Bullpen woes cost Phillies again as club swept by Rangers

Bullpen woes cost Phillies again as club swept by Rangers

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ARLINGTON, Tex. — As Phillies players showered, dressed and hurried off for the bus to the airport late Thursday afternoon, Freddy Galvis lingered in front of his locker and stewed in the juices of the team's 15th loss in the last 18 games.

"It sucks, man," Galvis said. "That's the truth. If somebody says it's OK, it's not OK. We're (bleeping) losing a lot of games."

The latest was an 8-4 loss to the Texas Rangers (see Instant Replay). Now, the Rangers are smokin' hot. They've won nine in a row, averaging 6.5 runs and posting a 2.66 ERA over that span. While it's true that they caught the Rangers at a bad time, the Phils didn't exactly play good baseball while getting swept in Texas. They were outscored 22-8 in the series and their starting pitchers went just six, four and 4 2/3 innings, respectively, in the three games. Meanwhile, Rangers starters delivered seven innings in each game.

Thursday's game turned when the Rangers rallied for five runs in the fifth inning to erase a 2-0 deficit. Ryan Rua's three-run homer against a completely ineffective Joely Rodriguez was the game-changing blow. It was the 27th homer surrendered by the Phillies' bullpen this season, the most in baseball.

The Phillies are now 14-24, matching their worst 38-game start since 2000.

Galvis, the team's longest-tenured player, is frustrated.

"When you're losing and losing and losing …" he vented. "We have to play better baseball. We have to be on the same page. We have four months to go and if we don't start playing better, it's going to be a bad season. We have to play better, play together, fight, make pitches, get on base, move runners.

"We're not doing what it takes to win games. I'm tired of losing so many games. If somebody says it's OK, it's not OK.

"You have to know how to win, how to play 162 games. You have to stick together, play together on the field. We have a bunch of good players and a bunch of good coaches but it's just not there right now. We need to show everybody we belong here. We're not doing what we're supposed to be doing. Pitch, run, get on base, move runners. We're not doing that and that's why we're losing, losing and losing."

The Phillies have lost 15 times since winning six in a row and heading to Dodger Stadium on April 28. Thirteen of those losses have come against top competition — the Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals and Rangers. All four of those clubs made the postseason last year — the Cubs won it all — and have October hopes this season.

The rebuilding Phillies did not enter the season with October hopes.

But they were supposed to be better than this.

"We need to step it up," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We're better than what we're going through right now. But we need to execute, play better. I can't make excuses. We have to pitch better and hit better."

Maikel Franco has slumped lately. Mackanin dropped him to seventh in the order Thursday and he responded with some good swings, a hard-hit sacrifice fly to center and a homer to right as he drove in the first two runs.

But Odubel Herrera, another player being counted on for offense, has slumped badly. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He is hitless in his last 11 at-bats and is just 3 for 23 through six games on the road trip, dropping him to .242 on the season. His on-base percentage is now .298.

The Phillies are just 3-12 in the month of May. The team ERA in the month is an obscene 5.87. For the season it is 4.92, second worst in baseball.

Nick Pivetta added to that ERA during four starts with the club, but he's a rookie and he's learning. He needs to throw more strikes so he can stay in games longer. He will continue to work on that in Triple A as he was returned to the minors after Thursday's start. The Phillies will likely add a bullpen arm for a couple of days in Pittsburgh before activating starter Aaron Nola on Sunday.

Pivetta took a 2-0 lead into the fifth inning Thursday, but a one-out walk cost him a chance to finish the inning and he was lifted with two outs and 107 pitches. The move to go to the lefty Rodriguez made sense because dangerous Nomar Mazara was coming to the plate and he was just 3 for 27 against lefties. But Rodriguez walked Mazara. Then he gave up two run-scoring hits before Rua's killer homer.

Rodriguez ended up being tagged for six hits, two walks and seven runs in just two-thirds of an inning in taking the final loss of this Texas torture.

"He just didn't pitch well," Mackanin understated.

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

Cincinnati Reds starter Tim Adleman came into Friday night’s start against the Phillies with an ERA above six, having allowed 10 runs in his last 5 2/3 innings. 

So, naturally, he gave up just one hit over eight scoreless innings. 

The 29-year-old righty dominated the Phillies in just his 20th career MLB start en route to his third win this season, pitching easily the best game of his young career in a 5-2 Reds’ win (see game recap).

It was understandably the best that Reds manager Bryan Price had seen from Adleman.
 
"It wasn't just because of the line score," Price said. "It was really command-based. Really good both sides of the plate. Had a nice sinking fastball, could straighten it out when he needed to. A very, very good changeup. I don’t think he even used a breaking ball there until the eighth inning.

"So it was really that good."

At just 100 pitches through eight, naturally the question for Price was whether to allow him the chance at a complete game. However, Price needed to get reliever Asher Wojciechowski work to get him ready for a start next week.

"I wanted to stay in there pretty badly, but you understand the move," Adleman said. "Wojo needed to get some work. It had been a while since he threw and it's a game in May. It's not a game that's deeper in the season. … I totally understand."

For his eight innings, Adleman attacked the Phillies' batters early in counts and didn't allow a batter to reach third all night. He retired the leadoff batter in all but one inning and allowed just four batters to reach base.

The Phillies' only threat came in the first inning. An Andres Blanco single was followed by an Aaron Altherr hit by pitch. That brought up Thursday's hero -- Tommy Joseph -- with two men on and just one out. Adleman utilized his changeup on a 1-2 pitch, inducing a weak grounder back the mound for a 1-4-3 double play. 

