Phillies on pace for 111 losses after bizarre late-game bullpen meltdown

Phillies on pace for 111 losses after bizarre late-game bullpen meltdown

BOX SCORE

In the big picture — and that's what has really mattered right from the beginning of this season — something quite positive happened for the Phillies on Wednesday night: A young, promising pitcher took a nice step forward and for the second straight start offered hope that he might just be a reliable piece of the rotation when this rebuilding club is ready to be relevant again.

But in the narrow view, it was easy to look right past Nick Pivetta's six innings of three-run, 10-strikeout ball. That's how bad the losing has been. Every night offers a gaper delay on the highway to 100 losses.

Did we say 100?

How about 111? That's the Phillies' current pace after an ugly 7-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals (see Instant Replay) — and 111 losses would match a franchise high set in 1941 when Doc Prothro's club went 43-111.

It's bad, folks.

But you already knew that.

This one was especially unsightly for how the Phillies lost it. They blew a five-run lead under the weight of a barrage of home runs — two against the bullpen in the eighth and ninth innings — had the potential winning run cut down at the plate by 20 feet in the bottom of the ninth then lost it in the 10th after a troubling meltdown by reliever Edubray Ramos.

You almost had to see it to believe it. And if you didn't see it, don't bother looking for a replay. It will only hurt your eyes.

"We let that five-run lead get away from us," manager Pete Mackanin said. "Real disappointing night. Pivetta did a really good job for us, gave us six good innings. And we had 16 hits; you have to win a game when you get 16 hits. We couldn't push any more runs across until that 10th inning. Very disappointing."

Pivetta — 19 strikeouts in his last two starts — took a 5-0 lead to the mound in the fifth and was tagged for a home run on a 3-2 fastball in that inning. No problem. He issued a two-out walk in the sixth then served up a first-pitch, two-run homer to Jedd Gyorko. Little problem, but not fatal.

Things started to turn bad in the eighth when reliever Joaquin Benoit served up a first-pitch homer to Jose Martinez to make it a one-run game and they got worse when Hector Neris blew his second save in three games when he gave up a game-tying homer to Tommy Pham (his second of the game) on a 1-1 fastball in the ninth.

In the 10th, Ramos gave up a leadoff double to Martinez. The reliever then balked Martinez to third and gifted him home plate on an errant pickoff throw to first base. (It sailed way over Tommy Joseph's head.) The Cards ended up scoring two runs in the frame. The second one came in handy when the Phils pushed across one in the bottom of the inning.

Ramos looks like a pitcher who needs to go to the minors to clear his head. In his last three outings, he has faced eight batters and allowed three hits, three walks and seven runs. He has also committed a costly balk and a costly error, signs that's he becoming a little overwhelmed.

"I don't know what to tell you," Mackanin said. "It looks like he's mixed up or something. He's not the same guy."

Ramos declined to speak with reporters after the game.

But Odubel Herrera and Pat Neshek did agree to chat.

Neshek, the Phillies' best reliever, was conspicuously absent from a close game. He threw 28 pitches Sunday, had a day off Monday and threw 11 on Tuesday. He was not available. What was curious was that Mackanin said Neshek had told him he was sore. Neshek said he never said such a thing, that he showed up to the ballpark and was told he was getting a day off, which he actually thought was a good idea. But sore? Not so, he said.

As for Herrera, he drew attention for running through third base coach Juan Samuel's stop sign in the bottom of the ninth inning and getting nailed at the plate for the final out. Samuel said it was the first time a player had ever run through one of his stop signs. In this case, Herrera almost ran him over.

"It's just bad timing for it," Samuel said.

There was some question as to whether Samuel's stop sign went up too late, but Herrera dismissed that. He said he was simply running with his head down.

"I was playing aggressive," he said. "I wanted to win the game. So when I was rounding third, I put my head down. I kept going to home plate. I saw [the stop sign]. But I saw it late. I put my head down. That's my mistake."

Making a mistake didn't make Herrera unique Wednesday night.

"The mistakes we're making are giving the other team too many pitches to hit," Mackanin said. "Those are our mistakes. Especially late in the game."

Instant Replay: Cardinals 7, Phillies 6 (10 innings)

Instant Replay: Cardinals 7, Phillies 6 (10 innings)

BOX SCORE

The Phillies blew a five-run lead and lost, 7-6, to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night.

The Phillies gave up the go-ahead run in bizarre fashion in the 10th inning.

Reliever Edubray Ramos gave up a leadoff double to Jose Martinez then committed a balk to move the runner to third. After striking out Matt Carpenter, Ramos walked Dexter Fowler intentionally to put runners on the corners. Ramos then made an errant pickoff throw way over first baseman Tommy Joseph's head, allowing Martinez to trot home with the go-ahead run.

Ramos' nightmarish inning capped a brutal performance for the bullpen. Relievers Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris each allowed a solo homer in the eighth and ninth, respectively, as the Cardinals tied the game at 5-5.

The Phillies had the potential winning run thrown out at the plate in the bottom of the ninth when Odubel Herrera ran through third base coach Juan Samuel's stop sign on a two-out double by Freddy Galvis.

Rookie Nick Pivetta had his second straight strong start, but came away with a no-decision.

St. Louis played poor defense and the Phils capitalized with three unearned runs.

The Phillies are a majors-worst 22-48. They have lost 13 of their last 14.

