It was only 24 hours ago that the Phillies’ bullpen was being lauded for its part in a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins.
Suffice it to say that the bullpen did not continue its efficiency on Monday night.
What would have been the Phillies’ best win of the early season ended up as their worst loss when Jake Diekman couldn’t protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning. Atlanta’s Dan Uggla belted a grand slam with one out to lift the Braves to a wild 9-6 win at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
The Phillies’ clubhouse was a morgue after the game.
The somber mood was understandable. Moments before Uggla’s grand slam, the Phillies, seemingly dead in the water, had rallied for five runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 6-5 lead. Marlon Byrd drove in two runs in the uprising and Domonic Brown capped it with a three-run homer.
As it turned out, that spirited comeback went for naught.
“For the fans, a game like that, with the back and forth, is fun,” Byrd said afterward. “But for us, it’s just a loss. It’s tough.”
Manager Ryne Sandberg echoed that sentiment.
“It was nice to see the comeback,” he said of the Phillies’ eighth-inning rally (see story). “The guys battled. They showed character. They had good at-bats and we put a five-spot up there. We just weren’t able to close the door in the ninth. There were some big emotion swings there.”
All nine of the Braves’ runs scored on home runs. Evan Gattis gave his team a 2-1 lead with a two-run homer against Phillies starter Roberto Hernandez in the sixth inning.
In the eighth, the Braves went ahead 5-1 on consecutive home runs by Gattis, Uggla and Andrelton Simmons. All three homers came against reliever B.J. Rosenberg. According to baseball researcher Dave Smith of www.retrosheet.org, Rosenberg is likely the first pitcher ever to face just three batters in a game and give up a homer to each one. Smith’s data goes back to 1914 when home runs weren’t common.
Rosenberg was pitching for the third day in a row. He was part of the relief corps that went 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in Phils’ weekend sweep of the Marlins.
Before the game, Sandberg said he hoped to stay away from Rosenberg, but the pitcher said he was ready to work.
“He said he felt fine,” Sandberg said. “He was throwing 94-95 [mph]. He was just behind in counts.”
Closer Jonathan Papelbon worked all three days against Miami and he was definitely getting the night off. Hence Sandberg’s use of Diekman as the closer.
Diekman walked two of the first three batters he faced. Another reached when Chase Utley couldn’t get an out on a fielder’s choice ground ball.
With one out and the bases full, Diekman threw Uggla an elevated slider and the Braves’ second baseman crushed it to left to pull his team from the jaws of defeat.
For Diekman, pitching in a ninth-inning save situation was a new experience. He didn’t handle it well.
“I tried to not overthink things,” he said. “I kept picking instead of going right after them. I can’t start hitters off 2-0 all the time.”
The Phillies’ bullpen entered the game with a 4.35 ERA. Seven runs later, it had an ERA of 5.53. High ERA isn’t the only problem for the Phils’ bullpen. The innings are already piling up. Only twice in 13 games have the Phillies gotten seven innings from a starting pitcher.
“We’d like to see that change to help our 'pen,” Sandberg said. “We’ve been utilizing out 'pen a lot.”
After the game, the Phillies sent reliever Luis Garcia to Triple A and activated reliever Mike Adams from the disabled list. The Phils hope he gives the bullpen a boost.
Beyond that, it’s getting difficult not to be tempted by what flame-thrower Kenny Giles is doing at Double A Reading. Giles can reach triple digits with his fastball, but control has been a problem throughout his minor-league career. It’s very, very early in his first experience above Single A ball, but Giles is making quick strides. He struck out the side in Reading’s win over Richmond on Monday night. In six innings over five games, Giles has allowed one hit and two walks while striking out 14.
If he keeps that up, he will eventually get a chance to help a Phillies bullpen that couldn’t get the job done Monday night.