There was an interesting intersection of recent transactions Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park, where the Phillies played to a very unfulfilling split in a doubleheader against the lowly Boston Red Sox.
The Phils won the first game, 6-5, on a walk-off, two-run single by rookie Alec Bohm.
They lost the nightcap, 5-2, amidst sloppy defense, sloppy baserunning and poor relief pitching by trade deadline pickup David Phelps.
"It's hard to win doubleheaders," manager Joe Girardi said. "But we had a chance to today after a really emotional win in the first game. We got a quick lead (in Game 2) and looked like we were going to add on a few times but weren't able to that. So it's a little frustrating."
Appearing in his fourth game since arriving from Milwaukee, where he was having a brilliant season, Phelps served up his third home run since joining the Phillies, and second in as many days.
He gave up a lead when he was tagged for a three-run homer by Jeff McNeil of the Mets in the seventh inning on Monday. The Phils fought back and won that game in 10 innings.
They had no late-inning magic in Tuesday's nightcap.
Phelps entered in the top of the sixth inning with the score knotted, 2-2. He walked the first batter he faced, Jackie Bradley Jr., before Bobby Dalbec hit an 0-1 curveball deep into the seats in right-center to give the Red Sox a 4-2 lead that they never relinquished.
Phelps has given up five runs in four games with the Phils, as many as he gave up in 12 this season with Milwaukee.
"He's throwing some flat breaking balls up in the zone, I think is what we're seeing," Girardi said. "We've got to get him back on track. We've got to get (Heath) Hembree back on track. We need all the guys in our 'pen. They've had some struggles lately but they're capable of turning it around. Very capable."
The split left the Phillies with a 21-18 record in the National League East. They picked up a half-game on first-place Atlanta, which lost to Miami. The Marlins are a game over .500 and nipping at the Phillies' heels. That seven-game series between the teams that begins Thursday in Miami looms large for both teams.
Phelps faced three batters in the sixth inning of Game 2 and retired none of them. The third batter was Boston catcher Deivy Grullon and, of course, you know the name. He is a former Phillies prospect who was designated for assignment by the club last week and claimed on waivers by Boston.
Grullon was one of two players DFA'd by the Phillies after last week's trade deadline. The other was pitcher Reggie McClain. The Phillies needed the roster spots to add two relievers, Ranger Suarez and the aforementioned Phelps.
Grullon, 24, had 42 homers and 136 RBIs over the last two seasons at Double A and Triple A and played in four games with the big club last season. But Grullon could not convince the Phillies front office that he was a legitimate prospect. There were concerns about his bulky frame and his receiving ability. He had been passed on the organizational depth chart by 21-year-old Rafael Marchan. With a tight 40-man roster about to get even tighter with the need to add several young prospects this winter, Grullon was removed from the roster and exposed to waivers even though he had minor-league options remaining. The Red Sox got him for just the $50,000 waiver fee.
The Red Sox added Grullon as their 29th man for the doubleheader and he started the second game behind the plate and figured prominently in it. He tied the game at 2-2 with a broken-bat single against Vince Velasquez in the fourth inning. The hit, which came with two outs, scored Bradley from second base. Bradley had singled with one out and moved into scoring position on a passed ball charged to Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto. It was the latest in a series of sloppy defensive plays that have cost the Phillies runs in recent days.
Grullon and Realmuto weren't done interacting after that. In the bottom of the fourth inning, with one out, Realmuto moved from first to second on a wild pitch charged to Boston pitcher Chris Mazza. The ball caromed off the backstop and rolled toward the Phillies' dugout on the first base side of the field. Realmuto daringly kept on going after reaching second base. He was a dead duck at third as Grullon fired a strike to Rafael Devers.
"It's tough to throw to a moving target," Girardi said, referring to Devers, who had been in a shift.
"You've got to be safe there. J.T. just thought he'd be in there, but it didn't work."
One game does not make Grullon a star. Heck, it doesn't even mean he'll be an impact player in the majors, or spend significant time in the majors. But his contributions to the Red Sox' win in Game 2 certainly had to feel good.
As for the Phillies, the split wasn't the worst thing in the world, but it certainly felt like a letdown, especially after Bohm's heroics in Game 1. Girardi admitted as much.
With this doubleheader out of the way, the Phillies have four more coming in the next two weeks. They got a solid effort from Vince Velasquez (five innings, two runs, 0 walks, 9 strikeouts) in his first start since August 20 and will need more in doubleheaders to come.
The bullpen, however, has become a front-burner concern again. The offense played over the bullpen's warts Monday in New York and again in Game 1 of Tuesday's doubleheader, but there was no recovering from the two-run homer Phelps served up in Game 2. As the ball landed in the seats in right-center, Phelps shouted a loud, unprintable word. It was heard all over the ballpark and it summed up a lot of feelings on the Phillies' side.