Unsung relievers help Phillies' offense hold up

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Unsung relievers help Phillies' offense hold up

BOX SCORE

It’s been that kind of a season for the Phillies.

Even when they get some offense and put together a few big innings, the Phillies have a way of making things interesting. Though the Phillies held on to beat the Chicago Cubs, 9-8, on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park to end a five-game losing streak, mistakes and miscues seemed to dwarf matters (see Instant Replay).

Working in a non-save situation with a four-run lead in the ninth inning, embattled closer Jonathan Papelbon allowed three runs on three hits, a walk and an error.

And of course the closer heard some loud boos from what remained of the crowd at every shaky turn during the ninth inning. Even when it wasn’t Papelbon’s fault, too. For instance, with two outs in the ninth Papelbon appeared to get Starlin Castro to fly out to left field for the final out of the game. But just when the Phillies (51-61) were getting ready to exchange handshakes for the win, Domonic Brown dropped the ball.

A four-pitch walk to Wellington Castillo put the go-ahead run on base before Papelbon got the last out on another fly ball to Brown in left. This time he squeezed it.

“I don’t know, but that’s not acceptable at all,” said Brown, who went 1 for 4 with two RBIs in his first game in 11 days. “We got the win, but I can’t drop the ball in that situation like that. I’m supposed to catch that every time, not nine out of 10.”

Afterwards, Brown was beating himself up for the gaffe to the point in which it seemed he needed to be reminded that the Phillies actually won the game. Better yet, the Phillies did it with some offense that reappeared with Brown’s presence in the cleanup spot in Charlie Manuel’s batting order.

With Brown in the middle of the lineup, Michael Young had a pair of doubles in the leadoff spot, Chase Utley had three hits with two RBIs and a triple in the No. 2 hole and new rightfielder Darin Ruf homered and doubled behind Brown in the lineup (see story). Even rookie Cody Asche had a pair of hits and Carlos Ruiz slugged a solo homer in the eighth for that extra insurance run that ended up coming in handy.

“I like the way we swung the bats,” Manuel said after the Phillies got just their third win in the last 16 games. “That's good for our young players. Asche and Ruf hit the ball good. Utley [and] Michael Young got big hits for us. We did some things right. At the end, of course, we were hanging on for dear life.”

Obviously, the hitters deserve most of the credit for posting as many runs in one game as the Phillies got in the last three combined. Lately, however, the Phillies’ youthful bullpen is slowly maturing before our eyes.

With veteran lefty Antonio Bastardo suspended for the remainder of the season for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, the Phillies’ young relievers are going to have to grow up quick.

Forget about Papelbon for a moment. In Tuesday night’s win it was lefty Jake Diekman tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings to hold the Phillies’ two-run lead through the middle innings in relief of starter Kyle Kendrick (10-8), who battled through six. In the eighth, righty Justin De Fratus nursed a three-run lead by retiring the last two hitters after giving up an infield single and a broken-bat bloop single.

It was after De Fratus turned Castillo’s bat to kindling that he drew on the experience gained on the west-coast trip through San Diego and Los Angeles. It was during a stretch of three games in June against the Padres and Dodgers in which De Fratus was roughed up for four runs on five hits and five walks. Though the 25-year-old right-hander beat himself up over the performances much the way Brown did after his ninth-inning error on Tuesday, he eventually realized that the growing pains are a good thing.

Even though he didn’t know it at the time.

“It all goes back to that west-coast trip and learning how to fail,” De Fratus said. “Being experienced and knowing why that happened and growing from it, it’s a comfortable feeling knowing that I’ve been there and I have failed. Other people might take it and cower away from it. But for me it was like, I didn’t die from that experience. I’m still alive. At the end of the day, you just have to go out and compete and things will turn around, and since then that’s all I tried to do.”

Because of some unforeseen circumstances, Diekman and De Fratus may see more action in the guts of the game. Manuel kind of likes the idea of using his young players in those key spots because they can sneak up on teams.

They seemed to sneak up on the Braves over the weekend, allowing just four hits and a run in 16 1/3 innings. In the 10 games going into Tuesday’s game, the Phils’ relievers allowed just seven earned runs in 36 2/3 innings for a 1.72 ERA.

“Diekman handled the left-handed hitters. De Fratus' fastball was up tonight,” Manuel said. “That's a good sign.”

De Fratus says there isn’t much pressure on the relievers to take over for Bastardo because no one expected them to be in this position.

“There was no talk of who is going to take [Bastardo’s] spot,” De Fratus said. “I imagine it’s going to be eighth inning by committee. There’s no difference and I’m ready to pitch every night. To me, the sixth inning is just as important as the eighth. You have to get it to the next inning -- get it to the seventh and the eighth to get it to Papelbon. There is no real attitude change or mental preparation change. We just have to get outs.”

