Chicago White Sox

Phillies waste big opportunity and if it continues they'll be looking up at the Mets

Phillies waste big opportunity and if it continues they'll be looking up at the Mets

The ol’ schedule maker threw a nice layup in the Phillies’ direction this weekend.

Or so it seemed.

Three games against a lowly Chicago White Sox club that entered the series with just four wins in 20 games since the All-Star break. Two games against starting pitchers with ERAs over 5.00 and one against a starter with an ERA over 6.00.

Time to make some hay.

Or not.

The Phillies continued their maddeningly inconsistent play by losing two of three to the White Sox. The opportunity lost weekend ended with a 10-5 defeat in the series finale on Sunday.

“Tough weekend,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We’re not getting enough hits in big spots. We’re not making enough pitches. We’re not doing enough collectively to win baseball games the last three days. We’re a better team than this.”

Are they really?

The Phillies went 33-22 in their first 55 games of the season and were in first place by 3 ½ games in the NL East.

Over their last 56 games, they are 25-31, seven back in the division and in the thick of a wild-card race loaded with flawed clubs.

Don’t look now, but the Phils are only three games ahead of the fourth-place New York Mets in the division. The Mets have firepower in the starting rotation and they’ve won nine of 10.

The Phillies hit just .192 (25 for 130) over weekend and were 5 for 26 (.192) with runners in scoring position. They left 27 men on base. They were on their way to being held to three or fewer runs for the 12th time in 21 games on Sunday before newcomer Corey Dickerson clubbed a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.

“I thought they threw the ball well,” Bryce Harper said. “We haven’t seen any of those guys, really. When you’re playing the American League, it’s definitely a tough task to figure those guys out immediately. I thought the first game got away from us, the second game we were able to come back and win that, and today we just got beat.”

The Phillies were beaten in one inning. Drew Smyly, who had given up just one run over 13 innings in his first two starts with the club, was tagged for five runs in the second inning, four on a two-out grand slam by Leury Garcia.

Garcia hit a 1-1 curveball left over the heart of the plate.

“I have to do a better job ending that inning and keeping it at a one-run game,” Smyly said.

Smyly said the loss stung. He pitched five innings. He was perfect in four of them but imperfect in the second inning when he gave up three singles, a walk and the grannie.

“This one stings because I feel like I was one or two pitches away from a much different outcome,” Smyly said.

Earlier in the day, the Phillies sent Maikel Franco, their opening day third baseman four straight seasons, to Triple A. It was a jarring move, but Franco was about to lose more playing time to Scott Kingery and the Phillies wanted a more versatile player on their bench. They activated Brad Miller from the injured list and kept right-handed hitting Sean Rodriguez over Franco (see story).

The Phils cut the White Sox’ lead to two runs in the sixth inning and Rodriguez had a chance to reward the brass’ faith in him when Kapler called on him to pinch-hit with two runners on base. Rodriguez bounced into a double play and the White Sox pulled away with five runs against the bullpen after that.

“It was a big play in the game,” Kapler said. “Nobody is more frustrated in that than Sean.”

The Phillies went 4-5 on the homestand. They play their next seven games in Arizona and San Francisco.

What type of shape will they be in when they come back home?

Will they be looking up at the Mets?

“We have to go out there and not really worry about what happened today,” Harper said. “Of course, we lost the series and you never want to do that. But just go into Arizona and have to turn the page as quick as possible. Get past this weekend and go out there and play Arizona and beat them, hopefully. Then go to San Fran for a big four-gamer.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

White Sox 10, Phillies 5: White Sox burst Drew Smyly's bubble with big 2nd inning

White Sox 10, Phillies 5: White Sox burst Drew Smyly's bubble with big 2nd inning

BOX SCORE 

The Phillies completed a mostly embarrassing weekend of baseball at Citizens Bank Park with a 10-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.

The White Sox, who entered the series 14 games under .500 and with a record of 4-16 since the All-Star break, took two of three from the Phillies.

The Phils faced three starting pitchers with ERAs above 5.00 (one was above 6.00) in the series and were held to 11 runs in 33 innings. Two of their runs Sunday came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. They were on their way to being held to three runs or less for the 12th time in 21 games before that.

The White Sox hit three homers, one a grand slam by Leury Garcia in the second inning.

The Phillies entered the day tied for the second wild-card spot. They are 58-53.

Smyly’s day

Lefty Drew Smyly’s third start with the Phillies was an interesting one. He pitched five innings before leaving for a pinch-hitter. He registered a 1-2-3 inning in four of those frames. His one bad inning was very bad as he gave up three singles, a walk and a grand slam as the White Sox scored five times in the second.

Tough day for pitching pickups

The Phillies signed Smyly after he opted out of his minor-league contract with Milwaukee last month. They acquired Mike Morin in a cash deal from the Twins on the same weekend. Morin allowed six hits and four runs in two innings of relief. He gave up a three-run homer in the eighth as the White Sox pulled away. Blake Parker, another newcomer, allowed a solo homer in the ninth.

Under the microscope

The on-again, off-again phasing-out of Maikel Franco is on again.

The Phillies sent Franco to Triple A before the game.

By sending Franco to the minors, the Phils opted to keep Sean Rodriguez as a right-handed bat and utility man off the bench.

Rodriguez came up as a pinch-hitter in a huge situation with one out in the bottom of the sixth. The Phils had pushed across two runs in the inning to cut the Sox’ lead to 5-3 and there were two men on base. Rodriguez could not keep the rally going. He bounced into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play against lefty Aaron Bummer and the White Sox tagged on a run in the top of the seventh to increase their lead to three runs.

