Gabe Kapler made his way into the clubhouse and went right to Jose Alvarez.
The Phillies' manager patted the reliever on the back and sort of shrugged his shoulders as Alvarez turned in his chair, nodded his head and smiled.
It's as if the two mutually understood: Hey, that's baseball.
Kapler liked how the Phillies handled a seventh inning that ended up going awry Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Holding a 3-1 lead, the Phillies allowed three two-out runs in the frame and lost to the Reds, 4-3, preventing them from sweeping Cincinnati (see observations).
In control for most of the day, Aaron Nola was pulled during the seventh inning with two runners aboard and two outs. He had just walked pinch-hitter Josh VanMeter on four consecutive balls and his pitch count had climbed to 104.
"I thought he looked really good for most of the game. Even in that inning, I thought he looked really good," Kapler said. "It was nearing the end of our comfort level of how it relates to how deep he can go with his pitches. He was sitting in the 100s with some outs that we needed to get. I think that's the first thing that went into it. A little uncharacteristic on the base on balls and it was the right spot in the lineup for Alvarez at that point."
In came the left-hander, who induced a soft grounder off the bat of righty-swinging pinch-hitter Nick Senzel. The high chopper fell perfectly between Maikel Franco and Jean Segura for an infield single. More often than not, the Phillies will take that type of contact. Anybody would. On the very next pitch, Joey Votto served a two-run single to center field. Just like that, the lead was gone and so were Nola's chances at winning.
Alvarez, who threw only four pitches, suffered the loss when Vince Velasquez entered and allowed an inherited runner to score.
"We understood the possibility that they might pop Senzel there, which they did," Kapler said, breaking down the inning. "Alvarez was able to execute his pitch and get a weak ground ball and, to Votto, also some weak contact to the middle of the field. I think that whole sequence was fairly well executed.
"From the way baseball works, sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way. That's how I think about that inning."
It's easy to judge the situation by the results. The Phillies lost and the box score says it was because of a three-run seventh inning for the Reds. But Kapler and the Phillies won't analyze the situation as some sort of massive meltdown because, in reality, it wasn't.
"I should have finished the seventh inning," Nola said. "I shouldn't have walked that guy. That can't happen right there. I've got two outs. I mean, walking the pinch-hitter on four pitches — that's tough."
However, there's no denying the Phillies could have done more and should have won the game, which would have given them a season-best five-game winning streak. The Phillies reached base just once against Reds relief pitching, which spun together 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball. Bryce Harper unsuccessfully tried to steal home in the fifth inning with Rhys Hoskins at the plate looking to cushion the 3-1 lead (see story).
The overlying theme of Sunday, though, was the Phillies had a difficult seventh inning and are severely limited in the bullpen. There was no Adam Morgan for the lefties. There was no Pat Neshek, Seranthony Dominguez or David Robertson to follow. Seven relievers are currently on the injured list.
The Phillies have to make due for now and failed to do so in one game Sunday. Over 162 games, that will happen sometimes.
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