The Phillies’ dormant offense didn’t need to do much Saturday night, it just needed one big hit, one crooked number to beat the lowly Pirates.
It never came.
The Phils lost, 3-2, dropping a second straight game to a Pirates team that entered the weekend 26 games under .500.
The Phillies began the second half of the season with MLB’s easiest schedule by opponent winning percentage, but they are 14-16 this year against the four worst teams they’ve played record-wise: the Pirates, Rockies, Marlins and Nationals.
After being one-hit in Friday’s 7-0 loss, the Phillies were held hitless until the fifth inning Saturday, when they scored their first run on Aaron Nola’s sacrifice fly.
They stranded three in the fifth, two in the seventh and two in the ninth. Bryce Harper tied the game with an RBI single in the eighth inning before the Pirates walked it off in the ninth against Jose Alvarado, who experienced familiar issues throwing strikes. The game ended on a groundball to Alec Bohm with runners on the corners and one out. The Pirates were running on contact and Bohm's throw to the plate wasn't in time.
The Phillies are 51-53. They lost ground to the Mets and Braves, who both won. The Mets lead Atlanta by four games and the Phils by 4½.
They played without Rhys Hoskins (groin) for the second straight night and lost Andrew McCutchen midway through the game with left knee stiffness. It is the same knee he had surgically repaired in 2019. He will be re-evaluated Sunday.
"Knee just stiffened up," manager Joe Girardi said. "It wasn’t working properly. He felt it earlier in the game and it finally got to the point where he couldn’t go anymore."
It was another rough night at the office for Didi Gregorius, who has been one of baseball’s worst defensive shortstops in 2021 and is cold at the plate. He went 0 for 4, stranded three runners and missed a shallow pop-up to center with the infield in during the Pirates’ two-run third inning. Gregorius is hitting .163 since returning from the injured list on July 2. He has been held hitless in 10 of his last 14 starts and his on-base percentage for the season is .258.
"He’s just struggling offensively," Girardi said. "What we saw out of Didi last year and before he got hurt, he was really clutch and had a lot of big RBIs for us. He’s really scuffling. We need to get him going. We need his bat. We know the impact Didi has when he is right and we need to get him right."
The Phillies have been brutal with runners in scoring position lately, making an out in 76 of their last 89 at-bats, a .146 batting average.
Nola pitched well, allowing two runs over six innings, both in the third. His last two starts have been strong and he’s put just eight men on base over 14⅔ innings.
It did not matter on Saturday because the Phillies are in a lifeless rut offensively. They have one extra-base hit in 71 plate appearances in the series, a double legged out by J.T. Realmuto.
Kyle Gibson, acquired at Friday’s trade deadline from the Rangers, makes his Phillies debut in Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. series finale. Gibson, a Joe Blanton-esque rotation piece that isn’t flashy but is expected to provide quality starts, is 6-3 on the year with a 2.87 ERA. The Phils are hoping his recent troubles with the Rangers don’t carry over. Gibson allowed 16 runs in his final 17⅓ innings with Texas.