The Phillies got the crowd they wanted, thanks to Chase Utley, and the pitching performance they wanted, thanks to Aaron Nola.
But they didn’t get the offense they needed to pull out a win Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phils’ 2-1 loss to the Miami Marlins was their fifth straight defeat, their seventh in the last eight games and 14th in the last 20.
In a span of three weeks, the Phils have gone from 10 games over .500 and 3½ games up in the NL East to three games over .500 and 4½ games back in the NL East. They are still in second place in the division but for how much longer? Third-place Washington is just two games out of second.
All phases of the game have abandoned the Phillies lately, but starting pitching was not one of them Friday night. In front of a sellout crowd that showed up to salute Utley and his retirement, Nola delivered eight innings of 10-strikeout ball and allowed just two runs, one of which was unearned. However, the right-hander received little run support as the Phils’ bats were stymied by Sandy Alcantara and the Marlins’ bullpen.
The Phillies went just 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position and neither of the hits scored a run. They left 11 men on base against a Marlins club that has the worst record in the NL.
Over the last five games, the Phils are 5 for 40 with runners in scoring position.
Over the last 11 games, the Phillies are 2-9. They’re hitting .233 over that span and have scored 40 runs.
This team was supposed to hit, but through 75 games the Phils rank 11th in the NL in batting average (.242), 10th in on-base percentage (.321), 11th in slugging (.414), ninth in OPS (.735) and 12th in homers (89).
“I think our guys can swing the bats better,” manager Gabe Kapler said after Friday night’s loss. “I think we all know that. Going up to the plate with the right approach, the right mindset, we’re just not getting it done right now. We’ve got to do a better job. It’s that simple.”
Kapler was asked if he had confidence in hitting coach John Mallee.
“I think we have the right personnel in place,” he said. “I think we have the right coaches in place. Our processes and our practices need some refinement. There’s no coaching staff in baseball that works harder than our staff does and we are going to work to find solutions.”
Because of the lack of offensive support, Nola had little room for error. Eighty-two of the 107 pitches he threw were strikes. He made just a couple of mistakes — a 2-0 fastball over the heart of the plate that Bryan Holaday hit for a homer in the second inning and a first-pitch curveball that plunked Brian Anderson in the sixth. Anderson went to third on a base hit and scored on an infield tapper that third baseman Scott Kingery could not make a play on.
Could Kingery have gotten Anderson at the plate if he had fielded it cleanly? The official scorer thought so. He charged Kingery with an error and the batter reached base on a fielder’s choice.
“I think there’s a chance,” Kingery said of cutting the run. “That was a thought. On a broken-bat chopper, you’re not getting a double play right there so the main thought in my head was to charge it and go for the out at home.”
Kapler said it would have taken a “heroic effort” by Kingery to make the play.
“I think Kingery is athletic enough to make it,” Kapler said. “I’m not sure he would have been out at the plate. It may have been a situation where he could have recorded an out at first base. But if he does make that play, it’s highlight-reel material. The expected outcome is not a recorded out at the plate in that situation.”
In the end, a tapper to third base was not the reason the Phillies lost. Going 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position and scoring just one run was.
“It’s certainly disappointing for [Nola] to have a start of that caliber and us not be able to support him by putting runs on the board and putting a ‘W’ in his pocket,” Kapler said. “We just have to do better. We have to improve.”
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