the third, leading to an 8-5 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
It was the Phillies’ fifth straight loss on their current eight-game trip. They have scored eight runs in two losses at hitter-friendly Coors Field and 13 runs during their five-game skid.
Pivetta gave up five runs in a 42-pitch first, a rally that included three singles, a walk, a sacrifice fly, a hit batter and first baseman Tommy Joseph’s two-base error. Pivetta lasted a career-low tying 2⅔ innings, departing after Pat Valaika homered in the third.
Phillies starter Vince Velasquez needed 36 pitches to complete a two-run first Friday, but he lasted five innings and allowed just those two runs in what became a 4-3 loss. Pivetta was considerably less fortunate and unable to take the game through three innings.
Rockies starter Jon Gray limited the Phillies to one run in seven innings before Daniel Nava hit a three-run homer off Zac Rosscup in the eighth. The Phillies tacked on a run in the ninth when Freddy Galvis’ two-out flare fell between leftfielder Carlos Gonzalez and shortstop Valaika.
Starting pitching report
Pivetta quickly tumbled into a deep hole, giving up five runs (three earned) in the first and yielded eight runs (six earned) while lasting just 2⅔ innings. He put himself in immediate trouble, loading the bases in the first with no outs on a walk, hit batter and single.
Gerardo Parra became the fourth straight batter to reach base when he singled home two runs. Mark Reynolds grounded into a run-scoring fielder’s choice, followed by Joseph’s two-base error when he moved left for Gonzalez’s grounder that bounced past him.
A sacrifice fly and single completed the carnage.
Pivetta got a double-play grounder in the second but gave up Parra’s double and Reynolds single to open the third. Gonzalez hit a sacrifice fly to deep center. And with one out, Valaika hit a two-run homer that ended Pivetta’s 64-pitch outing.
It was the Phillies’ shortest start since June 26 at Arizona when Pivetta also went 2⅔ innings.
Gray gave up six hits and one run in seven innings and remained unbeaten this season at Coors Field, where he is 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA in four starts.
Mark Leiter Jr. relieved Pivetta and saved the Phillies’ bullpen. Leiter pitched 4⅓ scoreless innings, allowing two hits with no walks and nine strikeouts. Leiter, who retired the first nine batters he faced before Gray singled, threw 40 of 52 pitches for strikes.
Closer Hector Neris took the mound in the eighth with four days of rest. He gave up a leadoff double to Gonzalez and two walks to load the bases but struck out DJ LeMahieu to end a 26-pitch inning that included 13 strikes.
At the plate
Daniel Nava finished a double shy of the cycle and hit his fourth homer, a three-run shot off Rosscup, who took over for Gray in the eighth.
The Phillies scored in the fourth on Nick Williams' double-play grounder after Freddy Galvis and Nava opened the inning with singles.
In the field
With the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, Galvis was robbed of a hit when first baseman Reynolds lunged to his right to spear Galvis’ hard-line drive.
Rightfielder Aaron Altherr (right hamstring strain) was placed on the 10-day disabled list. He was double-switched out of Friday’s game in the eighth inning after re-aggravating the injury. Altherr went on the disabled list July 26 and missed 10 games after straining that hamstring.
Outfielder Cameron Perkins, who was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday, was recalled to take Altherr’s place on the roster. In 64 games with the IronPigs, Perkins is hitting .295 with 17 doubles, six homers, 22 RBIs and a .387 on-base percentage.
In 28 games with the Phillies this year, Perkins is hitting .207 (12 for 58).
Catcher Jorge Alfaro was in the lineup, one day after being recalled from Lehigh Valley to give the Phillies coverage at the position with Andrew Knapp day-to-day with a bruised right hand.
Mackanin said Alfaro started because he has caught Pivetta this season, and in Sunday’s afternoon game, Mackanin wanted Cameron Rupp to catch Aaron Nola.
A September call-up last season, Alfaro played in his seventh game in the majors and made his fifth career start. He singled in each of his first two at-bats and went 2 for 4.
Nola will make his 50th career start Sunday and face the Rockies for the first time. He has allowed two or fewer runs in eight straight starts, going 5-3 with a 1.66 ERA in those outings with 15 walks and 63 strikeouts in 54⅓ innings. During that span, Nola has limited opposing hitters to a .205 average and a .575 OPS.
“His command’s been better,” pitching coach Bob McClure said. “He’s kept the ball lower with all pitches. (Gone) up by design. The quality of his secondary pitches has gotten better as well.”
Nola didn’t pitch after July 28 last year because of a right elbow strain and finished the 2016 season with 20 starts and 111 innings. With an eye toward his future health, Nola took a preventive measure with his delivery and brought it to spring training.
“He’s got a higher leg kick now,” McClure said. “He came up with that based on getting hurt last year. He felt that by having a higher leg kick in the windup took stress off his arm. In doing that, his control suffered a little bit in the beginning. But it’s obviously smoothed out since then.”
Mackanin said there was no timeline for when Altherr might return after re-aggravating his right hamstring and straining it for the second time in less than two weeks. With their regular rightfielder sidelined, Mackanin said, “I’m just going to wing it.”
Nava started in right Saturday, and Mackanin said, he was “going to probably play” Hyun So Kim there Sunday, although Kim has expressed a preference for playing left field rather than right.
Williams has made 27 major league starts — 16 in right field, 10 in left field and one as the designated hitter. His past five starts have been in left field.
“I like him better in left,” Mackanin said. “I didn’t like the way he looked so much in right. But our ballpark is funny in right with that fence out there.”
Ten of Williams’ 16 starts in right have been at Citizens Bank Park, including his past seven games there from July 21-28,
The Phillies turn to Nola (8-7, 3.16) to stop the bleeding Sunday in the series finale. The Rockies will counter with Jeff Hoffman (3-2, 5.18)
The Phillies are off Monday and conclude their eight-game road trip with games at Atlanta on Tuesday and Wednesday.