Phillies

Rookie relievers Seranthony Dominguez, Austin Davis burned in Phillies' 14-inning loss

Rookie relievers Seranthony Dominguez, Austin Davis burned in Phillies' 14-inning loss

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PHOENIX — The Phillies have lost just two games in the last eight days and, frankly, they should not have lost either of them.

Jake Arrieta pitched eight shutout innings against a rugged Arizona Diamondbacks team on Monday night and the Phillies were looking at a victory to kick off a six-game road trip when everything fell apart in the bottom of the ninth inning. Seranthony Dominguez blew a two-run lead and the Phillies went on to lose, 3-2, in 14 innings (see first take).

David Peralta, who began the onslaught against Dominguez with a one-out homer in the ninth, homered again with one out in the 14th to give Arizona the win. Peralta’s game-winner came against lefty Austin Davis.

Both Dominguez and Davis are rookies, getting baptized by fire in their first pennant race. They felt the uncomfortable burn in this one.

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Phillies and it stung simply because a team looking to snap a six-year playoff drought can’t waste pitching efforts like the one Arrieta turned in.

Eight days earlier, in Boston, the Phils squandered an eight-inning gem by Aaron Nola in suffering a 2-1 loss to the Red Sox in 13 innings. That was a game the Phillies absolutely should have won. Centerfielder Odubel Herrera misplayed a ball that cost Nola the only run he allowed. Herrera also made a base-running gaffe in that game and did not play the next day.

Manager Gabe Kapler called that loss in Boston “a punch in the face.” He wasn’t as colorful in describing the latest loss, but it was clear that it was painful.

“Jake pitched tremendously well,” Kapler said. “He was very poised throughout the game. He had all of his pitches working and had a ton of confidence. He pitched great and we definitely strive to win baseball games like that for a starting pitcher that performs like Jake did.”

Arrieta has pitched 15 innings in his last two starts and allowed just one run.

“Losing a game just stinks, really,” Arrieta said. “But two first-place teams going at it and it’s no easy task to score a couple of runs off Seranthony and the guys that came in behind him, so credit them for sticking with it.

“Really nice job by both bullpens to get it to the 14th and we know at some point someone is going to score and they just happened to do it before we did.”

Dominguez began his big-league career with an incredible streak. He did not give up a run in 14 2/3 innings over his first 12 games. Since then, he has given up 11 earned runs in 25 2/3 innings over 24 games — an ERA of 3.86.

The 23-year-old power arm is still a huge weapon for the Phillies. But he is human. He allowed a home run and blew a save against Miami on Sunday. The Phillies came back to win that one. They could not win this one, though they are still 14 games over .500 and a game up on Atlanta in the NL East.

Kapler acknowledged that Dominguez was not at his best Monday night, “But we are not wavering in our confidence in him whatsoever. We cannot wait to get him back out on the mound because we understand how good he is and the talent will prevail.”

As for Dominguez’s confidence …

“I think naturally it’s going to be slightly shaken, but he’s a pretty resilient kid,” Kapler said. “He’s pretty strong mentally. He’s pretty tough across the board and I don’t expect this to keep him down.”

Dominguez hung an 0-1 slider to Peralta in the ninth. That homer made it a one-run game and raised the pressure in the inning. Dominguez then gave up a double and a game-tying base hit.

“The only thing that I can think of that went wrong is that I hung a slider,” Dominguez said. “It should have been lower. It should have been on the plate. But it stayed up. That could have been huge.

“I feel bad for Jake. He pitched a great game. What I really wanted the most was to get him that win and to help the team win.”

Dominguez might have to wait a day to get back on the mound. He has pitched two days in a row, so it’s likely that Kapler will try to stay away from him Tuesday night when the two teams go again. Nick Pivetta will pitch against Zack Greinke. Lost in the disappointment of Monday night's defeat was the Phillies' scoring just two runs. Getting hot against Greinke is never easy and that's another reason this loss was so painful for the Phils. 

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Playing the Red Sox tough is nice, but some wins would be nicer for struggling Phillies

Playing the Red Sox tough is nice, but some wins would be nicer for struggling Phillies

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Coming out of spring training, the consensus opinion on the Phillies was that they’d pick up on the improvement they showed in the second half of last year’s 66-96 season and maybe push .500.

The thinking was that would be a nice step in the right direction for a team that had pushed its rebuild into field-goal range.

Then the season got going and the Phillies started winning, and contending, and by the first week of July they were in first place in the NL East.

They entered August in first place and that was meaningful because, in a sport where the long haul matters, four months is a significant chunk of time.

Becoming a contender a year before most envisioned changed the way these Phillies are viewed. Had they been plugging along hoping to finish the season at .500 and fuel a little optimism for the future, then Tuesday night’s loss to the Boston Red Sox might have been seen as a good thing, an oh-look-at-how-we-hung-with-the-big-boys moral victory (see first take).

But as a contender and a team with legitimate postseason hopes, the 2-1 loss stung and it stung even worse when the out-of-town scoreboard flashed the final score from Atlanta, where the Braves beat the Marlins, 10-6.

In two days, the Phillies have lost two games in the standings to the Braves and now trail them by two games in the NL East.

The Phillies are 2-5 in their last seven games and they have scored just 16 runs over that span. They have another one on tap against Boston on Wednesday night.

The Red Sox are the majors’ best team, on pace to win 115 games, and the Phillies have played them tough in three games over the last two weeks. Boston has won a pair of 2-1 games and the Phils have won a 3-1 contest. But the Phils are past the point where playing a good team tough makes them feel good. 

They need some hits.

They need some wins.

“We know that we can go toe to toe with this team,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We showed that we could at Fenway Park. We did it tonight. We came out on the losing end because they played a better baseball game. But we're very confident that tomorrow we're going to be playing the better baseball game. We're looking forward to that.”

The Phillies’ offense ranks second to last in the majors with a .234 batting average and below average in many other important offensive categories. It ran into a good pitcher on top of his game Tuesday night and the results were not good. Boston’s Rick Porcello, a Cy Young winner in 2016, dazzled with seven innings of one-run ball. He walked none and had six 1-2-3 innings. Porcello gave up just two hits – that’s all the Phillies had – and struck out 10. The Phils struck out 13 times as a team – they’ve reached double digits in Ks 60 times this season – and walked just once.

That’ll lose you some ballgames.

“Porcello deserves a lot of credit,” Kapler said. “He was really awesome. Great job by him.”

The Phillies got a strong game from their starter, as well. Nick Pivetta delivered six innings of one-run ball, walked one and struck out six. He exited early for a pinch-hitter as Kapler tried to nudge the offense only to see Roman Quinn go down on a first-pitch fly ball in the bottom of the sixth.

All the scoring came via the long ball. Sandy Leon took Pivetta deep in the third and Rhys Hoskins got Porcello leading off the fifth. Hoskins, who was dropped from second to cleanup, was 1 for 28 before hitting his 23rd homer. The Phillies need his bat to come alive.

With no margin for error, the Phillies’ bullpen – neither bullpen, for that matter – could afford a mistake. Tommy Hunter made one with one out in the eighth and pinch-hitter Brock Holt clubbed it off the facing of the upper deck in right to break a 1-1 tie and propel the Sox to their 86th win.

Holt ambushed the first pitch.

“Yeah, it was a cutter,” Hunter said. “He got it. He hit it. I'll probably throw 16 of them again tomorrow. He got it. Tip your cap.”

The cutter is Hunter’s best pitch and Holt was looking for it.

“Yeah, coming off the bench, he's going to swing at the first pitch,” Hunter said. “I left it a little too far on the plate. I probably should have buried it in off the plate.”

The atmosphere in all three of the Phillies-Red Sox games over the last two weeks has been intense, almost playoff-like.

“It’s two pretty good teams going toe to toe,” Hunter said. “That’s the way you like it though. Throw blows and see who comes out on top.”

Vince Velasquez will try to help the Phillies come out on top Wednesday night.

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Late homer spoils Nick Pivetta's strong outing against MLB-best Red Sox

Late homer spoils Nick Pivetta's strong outing against MLB-best Red Sox

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The Phillies continue to play the Boston Red Sox tough. But that didn’t produce a win Tuesday night.

The Red Sox, who have the majors’ best record at 86-35, beat the Phillies, 2-1, at Citizens Bank Park. The Sox have beaten the Phillies two out of three games the last two weeks.

Boston’s wins have both been by scores of 2-1.

The Phils won one of the games by a 3-1 score.

The Phillies entered the game in second place in the NL East, a game behind Atlanta. It was the first time since July 4 that the Phils did not enter a game in first place.

The Phillies had just two hits in the game and they struck out 13 times. They have scored just 16 runs in the last seven games. They are 2-5 over that span.

It was a 1-1 game until pinch-hitter Brock Holt came off the bench and launched a first-pitch homer against Tommy Hunter with one out in the top of the eighth inning.

Boston starter Rick Porcello pitched brilliantly with seven innings of one-run ball, no walks and 10 strikeouts.

Porcello was staked to a 1-0 lead on a home run by Sandy Leon in the top of the third inning. Porcello did not allow a hit through the first four innings. Rhys Hoskins broke through with the Phillies’ first hit when he launched his 23rd homer to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning. The blast tied the game at 1-1.

After batting second most of the season, Hoskins hit cleanup as manager Gabe Kapler shuffled his lineup in the wake of the Phillies scoring just 15 runs while going 2-4 on their recent trip to Arizona and San Diego. Kapler dropped Carlos Santana from fourth to fifth and used Nick Williams in the No. 2 hole.

Hoskins struggled mightily on the trip with just one hit in 21 at-bats. That was part of a bigger 1-for-27 funk.

Phillies starter Nick Pivetta scattered three hits and a walk over six innings of one-run ball. He struck out six. The only run he allowed came on Leon’s solo home run in the third. The Red Sox continued to threaten in that inning as Porcello doubled with one out and Mookie Betts walked. Pivetta then battled Andrew Benintendi to a full-count showdown and got an important double play on a breaking ball. The double play was one of two the Phils turned behind Pivetta.

Pivetta threw just 84 pitches and was in control. However, he was lifted for pinch-hitter Roman Quinn to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning. Before the game, Kapler indicated that he would be aggressive with his bench and bullpen in pivotal situations in the game. That’s why the Phils added a ninth reliever before the game (see story).

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