The Phillies’ rash of blown saves refuses to go away. Nothing can stop it. Not even new blood.
Neftali Feliz became the latest provider of misery when he failed to protect a two-run lead in the bottom seventh inning Monday night. The right-hander, pitching in his first big-league game since August 13, 2017, served up a grand slam to Nick Castellanos with two outs in the inning as the Cincinnati Reds scored 10 unanswered runs over two innings to roll past the hapless Phillies, 12-4, at Great American Ballpark.
Feliz hurt himself in the inning by hitting Jesse Winker to load the bases with two outs, bringing Castellanos to the plate.
Castellanos had three hits and seven RBIs on the night.
Feliz, 33, was the American League Rookie of the Year and an All-Star when he saved 40 games for Texas in 2010. He saved 32 games in 2011 then battled years of arm problems while bouncing through several different organizations. He had pitched well for the Phillies’ Triple A team before being called up on Friday.
Now, he has experienced the quintessential Phillies bullpen moment.
He has blown a save.
If you’re keeping track of the carnage at home, the Phillies have now blown seven saves in their last six games and lead the majors with 21.
In just 76 games.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” said manager Joe Girardi, whose team has lost nine of its last 13. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s really frustrating.”
The Phillies’ record for blown saves in a season is 25 by the 2004 club.
This team will break that record at some point. Maybe even by the mathematical halfway point of the season, which arrives Saturday.
After Feliz’ implosion in the seventh, Enyel De Los Santos committed an error and gave up six more runs in the eighth.
Finally, Girardi waved the white flag and infielder Nick Maton was called on to get the final out in the eighth.
And to think, the night, with the exception of some boneheaded baserunning by Odubel Herrera in the first inning, started off well with Alec Bohm knocking in a couple of runs, Ronald Torreyes knocking in one, Luke Williams making a nice baserunning play and the Phillies building a 4-2 lead in the middle innings.
Rookie lefty Bailey Falter was a standout. He came in after Spencer Howard’s 2 1/3 inning cameo (four hits, a walk, two runs) and delivered four innings of one-run ball before handing a two-run lead to Feliz with a runner on base and one out in the seventh.
Feliz, who hit 98 mph on the gun, walked the first batter he faced on four pitches, struck out the second then hit Winker to set the table for Castellanos’ heroics.
Girardi’s bullpen moves have come under fire for most of the season, especially lately with the team turning blown leads into an art form.
Why debut Feliz in such a high-leverage situation?
“Obviously, I could have went to Hector (Neris),” Girardi said. “I wasn’t using Archie (Bradley) tonight. He needed a day. I could have went to (Connor) Brogdon. We liked Neftali against that group of guys. It just didn’t work out. A walk, a hit batter and it led to the big inning.”
Falter gave up a one-out hit in the seventh and was lifted at 66 pitches with right-handed pinch-hitter Aristides Aquino coming up.
Could Falter have stayed on?
“We thought he was physically done,” Girardi said. “I guess I could have but I would have had to let him face a couple more and I wasn’t comfortable doing that.”
This latest ugly loss dropped the Phillies to 36-40 and 15-26 on the road. They are still five games behind the first-place Mets, but are fourth in the standings. They return home to Citizens Bank Park, where they are 21-14, on Tuesday night to begin a three-game series against the Miami Marlins.
It’s no secret that the Marlins give the Phillies fits. They were a big reason the Phillies missed the playoffs for a ninth-straight season last year and they have won four of seven meetings between the two clubs this year. Two of those Marlins wins against the Phillies this season have come with Trevor Rogers on the mound. The lefty has allowed just two earned runs in 12 2/3 innings in those starts and faces Vince Velasquez and the Phillies Tuesday.
Like the Phils, the Marlins have lost nine of their last 13 games.