This is not the way the Phillies wanted to open the season, not the way they could afford to open the season.
The Phils lost two of three to the always-problematic Miami Marlins. Sunday's 11-6 loss was particularly galling.
Let us count the ways:
Summer camp star Vince Velasquez was presented with a 4-0 lead in the first inning and promptly coughed it up.
The bullpen, predicted to be the team's biggest weakness, was every bit of that. Cole Irvin, Reggie McClain and Nick Pivetta were tagged for nine hits — including two homers, two triples and a double — and seven runs over 5⅓ innings.
On the surface, the offense was pretty good with 12 hits and six runs, but five of those runs came in the first two innings against a rookie emergency starter and the Phils did nothing after that. In fact, they had the bases loaded twice with one out in the late innings and got nothing to show for it. For the day, they were 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 14 men.
"We left too many guys on base and we let up too many runs," Bryce Harper said. "We have to be better as an offense, a defense, pitching the ball, hitting the ball. We just have to be better."
And they have to be better fast. The New York Yankees, one of baseball's iron teams, come to Philadelphia Monday night to start a four-game, home-and-home series.
The Phillies' loss was particularly galling because the Marlins actually talked among themselves about not playing the game.
Three Marlins players, including two who had played earlier in the series, were suddenly sidelined before the game. One of the players was scheduled starting pitcher Jose Ureña. The Marlins were also without regular catcher Jorge Alfaro, who went on the injured list for an unspecified reason before the series opener Friday.
Marlins players met before the game to discuss health and safety. They decided to play. They then went out and stroked seven extra-base hits, including four homers, and took it to the Phils.
Phillies manager Joe Girardi learned that Ureña had been scratched and replaced by rookie Robert Dugger about 90 minutes before first pitch.
Aside from having to review a new scouting report, the Phils had to come to grips with the fact they were about to take the field against a team that had health and safety concerns. Phillies players received alert texts about the situation on their way to the ballpark. Harper was concerned enough about the situation that he wore a mask while running the bases.
Nonetheless, "I thought we were all ready to go, ready to play," Harper said. "We weren't really too worried about it. We do a great job as an organization really following protocols and doing things the right way."
Harper smacked a three-run homer in the first inning to help Velasquez build a 4-0 lead.
On the final day of a series, against a shorthanded team, the starting pitcher has to put that baby away and keep the ball out of the hands of a shaky bullpen. Velasquez failed to do that. His fastball lacked zip. He gave up two homers and four runs in the top of the second and cries for Spencer Howard could be heard in living rooms all over the Delaware Valley.
Howard, the Phillies' top pitching prospect, actually pitched at the Phillies' satellite training site in Lehigh Valley on Sunday. He could be a plug and play Friday night against Toronto (that game will be in Philly), but Girardi said Velasquez would get another start.
"My plan is for Vince to make his next start and we'll go from there," Girardi said. "It's really important that he bounces back, gets his stuff right and has a good outing his next start."
Girardi said he was aware of no plans to call up Howard this week, but he did say he would have discussions with the staff about the bullpen. It's not out of the question that Howard could come this week as a reliever, especially after seeing Velasquez last just three innings Sunday.
The Phillies are not in a good place with the Yankees looming the next four nights. J.A. Happ will pitch against Jake Arrieta on Monday night. Gerrit Cole will face Zach Eflin on Tuesday.
The Yanks will not be an easy team for the Phillies to get right against.
But they need to.
"The one thing is you have to win series," Girardi said. "For us, we have to bounce back tomorrow. Today is a frustrating loss for us because we had a lead, 4-0, pretty quickly and we weren't able to hold it. So we have our work cut out for us the next four days. We understand that. We have to be at our best."