Phillies

Phillies suffer another brutal loss in Coors Field house of horrors

Phillies suffer another brutal loss in Coors Field house of horrors

DENVER — Coors Field is turning into a house of horrors for the Phillies. Swept in four games during the final, dark days of the 2018 season and now losses in back-to-back nights in the new season, including one of the most excruciating you’ll see on Friday night.

“Brutal,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Just a brutal loss. No way to sugarcoat it. That was a devastating loss across the board.”

Moments after taking a one-run lead in the top of the 12th inning on two-out hits by Phil Gosselin and Bryce Harper, the Phillies walked off the field with a painful 4-3 loss when Charlie Blackmon lined a two-out, two-run home run over the wall in right-center. The home run came on a 1-2 fastball from Juan Nicasio in his second inning of work (see observations).

In addition to losing the game, the Phillies likely lost recently hot-hitting Scott Kingery to the injured list. He suffered a right hamstring strain in the fourth inning and left the game. Andrew McCutchen also left the game with swelling in his left knee. After the game, he said he’d be ready to go Saturday night.

The Phillies are already thin with Odubel Herrera on the IL with a hamstring injury and reliever David Robertson on the IL with an elbow strain. Shortstop Jean Segura is also sidelined with a hamstring issue, though he’s not on the injured list. The Phils will likely have to add a position player from the minors for Saturday night’s game and Aaron Nola will have to give his team some innings to give the bullpen a rest.

The bullpen was very good before Nicasio walked a batter and allowed Blackmon’s homer in the 12th on Friday night. It delivered 5 1/3 scoreless innings between Vince Velasquez's departure in the sixth and the decisive 12th inning.

Velasquez’s solid start — two runs and eight strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings — and the work of the bullpen gave the Phillies a chance to win on a night when the offense racked up a lot of hits but did very little damage.

The Phils had 17 hits on the night but only three were for extra bases. The Phils were just 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position and they stranded 19 runners.

“Certainly, we have the ability to swing the bats very well with runners in scoring position and we didn't do that tonight,” Kapler said.

“Our bullpen threw the crap out of it,” Harper said. “Any time you can keep a team like that to two runs in Coors Field for that long, that’s doing something.

“We can be better, myself included. We got guys on base. We’ve got to get those guys in. If we could have gotten a couple of those runs across, it might have been a different story.”

As badly as things went for the Phils, with the injuries and the lack of scoring, they were in line to win the game after Gosselin, the West Chester native playing in his first game with the Phils, stroked a two-out single in the top of the 12th and came all the way around to score the go-ahead run on Harper’s fifth hit and second double of the game.

Nicasio issued a one-out walk in the bottom of the 12th then got the second out before Blackmon came up and ended the game. The Phils were one strike from winning. That’s why Nicasio challenged Blackmon with a fastball with the light-hitting Drew Butera on deck.

“You have Blackmon in a hole so you try to put him away,” Kapler said. “And that's what Juan did. We backed off the bunt. We weren't going to guard against the bunt. If [Blackmon] wants to put a bunt down, fine. First and second with Butera coming up — we would have been OK with that. Then, when we got Blackmon in the hole, I think everybody felt like the right play was to really attack him there.”

Blackmon attacked back.

And won.

The Phils are 4-12 against the Rockies since the start of the 2017 season and they have lost six straight in Coors Field with two more to play this weekend.

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Ray of light

The Phillies are again showing interest in Robbie Ray, according to Jon Morosi. We have mentioned Ray frequently here as a Phillies trade target dating back to last summer.

Ray would help any contender. He’s a 27-year-old lefty with an extremely high strikeout rate. He experiences bouts of wildness and does lead the National League with 56 walks, but he has also settled in to a mid-3.00s ERA the last three seasons.

The left-handedness and legit swing-and-miss stuff make Ray the type of pitcher the Phillies do not have.

Ray turns 28 on Oct. 1. Based on his age and remaining contract — 2020 is his final arbitration year before he becomes a free agent — he would be a great fit for the Phillies, even if they do continue to fall out of the playoff race. Ray would help them now and next season and would be a prime extension candidate if he pitches well.

The competition for his services via trade will be intense. The Astros (more on them below) are also in on Ray, and plenty of other clubs have expressed interest in the past. The Phillies would have to trade a player or two they don’t want to trade to acquire him.

Speedsters available

The Royals have made lightning-fast outfielders Billy Hamilton and Terrance Gore available. Neither is much of a fit for the Phillies, who already have Roman Quinn in that role.

Hamilton and Gore could both help a contender in need of a late-inning defensive replacement/pinch-runner. They are both impactful defenders and baserunners who can't hit.

As for Whit Merrifield, it seems unlikely Kansas City would move him despite being 30 games under .500. Merrifield is such a good, multi-dimensional player that the Royals deserve a huge score for him. At 30 years old, he is enjoying by far his best season, hitting .309/.361/.500 with 26 doubles, eight triples, 11 homers, 45 RBI and 14 stolen bases. Merrifield's .861 OPS is 55 points higher than his previous career-high.

Merrifield's dynamic offense and positional versatility make him a fit anywhere. The Cubs would make a ton of sense. 

Astros after a starter?

The Astros have gotten huge production from their top three starters, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley. But the back of the rotation remains a question mark. Collin McHugh is pitching in a mop-up role, Brad Peacock is dealing with a sore shoulder, Framber Valdez has been lit up three starts in a row, and Corbin Martin underwent Tommy John surgery the first week of July.

The Astros are still maybe the deepest team in baseball. Anything less than a World Series win would represent disappointment in 2019. Madison Bumgarner would make a whole lot of sense for Houston, which is still rich in prospects after all of their graduations to the majors.

Trade season begins

A pair of solid but unspectacular starting pitchers were moved this past weekend to kick off trade deadline activity.

Remember, these next two weeks figure to be even more frenzied than usual in July because there is now a hard trade deadline of July 31. No more August trades, except those involving a swap of minor-leaguers.

The Orioles sent Andrew Cashner to the Red Sox for a pair of 17-year-old position player prospects who had been playing for Boston's Dominican Summer League team. 

The soon-to-be 33-year-old Cashner went 9-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 17 starts with the Orioles. Baltimore went 11-6 in his starts and 17-59 in all other games.

The Red Sox needed another starting pitcher with the Nate Eovaldi experiment going sideways. Eovaldi has missed much of the season and will shift to the bullpen upon his return later this month. 

As of Monday afternoon, the Red Sox were 2½ games out of the second AL wild-card spot.

The Royals, meanwhile, traded Homer Bailey to the A's for a fringy Double A infielder. Bailey has been just OK this season, with a 4.80 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. 

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Watch the video above for comments from Phillies decision-makers and players.

Should they buy? Should they sell? These four tough games against the Dodgers could provide some more clarity. Another ugly series loss could be the determining factor.

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