Maybe it was the simple fact that there was a big, sellout crowd in the ballpark for Jimmy Rollins’ retirement ceremony. Maybe it was because the rebuild is over, the stakes are higher and the fans are more engaged now.
Whatever the case, the boos were louder and more frequent at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night than they have been in some time.
And so were the cheers.
It was that kind of night for the Phillies and their fans — the thrill of a dramatic five-run rally in the seventh inning, the agony of giving it all away an inning later.
“Tough loss on a really special night for Jimmy,” manager Gabe Kapler said after his club let one get away in a wild, 10-8 loss to the Washington Nationals (see observations).
The Nationals, down 8-5 entering the eighth inning, rallied for four runs in that inning to take the lead for good.
The Nats put two men on base against veteran Pat Neshek in the frame. With two outs, Kapler pulled Neshek in favor of lefty Adam Morgan.
One night after setting a club record with his 16th straight scoreless appearance to open a season, Morgan gave up a three-run homer to pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki and a solo shot to Victor Robles as the Nats surged into the lead.
Faced with the decision of having Neshek try to clean up his own mess against lefty-hitting Andrew Stevenson or go to Morgan and have the Nats respond with the right-handed hitting Suzuki, Kapler chose the former.
“In that situation you like a fresh Morgan who's been arguably your best pitcher all year against a pinch-hitter,” Kapler said. “That's the way you make them make the move.”
Morgan threw Suzuki two changeups. The second one went out of the park. Robles then hit a 1-0 fastball. The crowd booed loudly as each home run settled into the seats.
Previously, Morgan had given up just five hits in 12 2/3 innings.
“Any loss is tough, but to lose it like that was pretty hard,” Morgan said.
Morgan was not the only ineffective Phillies reliever. Juan Nicasio was nicked for two infield hits in the seventh then threw away a bunt as the Nats scored two unearned runs to take the lead before the Phillies got it right back in the bottom of the inning on four RBI doubles. Kapler had been watching Seranthony Dominguez’ workload so he gave Nicasio the ball in that situation.
“Ultimately, you have to trust your pitchers and not just the same pitchers you use to win a game every night,” Kapler said. “You've got to trust your entire bullpen and we trusted Nicasio there.”
Nicasio has allowed 24 base runners in 15 1/3 innings. How much longer can he be trusted?
Jake Arrieta pitched six innings and gave up three runs. He was lifted for pinch-hitter Cesar Hernandez with one out and runners at second and third in the sixth. Hernandez struck out feebly against Patrick Corbin and Andrew McCutchen struck out looking. End of threat.
Kapler said it was a tough call to pinch-hit for Arrieta in a tie game.
“It really was,” he said. “He was pitching really well. But the one thing that I maintain is that we're going to be aggressive at every turn. We're going to try to win games when we have a chance to win ballgames. In that situation with a runner on second and third with one out, it was pretty much the only situation we were going to hit for him. Maybe bases loaded, nobody out a chance to break the game open, a chance to turn the tides. We were going to take advantage of that. Same thing with our bullpen usage. If we have a chance to win baseball games, we're going to go after them. We're going to go after them hard, we're going to go after them aggressively and I'm not going to come off that position.”
The loss left the Phils at 18-14.
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