In three at-bats against Joseph, Adleman recorded three ground ball outs, all on the changeup, which is his primary off-speed offering.

"The scouting report is that he's a really good fastball hitter. Does a lot of damage on fastballs," Adleman said, "So if you can get him in situations where you're confident he's looking for a fastball and then cut a changeup on him, it can be really effective. Obviously, you have to keep it down, but that's the same with all your pitches."

Joseph's at-bats set the trend for the rest of the Phillies' lineup. The Reds’ starter kept the ball down and didn’t allow another baserunner until he walked Blanco to lead off the seventh. Sixteen of his 24 outs came on ground balls and only five pitches were hit past the infield. 

Adleman stated his goal was to use the Phillies’ aggressiveness against them with strikes early in the count and it worked. It was his first time pitching into the eighth inning in his career and he did so with almost exclusively his fastball and changeup.

"I think it had a lot to do with that little pause [in his delivery] and he did a good job changing speeds on us," Joseph said. "He basically did it with two pitches, which says a lot about how hard this game can be. Hats off to him. 

"Next time we'll see if we can't get him back."

In a way, Adleman was getting the Phillies back. He made the third start of his career at Citizens Bank Park last year on May 14. He took the loss against Friday’s starter, Aaron Nola, while allowing three runs in five innings.

Born in Staten Island, Adleman was raised in New Jersey, but grew up a Yankees fan. He hadn't been to CBP until college, where he faced Villanova while playing for Georgetown. 

At 29, he's a little old for a second-year starter because he took a winding road to the major leagues. Drafted by the Orioles in 2010, he was nearly out of baseball by 24. He spent two years in independent leagues before catching on with the Reds and debuting in the show last season.

The journeyman starter had struggled in his last few starts, which helped his ERA balloon to 6.19. However, his Friday night opponent seemed more than happy to take some air out of the balloon. Adleman became the fifth pitcher in the last six days to come into a start against the Phillies with an ERA of 5.00 or above and allow one run or less over at least five innings. 

"It feels good," Adleman said of his night. "Philly's a good young team and Nola is making quite a name for himself. He out-pitched me last year and coming into tonight I knew I had an opportunity to right the ship so to speak."

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

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When the opposing pitcher comes in with an ERA that matches the area code for San Diego -- 6.19 -- and holds you scoreless on one single over eight innings, well …

You've reached the low point of your season.

And it's time for a team meeting.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin called for a little powwow after his club suffered a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night (see Instant Replay). Don't let the final score fool you. It wasn't that close. The loss was the Phillies' 21st in the last 26 games. They were held to three hits for the fourth time in the last six games -- five losses -- and have scored just nine runs over that span.

Mackanin acknowledged that this was the low point for his team, which owns the worst record in the majors at 16-30. Cincinnati starting pitcher Tim Adleman entered the game with a 6.19 ERA, but he pitched like an ace in holding the Phillies to just a first-inning single over his eight shutout innings (see story). Adleman walked two, struck out four and at one point set down 16 straight Phillies. The 29-year-old right-hander has made 20 starts in his big-league career and this was by far the best.

"Yeah," Mackanin said when asked if the loss was the season's low point. "We need to step it up. We’re better than this. I know we’re better than this. We’ve just got to start playing as aggressive as we can and take it to the other team. Be aggressive at the plate and pound the strike zone."

That apparently was Mackanin's message to the club in his postgame meeting, though he would not talk about it.

"He just wants to see us play with a little more fire and a little more energy," Aaron Altherr said. "You know, it’s something we’ve got to do. Today wasn’t too great. But, like I said, hopefully we can right the ship and start winning some games again."

Tommy Joseph was tight-lipped on the content of the team meeting.

"That's basically stuff that was between us," he said. "There's a pretty good understanding that we need to get going in here and that was really it. I think the rest is pretty self-explanatory and what he had to say is between us.

"It's definitely not a lack of effort. Everybody is out there trying to get the job done. I think there are certain nights when the job is getting done. When things start to spark a little bit, everybody feeds off that. Obviously there are some nights where that doesn't happen. It's definitely not from a lack of effort. Everybody is going out there busting their ass, so it's just a matter of sometimes it goes our way and sometimes it doesn't."

Mackanin used slumping Odubel Herrera in the leadoff spot for the first time this season and he produced a ninth-inning double after Adleman exited. The Phillies actually loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but a fielder's choice ground ball and then a strikeout by Maikel Franco, the potential tying run, ended the game. Franco struck out swinging wildly at a full-count breaking ball from Raisel Iglesias.

Joseph mentioned that Adleman changed speeds well and used a slight hesitation in his delivery to throw off hitters.

But was it more the pitcher or more just a bad offense?

"It’s hard to tell," Mackanin said. "That's a daily question. Are we not hitting the ball like we should or is the pitcher that good? It seems like I look up and every other pitcher we face has a 6.00 ERA, but I think it’s all because we’re missing good pitches to hit. We’re getting pitches to hit and we’re not hitting them."

Aaron Nola did not have a good start. He gave up a pair of homers in falling behind, 3-0, after two innings, and, obviously, there was no coming back, not with this offense.

The Philies are 5-18 in the month of May.

Or should we say Mayday?

"We’re trying to stay positive, as positive as we can throughout this stretch," Altherr said. "You know, it’s tough sometimes when things are going the way they are. We’re just going to keep being positive, keep trying to bring as much energy as we can to win some games."