Rodriguez is 2 for 16 with a homer and eight strikeouts as a pinch-hitter this season.

A new look at leadoff

The Phillies have had trouble in the leadoff spot since Andrew McCutchen went down with a season-ending knee injury in early June. Newcomer Corey Dickerson, picked up in a trade with Pittsburgh on Wednesday, got his first start with the Phils and batted leadoff. He was 2 for 5 with an RBI single and a two-run homer. The two-run homer came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Up next

The Phillies begin a seven-game trip to Arizona and San Francisco on Monday night. Here are the pitching matchups for the series in Arizona:

Monday night — RHP Vince Velasquez (3-6, 4.40) vs. RHP Merrill Kelly (7-11, 4.52)

Tuesday night — RHP Jake Arrieta (8-9, 4.44) vs. RHP Mike Leake (9-8, 4.27)

Wednesday night — LHP Jason Vargas (6-5, 3.93) vs. RHP Zac Gallen (1-3, 2.72)

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin and Gabe Kapler on a 15-inning Phillies loss we'll be talking about for years

Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin and Gabe Kapler on a 15-inning Phillies loss we'll be talking about for years

When you're fighting for the playoffs, you should probably never find yourself in a situation where you have to use a position player to pitch two innings in a tie game, or a starting pitcher to man left field.

That happened to the Phillies Friday night in a 15-inning, 4-3 loss to the White Sox.

Vince Velasquez had been waiting a long time to show off the full scope of his athleticism. It has been evident in the way he fields his position on the mound and runs the bases, but Friday was an entirely different story.

As the meek offenses of the Phillies and White Sox continued to make outs and a tie game reached the 14th inning, the Phillies ran out of pitchers and extra men. Ranger Suarez, new to pitching out of the bullpen, could not get loose. Zach Eflin, also new to the bullpen, felt soreness in his triceps after completing two scoreless innings.

It left Phillies manager Gabe Kapler with limited options and he chose to pinch-run for Eflin with Velasquez after Eflin had reached base in the top of the 13th. As a result, Velasquez stayed in the game in left field and out came Roman Quinn, again, to pitch. Except this time it wasn't mop-up duty.

Quinn worked a scoreless 14th inning with a major assist (literally) from Velasquez. Playing left field for the first time since he was between 12 and 14 years old, Velasquez threw out Jose Abreu at the plate trying to score from second on a single. The throw was 94.7 mph.

In the 15th, Velasquez nearly made an even more impressive throw, firing another perfect strike from deep left field that was just barely late of nailing speedy Leury Garcia. The play was reviewed and Garcia got his hand just around the tag. On the next play, Velasquez made a diving catch to end the inning.

It was a surreal final hour at Citizens Bank Park but it did not result in a win. The Phillies' offense was anemic most of the night, with Rhys Hoskins, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Scott Kingery combining to go 2 for 24 in the loss.

"It was a horses--- situation," Kapler said. "It sucked. But the boys fought, all the way through to the end. I really thought the team stepped up in a major way, with everything on the line. They played their asses off."

Phillies fans were left with many questions after the bizarre way the game ended.

Why didn't Velasquez just pitch? 

The answer was that Velasquez had thrown a bullpen session earlier in the day. Pitching was not an option after his 90-pitch effort Wednesday and the bullpen session Saturday.

When did Kapler know he was removing Eflin from the game? 

The answer was before Eflin even went to the plate in the 13th inning. Kapler pressed him to make sure he was feeling OK, and Eflin admitted to feeling soreness in his triceps. Remember, this is a guy who has been a starting pitcher for most of his life. This role, pitching multiple times per week, is new to him. The Phillies are not going to push Eflin, nor Suarez for that matter, because of how new they are to these roles.

"I didn't feel it was right to put him at risk," Kapler said of Eflin. "He had pitched a lot for us. He had given us a lot. At that point, given the amount of injuries that we've had recently, I thought it was best to protect our player even at the expense of using a position player to pitch."

Again, it highlights the Phillies' depth issues. They were playing with 24 players on this night because Hector Neris is serving a three-game suspension.

The Phillies almost got away with all of it, thanks to two perfect innings from Blake Parker and two perfect innings from Eflin. If the offense could have just come up with one big hit, so many of the late-game shenanigans could have been prevented.

"I’ve never really seen something like that before," said Jason Vargas, who pitched well, allowing two runs in 6⅓ innings in his Phillies debut. "We were pretty sure [Velasquez] threw out the second guy as well. To throw out somebody with a guy on the line and make two crazy throws and then make a crazy catch that the best outfielder would be proud to make in a big situation, the effort was more than there.

"A pretty crazy first day. I can’t say that I’ve seen a better effort given to try to win a ball game."

The effort was there, on the mound and in the field. Guys weren't trying to make outs at the plate, but for whatever reason, this Phillies offense just goes in the tank a few times every week. At one point in extra innings, the two teams went 24 consecutive batters without a hit.

The loss is what matters most because every game counts in the race for a wild-card spot. But Phillies fans have long memories and this game will probably be remembered most for Kapler’s decision-making and Velasquez's efforts in left field.

"Vince might be one of our best all-around players," Kapler said. "He's a freaky athlete. We knew that about him. If there was a silver lining tonight — nobody's going to want to hear it — but it was Vince Velasquez performing like a superstar athlete. And Roman Quinn basically doing anything you could possibly do on a baseball field. And, s---, let's point to those things. Because why not?"

There are reasons why not, but the Phillies report back to the ballpark in about 12 hours and can move past this incredibly strange Friday night with a win behind Aaron Nola Saturday.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies