The Phillies wasted a brilliant starting pitching performance from Aaron Nola in a 1-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday night.
Nola and Eric Lauer hooked up in a tight pitchers’ duel and the game was scoreless entering the ninth inning. The Brewers, in fact, had just one hit entering the ninth.
Phillies manager Joe Girardi went to his closer, Corey Knebel, with the game tied in the top of the ninth. Knebel, who had given up just two hits in six innings this season, allowed a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly as the Brewers rallied for the game’s only run and a series win.
Knebel allowed a leadoff bloop single to Jace Peterson to open the ninth. The ball fell in between charging center fielder Odubel Herrera and shortstop Johan Camargo. Herrera appeared to pull back at the last second as Camargo approached him.
The Phillies are 6-10. They have lost four straight series since opening the season with a series win over Oakland.
If being shut out twice in 16 games and being held to one run three times wasn't enough to frustrate the Phils, there was home plate umpire Angel Hernandez on Sunday night.
His strike zone was erratic to say the least. In the ninth inning, he called Kyle Schwaber out on strikes for the second time in the game on a pitch that appeared to be off the plate. Schwarber spiked his bat and helmet and raged at Hernandez before being ejected.
Twenty-six of the game's 54 outs were strikeouts.
Nola was sharp in his fourth start of the season. He allowed just one hit and one walk over seven shutout innings. The only hit he gave up was a two-out double to Tyrone Taylor in the third. He followed that with a quick strikeout of leadoff man Andrew McCutchen to end the frame. Nola retired the final 13 batters he faced in order -- he got a nice defensive assist from Jean Segura in the seventh -- and finished with nine strikeouts.
Lauer, the Milwaukee lefty, was equally impressive. The Phillies entered the game leading the majors in batting average (.305) and OPS (.921) against left-handed pitching. Lauer did not allow a run over six innings and he struck out a career-high 13.
Lauer did his best work in the fifth after Schwarber led off with a double and Alec Bohm walked. Lauer struck out Camargo for the first out then gave up a single to center to Matt Vierling. Third base coach Dusty Wathan held Schwarber at third but the Phils failed on two chances to get the run home as Segura popped out and Rhys Hoskins struck out. Segura and Hoskins were both unhappy with the work of Hernandez during their at-bats.
For his career, Lauer has allowed just three earned runs against the Phillies in 25 innings over four starts.
The Phils open a four-game series with the Colorado Rockies on Monday night. Kyle Gibson (1-1, 3.57) faces Colorado lefty Kyle Freeland (0-2, 7.71) in the opener.