Howard takes 'full responsiblity' for Phils' loss

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Howard takes 'full responsiblity' for Phils' loss

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LOS ANGELES – Ryan Howard lingered in the clubhouse after most of his teammates had already showered and headed for the team bus. He wore a look of despair on his face as he sat in front of his locker and recounted his role in the Phillies’ 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night (see Instant Replay).

“I take full responsibility,” he said. “I’ve got to be better than that.”

Howard was involved in two ugly plays -- one at the plate, one in the field -- that pointed the Phillies toward the loss.

First, he killed a rally in the fifth inning when he swung at a 3-0 sinker off the plate from Zack Greinke and bounced into a 1-6-3 double play with two men on base.

Later, Howard failed to make a play on a routine bunt in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Dodgers’ turned that miscue into the go-ahead run as they scored twice in the inning against rookie Justin De Fratus to turn a one-run deficit into a one-run lead.

“Those are two plays, two key moments that changed the flow of the game,” Howard said. “It sucks. I’m upset I didn’t make that play. I slipped and I cost my team the game.

“And on the 3-0 pitch -- I have to make a better swing. Those are two things I had control over in the game and I didn’t get it done. (Jonathan) Pettibone threw well and Chase (Utley) swung the bat well. I have to do a better job.”

The look on Howard’s face after the game showed just how much the loss hurt.

The Phillies are struggling to remain on the periphery of the race in the NL East. They battled back from an early 3-0 deficit to take the lead on a home run by Utley in the seventh. The comeback came against one of the best pitchers in the game in Greinke. This is a game the Phils have to win.

Instead, they are 38-42, 7½ games back in the NL East and 2-2 on this road trip. They have blown late leads in both losses.

Pitching 40 miles from his hometown of Yorba Linda, with several dozen family and friends in the stands, the 22-year-old Pettibone fought some nerves early. He allowed three hits and three runs in the first inning, but just one hit and no runs over the next five innings to keep his team in the game until Utley’s go-ahead homer in the seventh.

The Phils had tied the game on RBI singles by Utley and Jimmy Rollins in the fifth and had a chance to do more damage when Howard showed zero plate discipline in swinging at a 3-0 sinker off the plate and bouncing into a rally-killing double play.

Howard is in an 0-for-16 skid. He was 0 for 14 when he came to the plate with runners on first and second and one out in that inning.

Manager Charlie Manuel loves to give his hitters the green light on 3-0.

“He’s kind of automatic,” Manuel said of Howard. “He’s been hitting 3-0 since he was in Double A. At the same time, he knows we want him to get a good ball to hit.

“He’s earned the right over the years to hit 3-0. He’s got to do a better job at it, though.”

Utley’s homer in the seventh put Pettibone in line for a win. Manuel went to Justin De Fratus to protect the lead in the bottom of the inning. He allowed a killer leadoff walk to A.J. Ellis. The Dodgers then put a second man on base when Howard muffed Uribe’s bunt. The runners moved up on a bunt and De Fratus walked Hanley Ramirez intentionally. De Fratus then struck out Skip Schumaker for the second out.

That brought up the most dangerous hitter on the planet -- Dodgers’ rookie masher Yasiel Puig.

De Fratus got ahead of Puig with two sliders, then went back to the pitch at 0-2. The pitch was off the plate, but not far enough. Puig hooked it to left for a two-run single. On 0-2, De Fratus can’t give Puig a pitch to hit. He did and it cost the Phillies.

“I didn’t think it was a bad pitch,” De Fratus said. “But I wanted to bounce it and get it in the dirt and I didn’t.”

Manuel thought the pitch was too good.

“I thought he could have expanded the zone even more,” he said.

These are the growing pains that a young bullpen must endure. They are the growing pains that may ultimately derail the Phils’ chances of getting into contention.

A player like Howard, however, should be long past growing pains. He said this was his loss and there was no arguing that.

Best of MLB: Matt Kemp walk-off HR lifts Braves over Giants

Best of MLB: Matt Kemp walk-off HR lifts Braves over Giants

ATLANTA -- Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer off Cory Gearrin in the 11th inning to lift the Atlanta Braves to a 5-3 win over the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night.

The homer, the third of the game for Atlanta, was Kemp's seventh game-ending shot of his career.

Gearrin (1-2) walked Nick Markakis with one out before Kemp's homer barely cleared the right field wall..

Matt Adams hit a two-run homer and Tyler Flowers also homered off Jeff Samardzija.

Braves Sean Newcomb, who gave up one run in six innings, was denied his first win when Hunter Pence's homer off Braves closer Jim Johnson tied the game at 3-3 in the ninth. It was Johnson's fifth blown save in 18 chances (see full recap).

Diamondbacks ride 10-run 4th inning to victory
DENVER -- Taijuan Walker pitched six solid innings and slapped an RBI single during Arizona's biggest inning ever on the road -- a 10-run fourth -- and the Diamondbacks went on to beat the Colorado Rockies 16-5 on Wednesday night.

Shaking off Tuesday's tough loss in which Colorado rallied late for a one-run win, the Diamondbacks sent 14 men to the plate and pounded out nine hits, including a two-run double and RBI single by Brandon Drury in his two at-bats in the inning. Drury finished with four hits and career-high six RBIs and the Diamondbacks established season highs in run and hits (20).

David Peralta and Paul Goldschmidt also connected for two hits in the inning and combined for three RBIs, helping the Diamondbacks snap the Rockies' winning streak at six games and setting up Thursday's match between the NL West rivals as the decisive game in the series (see full recap).

Royals rally past Red Sox on Perez grand slam
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Salvador Perez hit his first career grand slam, connecting in the eighth inning to rally the Kansas City Royals over the Boston Red Sox 6-4 Wednesday.

The Royals have won nine of 11 and moved within a game of .500.

Perez homered over the Kansas City bullpen in left field on the ninth pitch from Robby Scott (0-1). With Boston leading 4-2, reliever Matt Barnes started the inning by walking Jorge Bonifacio and Lorenzo Cain on 12 pitches.

Scott was summoned to face Eric Hosmer, but walked him on four pitches to load the bases for Perez. The All-Star catcher fouled off three full-count deliveries before hitting his 15th home run of the season.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Perez was the first Kansas City player to hit a grand slam in the eighth inning or later with the Royals trailing since Frank White in 1986.

Jorge Soria (3-2) worked a spotless eighth. Kelvin Herrera pitched the ninth for his 17th save in 19 chances (see full recap).

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

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

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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."