Phillies

After giving up 7 runs on 856 feet worth of homers, does Cole Irvin get another start?

After giving up 7 runs on 856 feet worth of homers, does Cole Irvin get another start?

CHICAGO — And this is why you need to close out those one-run leads in the ninth inning when you have a chance to take two in a row from the hard-hitting Chicago Cubs in their electric home-field environs of Wrigley Field …

Because sooner or later, the Cubs are going to break out the lumber and lay a beating on you.

That’s just what happened to the Phillies on Wednesday night. Twenty-four hours after they suffered a painful walk-off loss to the Cubs, the Phils were pounded by a score of 8-4 (see observations). The Phils are now tasked with the difficult challenge of beating Jon Lester in Thursday’s series finale to get out of Chicago with a split. Then it’s on to face another lumber company in Milwaukee, the same one that outscored the Phils, 22-6, in the final three games of a four-game series last week in Philadelphia.

The Cubs didn’t need to wait until the ninth inning to beat the Phillies on Wednesday night and they didn’t do it against the bullpen. They teed off on rookie lefty Cole Irvin for 856 feet worth of home runs in the third and fifth innings. Anthony Rizzo belted a mammoth three-run shot in the third and Albert Almora Jr. crushed a first-pitch grand slam in the fifth.

Later in the game, the Cubs got a 449-foot homer from Javiez Baez against Enyel De Los Santos. All of the Cubbies’ runs came on homers.

“The wind was blowing out,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “We saw what it looked like in batting practice. The ball was rocketing out of the ballpark.”

The Phils were only able to rocket one ball out of the yard, but Andrew McCutchen’s solo shot in the eighth was too little too late.

The big subplot in this game was Cole Hamels. The lefty made his first-ever start against his former club. The Phillies jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Hamels, blew up his pitch count and got him out of the game after four innings. But the Phillies needed to do more against Hamels. They left two men in scoring position in the first inning and the bases loaded in the fourth.

“The difference in the game was we really did a good job of building Hamels’ pitch count, but they were able to deliver the knockout blows,” Kapler said. “They scored all of their runs on two swings [against Irvin]. We just weren't able to deliver that one knockout blow, that uppercut. They were able to do that.”

Irvin is a command lefty who can’t afford to miss spots up and over the plate. He tried to go down and away with a 3-0 fastball against Rizzo in the third and the Cubs’ slugger crushed the heart-of-the-plate pitch off the scoreboard to tie the game.

Irvin pitched around Willson Contreras in the fifth to get to Almora. The walk to Contreras loaded the bases and brought pitching coach Chris Young to the mound. The plan was to go at Almora with changeups, but not, as Irvin said, with changeups that were “middle-in and belt high.” Irvin’s first pitch to Almora was right there and the Cubs’ centerfielder crushed it for four runs.

“Unfortunately, I just didn't make my pitch there and didn't make my pitch to Rizzo, either,” Irvin said. “They hurt me for it. I didn’t even get through five innings so I’m really disappointed.”

The big question now is: Will Irvin get another start next week against the Cardinals at home? His performance in his first two big-league starts would suggest that he deserves a look beyond a difficult outing in his third big-league start. But the Phillies can easily go in a different direction because Vince Velasquez is just about ready to come off the disabled list. That issue was talked about extensively before the game (see story).

After the game, Kapler wasn’t ready to make any decisions.

“I think that’s something that we want to spend some time thinking about,” he said. “After a loss like this and after we just kind of got punched, I think the main thing is that we go back and digest and look at what happened in the game and really evaluate it with a little distance between what happened. That’s usually how I approach those things.”

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Frustration mounting for Phillies after series loss to Orioles

Frustration mounting for Phillies after series loss to Orioles

The Phillies suffered their fourth defeat in the last five games when they were beaten by the Baltimore Orioles, 5-4, on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The Orioles, who hit three home runs, have beaten the Phillies two nights in a row and will go for a series sweep Thursday afternoon.

The Phillies are 5-8 and frustration is mounting. Struggling Rhys Hoskins became the first Phillie in 10 years (Placido Polanco did it in 2010) to hit into three double plays. After the second one, he smashed his helmet to the ground and the sound echoed all over the empty ballpark.

For the season, the Phils are a combined 1-4 against Miami and Baltimore. Those two clubs lost 105 and 108 games, respectively, last season.

Eflin's night

Right-hander Zach Eflin struck out a career-high 10 batters but could not hold a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning. He allowed seven hits, two of which were homers, and four runs over six innings. 

Eflin once again featured his bread-and-butter sinker. He got hurt on three breaking balls, a 1-2 slider that Anthony Santander hit for a homer in the third inning, an 0-1 curveball that Chance Sisco blooped for a two-run single with two outs in the fourth, and a 2-2 slider that Rio Ruiz hit for a homer with two outs in the fifth. Ruiz's homer to center traveled 405 feet and gave the O's a 4-3 lead.

Bullpen blues

The Orioles built their lead to 5-3 on a solo homer by Sisco against reliever Adam Morgan in the seventh. Sisco hit an 0-1 breaking ball. 

Morgan threw just three fastballs out of 17 pitches and it averaged just 91 mph. That would seem to be a concern and something worth watching as Morgan missed significant time last year with an elbow injury and is one of the veterans the Phils are counting on out of the 'pen this season.

