An uninvited guest arrived at Citizens Bank Park in the fourth inning Tuesday night, stayed way too long and ultimately threw cold water on the best stretch of baseball that the Phillies have played in a decade.
Aaron Nola and Max Scherzer were locked in an impressive pitchers’ duel when the skies opened, causing the first of a three-game series between the Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers to be delayed for an hour and 44 minutes.
The long pause forced both pitchers to leave a scoreless game and put the bullpens in the spotlight.
The Phillies’ eight-game winning streak ended in a deflating 5-0 loss to the Dodgers.
Meanwhile, down in Atlanta, the Braves beat the Cincinnati Reds, 3-2, to cut the Phillies’ lead in the NL East to a game.
“Tough loss tonight,” Nola said. “It was a good eight-game stretch. We’ll get back at it tomorrow.”
Scherzer, acquired at the trade deadline from Washington, and six Dodgers relievers held the Phillies to six hits in the shutout. All were singles and two were infield hits.
The Phillies struck out 15 times (then again, so did the Dodgers), were hitless in five chances with a runner in scoring position and left eight men on base.
“We had some opportunities,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We just couldn’t come up with the big hit like we’ve been able to as of late.”
The Phillies have not been to the playoffs or had a winning season since 2011. The team’s eight-game winning streak, highlighted by a weekend sweep of the Mets that propelled them into first place in the division, made this one of the most anticipated Phillies games in a decade.
The attendance was respectable -- 28,333 -- but certainly not robust. Maybe some fans need more convincing that this team is for real.
It didn’t happen Tuesday night.
Nola was brilliant in his four innings of work. He allowed just one hit and struck out seven, five on curveballs. The pitch was the best it has been all season.
Scherzer, for his part, had allowed just three hits and struck out six in 3⅓ innings before the rains came.
There was no telling where this pitchers’ duel would have gone had the night remained dry.
“That’s probably as good of stuff as Aaron has had all year long,” Girardi said. “It’s frustrating but it’s Mother Nature and there’s not much you can do about it.”
During the delay, Nola stayed loose by throwing in the batting cages behind the dugout. Once the delay got over 90 minutes, he was done.
“Honestly, it kind of surprised me because I looked at the forecast early in the day and I didn’t see much of anything,” Nola said of the strong, popup storm. “When it started pouring rain, I went down in the batting cages and stayed loose a couple of times. At that point, you really hope that it’s not a long stint but unfortunately, it was a lot longer than we thought. It’s tough but you can’t control any of that. It happens in the northeast in the summer, you get rain all the time.”
While the Dodgers’ bullpen delivered 5⅔ scoreless innings, the Phillies’ bullpen struggled.
JD Hammer was the first of five men out of the bullpen. Corey Seager hit his third pitch over the wall in left to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth.
The Dodgers scored three more against Matt Moore in the sixth. Moore faced four batters and allowed three hits, two of which were doubles. The left-hander was booed as he left the mound in favor of Enyel De Los Santos and De Los Santos was booed when he allowed two of the runners he inherited from Moore to score on a base hit by AJ Pollock.
The Dodgers were without Mookie Betts. He was a late scratch and is likely headed to the injured list. That’s a break for the Phillies -- if they can capitalize in the final two games of the series.
Kyle Gibson makes his third start with the Phillies on Wednesday night. David Price will start for the Dodgers.