Starting pitching report
Pivetta pitched six innings of three-run ball. All of the runs he gave up came on a pair of homers. The right-hander continued to harness his power stuff. He walked just one and struck out 10. Pivetta, who pitched seven shutout innings against Boston in his last outing, has 19 strikeouts in his last two starts. He has walked just three in his last two starts and that's been a big reason for his improvement. He issued 16 walks in his first six starts.

St. Louis starter Michael Wacha allowed nine hits and five runs in four innings. Three of the runs were unearned.

Bullpen report
Luis Garcia held the Cardinals off in the seventh. Benoit allowed a homer in the eighth as the Cards cut the lead to one. Neris allowed a game-tying homer in the ninth to blow the save.

Ramos looks like a pitcher who needs to go to the minors to clear his head. In his last three outings, he has faced eight batters and allowed three hits, three walks and seven runs. He has also committed a costly balk and a costly error.

Brett Cecil got the win.

At the plate
Howie Kendrick had three hits and a walk. It was his second straight three-hit game. He has 10 hits in his last four games.

Herrera doubled home two runs in the first inning.

After falling behind by two runs in the top of the 10th, the Phillies rallied for a run on hits by Andrew Knapp and Cameron Perkins to make it a one-run game. Closer Seung-Hwan Oh then got Kendrick to hit into a fielder's choice and struck out Aaron Altherr to end it. 

The Cardinals hit four homers, two by Tommy Pham and one each by Jedd Gyorko and Martinez.

In the field
Rightfielder Altherr made a terrific leaping catch in foul territory to end the top of the third inning.

The Cardinals made three errors.

Ready to go
Outfielder Adam Haseley, the Phillies' top pick in last week's draft, signed his contract and is ready to begin his pro career. What kind of player are the Phillies getting (see story)?

Up next
The series concludes on Thursday afternoon. Aaron Nola (3-5, 4.76) pitches against St. Louis right-hander Carlos Martinez (6-5, 2.86). Martinez pitched a four-hit, one-walk, 11-strikeout shutout against the Phillies two weeks ago in St. Louis.

Phillies scout says Adam Haseley will be 'a good Phillie for a long time'

Phillies scout says Adam Haseley will be 'a good Phillie for a long time'

Long before the regional supervisors and the national cross-checkers and the special assistants and the scouting director and the general manager put their eyeballs on Adam Haseley, there was Paul Murphy.

Murphy, a Delaware resident and former third baseman in the Baltimore Orioles' system, is a Phillies area scout responsible for covering much of the Mid-Atlantic region, including Virginia.

Murphy first started keeping a book on Haseley, an outfielder/pitcher from the University of Virginia, three years ago. Last week, the Phillies selected Haseley with the eighth overall pick in the draft.

Haseley, 21, officially became a Phillie on Wednesday when he signed his first professional contract (see story). He received a $5.1 million signing bonus and will begin his pro career at Williamsport in the New York-Penn League after a brief orientation at the Phillies' complex in Clearwater.

So, what type of player are the Phillies getting in Haseley?

No one knows him better than Murphy.

"Over three years, I'd seen him 35 to 40 times between Virginia and summer ball and, really, his trajectory was upward from his freshman year," Murphy said. "You're getting a great makeup kid from a good college baseball program. It's very exciting. I think he's going to be a good Phillie for a long time."

The left-handed hitting Haseley, 6-1, 195 pounds, is a contact machine with growing power and the ability to control the strike zone, an important quality that is being stressed by second-year Phillies general manager Matt Klentak. He walked 44 times and struck out just 21 while hitting .390 with a .491 on-base percentage for the Cavaliers in 2017. He hit 14 homers — up from six as a sophomore — and added 16 doubles in 58 games. He also went 7-1 with a 3.58 ERA in 11 starts on the mound, but will only play outfield as a professional.

"The fact that he pitches and last offseason was the first time he trained as a hitter really leads you to believe that his best days are ahead of him if he just concentrates on hitting," Murphy said. "He made a big jump this season with his power numbers. He's got some projection left to his body, a chance to get bigger and stronger."

Haseley enjoyed pitching, but he's eager to focus on being a position player.

"Just from a health perspective, it will be a lot easier to recover, especially days after pitching," he said after stroking a bunch of line drives around Citizens Bank Park during batting practice Wednesday afternoon. "I'm usually pretty sore the day after. From a strength perspective, I'll be able to do different lifts that will help my overall strength."

Murphy first started thinking of Haseley as a potential first-rounder last summer.

"I saw him at Orleans in the Cape Cod League last year," Murphy said. "I've been doing the Cape league for 12 or 13 years and I saw him hit a baseball where people don't hit it in a game. He hit it about 440 feet just right of center field and it was an eye-opener. When people do something on a baseball field that you haven't seen, as a scout you certainly wake up and pay attention. That was probably the night I started considering him more seriously."

Murphy used Atlanta outfielder Nick Markakis as a loose comparison for Haseley.

"That kind of guy," Murphy said. "But I wouldn't limit him because I don't know that he's going to be the same player you see today. For a college junior he has a chance to get a lot bigger and stronger and a chance to keep improving.

"Sometimes you take a college player and that's what he is; you're not going to get anything better. But with [giving up] pitching and the body, he has a chance to keep maturing and become a better player than he is today and he's already a pretty good player for me."

Scouting director Johnny Almaraz summed up Haseley.

"Adam is a very dynamic player," Almaraz said. "He's a very exciting outfielder. He can play all three outfield positions. I believe offensively he's going to hit anywhere from 20 to 25 home runs and be somebody who's going to hit in the middle of the order."