Tuesday night collapse leaves Phillies fans asking the same question they asked all offseason

Tuesday night collapse leaves Phillies fans asking the same question they asked all offseason

What started out as another promising night at the yard for the Phillies eventually morphed into a game that left many wondering, again, if they have enough pitching.

Aaron Nola took a four-run lead into the seventh inning against the Nationals and had pitched well, allowing lone runs in the first and sixth, when Washington began to claw its way back. 

The Phillies' infield defense had been especially impressive early, with Rhys Hoskins and Maikel Franco making diving plays and Jean Segura standing out twice on a bare-hand of a slow dribbler and a ball he ranged for up the middle to retire speedster Adam Eaton. But to start the seventh, Franco threw a ball into the dirt that Hoskins was unable to scoop, Yan Gomes followed with a homer, Howie Kendrick homered two batters later and Nola was pulled.

The error was costly, but it's still strange to see what's going on with Nola. Through three starts, he has a 6.46 ERA, has allowed five home runs and issued eight walks in 15⅓ innings. He has given up six and five runs in his last two starts after going 38 straight games surrendering four runs or fewer.

"I classify it as uncharacteristic and think we'll lean on two years of history that suggests this is probably not Nola," manager Gabe Kapler said after the 10-6 loss (see observations). "Certainly have to dig into why the balls are flying out of the ballpark, that's an important part of our process and we'll do that.

"(Entering the seventh) he was working a low pitch count, he was working efficiently, he was looking like Aaron Nola. He's earned a tremendous amount of my trust over the last calendar year. He earned the right to go out and continue to pitch well in that game. The error cost us, certainly."

The Phillies' bullpen, when everyone is available, can be pretty good. But Tuesday night, they didn't have everyone available. The Phillies wanted to stay away from Pat Neshek and David Robertson after using them both three times in the last four days. Both had appeared six times in the Phillies' first nine games. It is a long season and no team with postseason aspirations should burn out its top relievers this early. Kapler is far from the only manager who would exercise caution and try to get through a game with his other six relievers.

He turned to Seranthony Dominguez to finish the seventh after Nola gave up the second home run. Dominguez, for the second straight night, looked good, getting two outs on four pitches.

Kapler considered bringing Dominguez back out for the eighth inning but went with Hector Neris instead because the Phillies preferred Neris' splitter against the heart of the Nats' order. It took Neris 30 pitches, 26 of which were splitters, but he did get through that eighth inning unscathed.

The other issue with bringing Dominguez out for a second inning was his ineffectiveness in those situations last season. When the Phillies trotted Dominguez out for a second inning last year, he often was not the same pitcher he was an inning prior.

The Phillies' plan was to try to use Neris for more than one inning but that obviously changed when he needed 30 pitches to complete the eighth. That left Kapler to choose between Edubray Ramos, Juan Nicasio and situational lefty Jose Alvarez to face the bottom of the Nats' order in the ninth. He went with Ramos, who came within one strike of saving the game and sending the fans home happy. If Ramos executes one more pitch to Victor Robles, none of these questions surface, at least not as loudly as they did Tuesday night when Phillies fans at the park and on the internet made pleas again for the team to sign Craig Kimbrel.

"Would we have liked to have a full bullpen? Absolutely," Kapler said.

"It was a grind to get through, just like it's a grind for them to get through our lineup."

That was the aspect of Tuesday's game that may go overlooked. The Phillies, once again, chased a very good pitcher early. Stephen Strasburg lasted all of four innings, needing 63 pitches to get through the third and fourth. He was taken deep by Bryce Harper and Maikel Franco and allowed a two-run triple to Jean Segura.

The Phillies couldn't hang on, so the story wasn't the offense but the pitching. Can Nola revert to ace form? Do the Phillies have enough relief pitching? Have they fortified their roster enough to protect the leads the offense provides?

These are questions that can't be answered on April 10 but will be answered as the grind of a 162-game season wears on. Good teams blow leads. Great teams hang on to them with a bit more frequency. The Phillies protected one-run leads on Sunday and Monday. Tuesday night, they fell one pitch short.

They can still earn a series win over the Nationals Wednesday night when Nick Pivetta opposes Jeremy Hellickson.