The Phillies' bullpen remains the worst in baseball. It has allowed 41 earned runs in 38⅓ innings for a 9.63 ERA.

Brooks Ruiz

The Phillies made it a one-run game when Andrew Knapp (three hits, two RBIs) drove home a run in the eighth. The Phillies continued to threaten in the inning, putting runners on first and second for Andrew McCutchen with two outs.

McCutchen scorched a ball between short and third that had game-tying single written all over it. But Ruiz, Baltimore's third baseman, made a diving play to halt the hot smash and from his sprawled position rolled the ball to second for the third out.

Frustration city

Hoskins, who entered the game hitting .211 with no homers and one RBI, grounded into three 5-4-3 double plays, the second of which came with two men on base in a tie game in the fourth. 

Hoskins hit just .180 after the All-Star break last season and frustration is clearly building. After hitting into the double play in the fourth inning, he crossed first base and slammed his helmet (loudly) into the ground. It was an unusual show of anger/frustration for the usually even-tempered Hoskins, who also walked and struck out. He's hitting .190.

Kingery sits

Scott Kingery, 4 for 40 with 10 strikeouts to start the season, was held out of the starting lineup. Kingery struck out twice late in Tuesday night's game, both on pitches out of the strike zone. 

Phil Gosselin got the start at second base.

Gosselin entered the game 9 for 18 (.500) with a .591 on-base percentage. Though Gosselin did not reach base in the game, he saved a run with an excellent defensive play in the first inning.

Manager Joe Girardi has said he's committed to getting core guys like Kingery ample opportunity to get going, but the season is moving fast — more than 20 percent is gone — and Girardi has to balance patience with urgency.

Not the same

McCutchen has been slow starting at the plate. He entered the game with just five hits in his first 34 at-bats (.147) and his on-base percentage was just .211.

It was a good sign that McCutchen came out of the gate with a pair of line-drive hits in his first three at-bats. He continued to hit the ball well late in the game and was robbed of a hit.

But McCutchen, who missed four months last season after tearing the ACL in his left knee, is still not moving well on the bases or in left field. This is something worth watching — either way. Maybe McCutchen will start moving better as he gets further away from the injury. Or maybe this is what he is at age 33 with two serious knee injuries on his chart.

Cut the shift

For the second time in the young season, Bryce Harper beat an extreme shift with a bunt base hit toward third base. It came with no outs in the third inning and Hoskins (walk) on first base. Both Hoskins and Harper ended up scoring on a hit by J.T. Realmuto and a sacrifice fly by Didi Gregorius as the Phillies took a 3-1 lead.

Up next

The series concludes Thursday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. Former Phillies prospect Tom Eshelman pitches for the Orioles against Jake Arrieta, who is coming off six scoreless innings against the Braves.

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Phillies continue to invent ways to lose to teams they should dominate

Phillies continue to invent ways to lose to teams they should dominate

Updated, 10:30 p.m.

Needing to capitalize on every game against a bad team in a 60-game season, the Phillies are off to a 1-4 start against the Marlins and Orioles. They have one more game with the Orioles Thursday, then seven straight games against the Marlins from Sept. 10-14 in Miami.

The Phillies have dug themselves a hole in which even going 6-2 in those remaining games against two of baseball's least talented teams would result in them finishing just 7-6 against the Marlins and Orioles. NL East and AL East teams entered this season knowing they'd need to clean up on Miami and Baltimore given the strength of the other eight teams, ranging from World Series contenders like the Yankees to clubs in the 85-win range like the Phillies, Mets and Blue Jays.

The Marlins and Orioles have just been better than the Phillies pitchers they're facing. It's the biggest reason why the Phils continue to struggle against bad teams. Do they have better players? Of course. But the gap in talent shrinks when you're forced to use some of your least reliable players (e.g. relievers) every night. You need your bullpen every night. You can't hide it. The Phillies continue to lose these games in the middle innings.

In the five games against the Fish and O's, Phillies starting pitchers have a 5.33 ERA. The bullpen has an 8.05 ERA ... which is actually lower than the bullpen's overall ERA this season. The Phillies' offense has averaged 5.6 runs, homered eight times and has an OPS in the mid-.800s in those five games. It's not at all on the offense, which last season averaged more than 5.5 runs per game against the Marlins and lost the series. The Phillies have already lost games this season when scoring six and nine runs. Even the two times the Phils scored double-digit runs, they had to sweat it out a bit, allowing seven and eight.

That late-season seven-game series in Miami will be another challenge. Because of the postponements, the Phillies will end up playing seven of the 10 games against the Marlins on the road, even if they'll spend a few as the home team in a road park. That seven-game series is smack-dab in the middle of a stretch when the Phillies play 33 games in 29 days. Some of these guys will be running on fumes. Think of how frequently Hector Neris will have to appear in games for the Phillies to hold on to victories.

The Phillies went 33-29 last season against teams under .500. That's OK but not good enough and certainly not an indicator of a contending team. The Marlins and Orioles are actually both over .500 right now, as is every team the Phillies have faced so far. 

More than one-fifth of the Phillies' season is complete and they are 5-8. You simply need to play .500 baseball to make the playoffs this season. The top two teams in each division, plus the teams with the next two best records in each league make the postseason in this year's 16-team field. Right now, the final team in the NL would be the Brewers at 7-9. The final AL team would be the Indians at 10-9.

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