"This is not a happy Father's Day!" a Phillies fan in the Hall of Fame club bellowed after Hector Neris allowed the tying run to score in the ninth inning.
It was a hot and steamy Sunday in South Philadelphia, it took the Phillies and Diamondbacks four hours to play nine innings, and it was yet another disappointing blown lead. So it would be tough to find anyone who disagreed with that fan.
Neris, who's been so much more hittable this season than he was last, entered with a one-run lead and walked the first batter he faced in the ninth: light-hitting, all-glove shortstop Nick Ahmed. Two singles later, the game was tied.
Last season's closer, Jeanmar Gomez, took the loss by allowing a home run in the 10th to Rey Fuentes, the first of his career.
But it was Neris' work that sent these fans home unhappy yet again after a 5-4 loss (see Instant Replay). The Phillies are 22-46 and no National League team has started worse through 68 games since the 2013 Marlins, who lost 100.
"His splitter is hot and cold," manager Pete Mackanin said. "For every two good ones he throws, he throws two bad ones. It's hard to figure out what he's doing."
The disappearing splitter was the pitch that made Neris so effective last season. His opponents hit .158 against it with 69 strikeouts in 2016.
Entering Sunday's game, the opposition had hit .227 against his splitter this season, and Neris had thrown it for a ball about five percent more often.
"I'm throwing the same, I never change anything," Neris said.
The results, though, have been anything but the same. In 30 appearances, Neris has a 3.68 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. Through 30 appearances last season as a setup man, he had a 2.27 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP.
"That closer role is tough," Mackanin said. "It's a different role and some guys are good at it and some aren't. I think Neris has a chance to be a closer but he needs to shore up a few things."
Bullpen meltdowns have plagued the Phillies all season. Gomez failed as the closer, Joaquin Benoit was yanked after his first blown save, and Neris himself has had several missteps. The Phils' most consistent reliever has been Pat Neshek, who's allowed just two runs in 27 innings for a 0.76 ERA. But Neshek, who will likely be here for about a month longer before being traded, feels most comfortable in a setup role.
The result has been a whole lot of frustration for the Phillies, their manager and fans. The Phils continue to lose close games. They've played 27 one-run games — four more than any team in the majors — and are 10-17 in them.
When you're losing so often, your closer doesn't have many opportunities. That's been the case lately for Neris, who has just three saves in the Phillies' last 46 games.
Is rust causing his inconsistency?
"There's a fine line between using a guy too little and too much," Mackanin said. "Last year, he pitched an awful lot and that could be a factor in why he has not been consistent because the opportunities haven't been there. But still, you can't walk that leadoff batter, you've got to go right at him."
"You know, I wait for my opportunity to pitch," Neris said. "It's hard sometimes, three days sitting and then go pitch."
The blown save cost Ben Lively his second big-league win. Lively allowed three runs and two homers in the first inning but rebounded to put up five zeroes the rest of the way. Four starts into his career, he has four quality starts and is 1-1 with a 3.33 ERA. On Sunday, he struck out six after whiffing just five total in his first three starts.
Mackanin again applauded Lively's aggressiveness and toughness on the mound. Lively doesn't have the best stuff on the staff but he's been its most consistent strike-thrower the last month.
That was one positive on Father's Day. So was the Phillies' game plan against D-backs lefty Robbie Ray, who had allowed one run in his last 37 innings entering Sunday. The Phils scored four runs and put 12 men on base against him in 5⅓ innings. Aaron Altherr and Maikel Franco each homered, and the Phillies had a man on base in every inning against him.
"We hit the ball pretty well off one of the better pitchers in the league, Ray," Mackanin said.
But they still lost for the 11th time in 12 games and the 37th time in 48 games. It's hard for any team to come up short this frequently and even harder for the wheels to fall off this quickly in a season.
Get ready for another Philly team to have the first pick in the draft.