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Dodgers 7, Phillies 2: Phillies wait out 3 hours of rain only to finish with 2 hits in lifeless loss to Dodgers

Dodgers 7, Phillies 2: Phillies wait out 3 hours of rain only to finish with 2 hits in lifeless loss to Dodgers


The Phillies and Dodgers waited out a rain delay of 2 hours and 37 minutes before finally resuming the top of the third inning Wednesday night.

And after the long, long, long wait ... the Phillies lost 7-2.

There wasn't much Phillies offense to speak of. They had two hits, one in the ninth inning. It probably should not have been a surprise that they couldn't muster more offense given their lineup. It was their least impressive batting order of the season, with Brad Miller, Adam Haseley, Nick Williams and Andrew Knapp occupying spots 5 through 8. Still ... two hits.

"Rain delays are always tough," said Scott Kingery, who had the Phillies' lone hit until the ninth. "Once you start the game, adrenaline's going and then you come back in here and sit around for a few hours. You've got to do the best you can to get it going again, get your body moving. ... Just a tough night."

David Freese had the key blow for the Dodgers, a two-run, opposite-field homer off Juan Nicasio in the seventh. It came two innings after a fan yelled "Freese, you look like my Uber driver," which was kind of funny. 

The Phillies had just tied the game the previous half-inning on a bases-loaded walk by Miller and an RBI groundout from Haseley. Both runs were unearned as the Phillies benefitted from Max Muncy's shaky defense at third base.

Justin Turner doubled the Dodgers' lead with a pinch-hit two-run home run off Austin Davis in the eighth.

Nick Pivetta started the game and allowed a first-inning run after walking the bases loaded. Control issues for Phillies pitchers didn't end there — they walked 10 Dodgers and hit two more on the night.

The Phillies (49-47) don't have much time to rest. Thursday's series finale — on YouTube only — begins at 12:35 p.m.

"I don't even think we have time to be disappointed," manager Gabe Kapler said. "We have to be back here pretty early in the morning with (Aaron) Nola on the mound and a rested bullpen in terms of our guys that we're leaning on in leverage innings.

"We feel good about tomorrow. Anxious to get back to the ballpark and wipe off tonight."

Can't find the zone

Reliever Edgar Garcia, who continues to struggle, has thrown a frustratingly low number of strikes lately. On Monday, he entered the game with the Phillies down by 11 runs and walked three batters. If ever there is a time to go right at hitters, it is then. 

On Wednesday, 15 of his 29 pitches were balls and he fell behind reliever Julio Urias before allowing an RBI single up the middle to him in the sixth inning.

Garcia is one of three Phillies relievers who probably shouldn't be in the major leagues right now but is here out of necessity. Outings like this do not inspire confidence. It wouldn't be surprising if the Phillies sent him down Thursday or Friday to bring up a fresh arm.

Garcia has a 6.15 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 27 appearances.

Segura returns

Jean Segura popped out as a pinch-hitter Wednesday night. He will be in Thursday's lineup after missing much of the last two games with a bruised heel.

Not a strong showing from Williams

In his first game back with the Phillies, Williams looked out of sorts at the plate, grounding out softly twice and expanding the zone multiple times in a strikeout against right-handed reliever Pedro Baez.

Williams had hit .345 at Triple A but just has not gotten going at the big-league level this season. He'll have an opportunity to play over the next few weeks with Jay Bruce on the injured list with a strained oblique.

Williams is behind Haseley on the outfield depth chart, though.

Up next

The four-game series concludes Thursday afternoon at 12:35, and then the Phillies hit the road for three games this weekend in Pittsburgh. They're off Monday, then play in two in Detroit before coming back to Philly for an eight-game homestand against the Braves, Giants and White Sox. 

Aaron Nola (8-2, 3.63) opposes Ross Stripling (4-3, 3.65) on Thursday.

Two young Phillies fans show their brotherly love at Citizens Bank Park

Two young Phillies fans show their brotherly love at Citizens Bank Park

A surprisingly large number of Phillies fans stuck around Wednesday night after a rain delay of 2 hours, 37 minutes.

The top of the fifth provided a nice moment in the stands, as one fan gave a foul ball to another and they hugged.

Chivalry isn't dead, even after a few frustrating nights against the Dodgers, oppressively hot conditions and hours of waiting around for the game to resume.

Be sure to watch the video above for a heartwarming moment.

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