Joe Girardi's faith in Hector Neris might have finally run out.
Neris blew another save — his third in his last five appearances — in the Phillies' demoralizing 13-12 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday afternoon.
After the nightmarish defeat, Girardi, for the first time this season, indicated that he might make a change at closer.
"I'll take an off day and think about it," the manager said. "I think that's what you do. You're always re-evaluating. You take an off day and look at it."
Girardi had previously been steadfast in his support of Neris as closer.
Neris was hardly the only Phillies pitcher, and that includes starter Vince Velasquez, not to get the job done on Wednesday. Phillies pitchers walked eight and six of them turned into runs. The Phils blew leads of 5-0 and 9-5 in the middle innings. The bullpen, in particular, gave up nine runs and six walks in 4⅔ innings. Archie Bradley served up a three-run homer and David Hale a grand slam.
The offense (15 hits, three homers) rallied for a run in the seventh and two in the bottom of the eighth (on hits by Alec Bohm and Ronald Torreyes) to take a one-run lead, but Neris allowed three hits and two runs in the ninth to lose it.
"Super frustrating," Bryce Harper said. "You score that many runs, go back and forth with a team like that, get a big pinch-hit homer by (Andrew McCutchen), you think you're going to win the game, of course.
"As a team, I think when our bullpen goes out there and tries to compete every single day, we have respect for them. Hec is hard on himself. Hec's not trying to go out there and blow games, he's not trying to go out there and not throw strikes, so anybody who comes out of the bullpen, we have faith in them. That's how we feel as of right now."
Neris acknowledged that he might not be long for the closer's role.
"I know I have a responsibility to the team, especially in the inning I'm pitching in," he said. "I just have to stay focused.
"I'm behind the manager. If he thinks he has to move me right now, I just want to help the team. It doesn't matter what inning I pitch in."
Lefty Jose Alvarado would seem to be a candidate to get a look at closer, perhaps as early as Friday afternoon when the Phillies open a four-game series against the Mets with a doubleheader in New York. The Phillies used six pitchers Wednesday; Alvarado was the only one not to give up a run.
The Phillies have lost six of their last eight to drop three games under .500 and out of second place in the NL East. They could be as many as five games behind the first-place Mets when they go to New York. Management is watching the series closely as it plots strategy leading up to the July trading season.
"We have to be able to go in there and win the games that we need to," said Harper, who has homered in two straight games. "We're kind of depleted in the minor leagues and can't really trade anybody, and we don't really have anybody to trade down there to get guys who are really, really good. Dave Dombrowski needs to have faith in his team that we can go out there and win games if he goes out and adds somebody and if it's worth it when that time comes."
Phillies starting pitching has been poor the last time through the rotation and it was shaky again in Wednesday's crisp 4-hour, 19-minute affair.
Velasquez carried a 5-0 lead into the fifth inning, but it slowly unraveled under the weight of two no-out walks, an RBI double by Starlin Castro and an RBI single by Victor Robles that actually could have been scored an error on second baseman Brad Miller.
With his team ahead, 5-2, and two men on base, Girardi lifted the fading Velasquez and went to the right-hander Bradley with dangerous Kyle Schwarber due up. It was a curious decision considering Schwarber hits left-handed. After the game, Girardi said four relievers in his 10-man bullpen were unavailable, including lefty Ranger Suarez, who had thrown 17 pitches on Tuesday and would have made a lot of sense matched up against Schwarber.
All in all, it was just another one of those Phillies games that left you doubting that this team has any kind of staying power in the NL East, regardless of how mediocre it is.
Another division matchup awaits Friday. And maybe a new closer. If the Phillies are fortunate enough to even need one.