Asche shines, but Phils find 'shifty' way to lose

Asche shines, but Phils find 'shifty' way to lose
May 7, 2014, 12:30 am

Cody Asche was 4 for 4 at the plate with four RBIs in the Phillies' 6-5 loss to the Blue Jays. (USA Today Images)

BOX SCORE

The Phillies trudged out the door of Citizens Bank Park late Tuesday night for a flight to Toronto, where they will continue a home-and-home series with the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

Good thing it’s a short flight to Toronto because this couldn’t have been a fun one. They seldom are when a team digs itself a five-run hole, battles back to tie the game, then loses it in extra innings.

That’s what happened in this one. Cole Hamels struggled for the second game in a row. (He has allowed 18 hits and 11 runs in 10 2/3 innings in those games -- see story.) Cody Asche bailed Hamels out with a game-tying grand slam in the sixth inning. But the Phils eventually lost to the Blue Jays, 6-5, when Antonio Bastardo allowed a couple of hits and Juan Francisco lifted a sacrifice fly to weak-armed centerfielder Ben Revere in the 10th (see Instant Replay).

The Phillies have lost two in a row to the Blue Jays to fall to 15-16 on the season.

A couple of things to keep an eye on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre in Toronto:

• Will manager Ryne Sandberg reward Asche for his grand slam and four-hit night with a start against lefty Mark Buehrle? Asche, who has struggled much of the early season, has not started against a lefty since April 4.

• Will Sandberg continue to employ a defensive shift in the infield when it cost the Phils a couple of runs Tuesday night?

Early indications are that Asche will get the start.

“I look at this as a possible breakout game for Cody,” Sandberg said. “I’ll give [starting him against Buehrle] a lot of consideration. We could give him some continued play and let him build on this.”

As for the shift, the Phils have had mixed results while using it against the Jays. The Phils lost, 3-0, to Toronto on Monday night. The score would have been more lopsided if the Phils hadn’t employed the shift in their infield. Losing pitcher Kyle Kendrick said as much.

But Tuesday night, the shift led to some miscommunication between shortstop Freddy Galvis and second baseman Chase Utley in the fourth inning. No one “took charge,” in Sandberg’s words, on a ball hit between the two fielders and Edwin Encarnacion ended up with a hit that sent a runner to third and set up a run.

In the decisive 10th inning, the Jays got a leadoff hit from Melky Cabrera. That brought up dangerous Jose Bautista. The Phillies shifted him to the left side of the infield in both games. This time, Bautista made an adjustment and singled through the area vacated by Utley, who was playing just on the other side of second. If Utley is in his usual position, it is a double-play ball. Then again, if Utley is in his usual position, Bautista probably doesn’t hit it there. He probably takes his normal big hack to the pull side.

Whatever the case, you live by the shift; you die by the shift.

“We had Bautista as a dead-pull hitter on the ground and he hit one away from the defense,” Sandberg said.

The Phillies were fortunate to even be in the game so late.

They made defensive miscues and baserunning gaffes -- the struggling Galvis was involved in both -- and failed to move runners or do much of anything offensively against Drew Hutchison in the early innings.

“We did not play a good fundamental game,” Sandberg said. “We made baserunning mistakes, didn’t get a man over from second, coverage on defense. A lot of little things came back to haunt us.”

Sandberg didn’t mention the fact that Revere had no shot to throw out Cabrera at the plate on a fly ball to medium center in the 10th.

He did mention that Hamels, who gave up 10 hits, including two home runs, was not sharp.

“He fell behind in some counts and they didn’t miss his fastball,” Sandberg said.

The Phillies' offense went 21 innings (back to Sunday) before finally scoring in the sixth. Ryan Howard’s RBI hit was the first of five in the inning against Hutchison, who was otherwise nasty on the Phillies.

Asche’s game-tying grand slam was the big blow against Hutchison. It came with two outs and brought to life the crowd of 26,057, which demanded (and received) a curtain call from Asche.

The first month-plus of the season has been difficult on Asche, who entered Tuesday night hitting .214. His four hits raised his average to .257.

“It felt good to produce and help the team out,” Asche said. “There have been a lot of games where I haven’t done that.

“But this is still a loss, a missed opportunity.”

The 23-year-old third baseman was asked whether he believed his big night would earn him a shot in Wednesday night’s lineup.

“If I’m in there, I’m in there,” he said. “If I’m not, I’ll be on the bench, ready to go.

“There’s a lot of mental turmoil in this game over the course of a long season. The good ones weather the storms. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

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