Ultimately, that’s what happened for Papelbon in the ninth, too. Though it wasn’t pretty or smooth, he got three outs and the Phillies held on. With the way things have been going this season, that’s no small feat.

The series continues on Wednesday night when Cole Hamels (4-13, 3.87) faces Travis Wood (7-8, 3.05). A win could give the Phillies their first back-to-back wins since July 19.

Instant Replay: Marlins 7, Phillies 4 (Game 2)

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Instant Replay: Marlins 7, Phillies 4 (Game 2)

BOX SCORE

The Phillies fell behind early and never made it back in losing Game 2 of a doubleheader to the Miami Marlins, 7-4, on Tuesday night.

Miami swept the doubleheader. The Marlins won the first game, 12-8 (see Instant Replay). Miami has won nine of its last 11 to pull to .500 at 62-62.

The Phillies, meanwhile, slipped deeper into the abyss at 45-79.

The Phillies hit eight home runs in the doubleheader, but could not win a game. The Marlins hit six homers in the two games.

The Phils were out-hit, 27-16, in the doubleheader.

Starting pitching report
Nick Pivetta needed 46 pitches to get through the first inning. He got only one out in the second inning before being lifted. In all, he gave up seven hits and six runs. Two of the hits were homers, a two-run shot in the first and a three-run poke in the second.

Pivetta, 24, has a 6.73 ERA in his first 19 big-league starts. That's the second-highest ERA by a Phillie in his first 19 career starts. Only Hal Elliot, with a 7.45 ERA in his first 19 starts in 1929-30, had a higher mark.

Marlins right-hander Jose Urena gave up five hits and three runs over five innings. Two of the hits were homers.

Bullpen report
Right-hander Yacksel Rios, called up from Triple A earlier in the day, became the 13th player to make his big-league debut for the Phillies this season. He pitched a scoreless inning and two-thirds.

Kyle Barraclough pitched two scoreless innings for the Marlins.

At the plate
Tommy Joseph and Andres Blanco homered in both ends of the doubleheader.

Blanco's homer capped a 14-pitch at-bat against Urena that included seven two-strike foul balls.

Nick Williams hit his seventh homer since coming up from Triple A. It was a 445-foot bomb to dead center.

Marcell Ozuna smacked a two-run homer to highlight the Marlins' three-run first inning. Christian Yelich smacked a 2-0 pitch from Pivetta for a three-run homer as the Marlins went ahead, 6-0, in the second inning.

J.T. Realmuto had three hits for Miami.

In the field
Miami centerfielder Yelich leaped at the center-field wall and stole a two-run homer away from Williams in the fifth inning. It would have been Williams' second homer of the night.

Two innings later, rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton sprinted into the gap and made a diving catch to take extra bases away from Cameron Perkins.

Up next
The series continues on Wednesday night with Mark Leiter Jr. (1-3, 4.38) pitching for the Phillies against Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino (2-1, 4.11).

Instant Replay: Marlins 12, Phillies 8 (Game 1)

Instant Replay: Marlins 12, Phillies 8 (Game 1)

BOX SCORE

Phillies pitching gave up six runs in the top of the seventh inning — all on home runs — in the team's 12-8 loss to the Miami Marlins in the first game of a doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday.

Aaron Nola gave up two of the home runs en route to his second straight loss.

Rhys Hoskins belted his sixth homer in his 12th big-league game for the Phillies.

The Marlins had 10 extra-base hits, including four homers, en route to out-hitting the Phillies, 14-8. The Phils did hit five homers.

The Phillies are 2-5 against Miami this season and 45-78, worst in the majors, overall.

Starting pitching report
Nola (9-9) had his second consecutive poor outing after racking up 10 straight strong ones and a 1.71 ERA over that span. Nola was tagged for nine hits, including four doubles and two homers, and seven runs in 6 1/3 innings. He gave up seven hits and five runs in his previous outing in San Francisco.

Miami right-hander Dan Straily gave up just two hits — one was a two-run homer by Hoskins — and three runs over six innings to improve to 8-8. He had his second 10-strikeout game against the Phillies in three starts this season. 

Bullpen report
Ricardo Pinto surrendered a three-run homer to J.T. Realmuto in the ninth.

Miami's Dustin McGowan gave up three late homers as he turned a big lead into a not-so-big lead.

At the plate
The Phillies hit five home runs. 

Hoskins scorched a liner over the center-field wall with a man on base to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead in the first inning. Cameron Rupp homered for the third time in his last three games to tie the game at 3-3 in bottom of the fifth. Cesar Hernandez and Tommy Joseph each had a solo homer, and Andres Blanco had a pinch-hit, two-run shot in the ninth.

Joseph snapped an 0-for-18 skid with a double in the seventh. His homer in the ninth was his first since July 28.

Nola gave up a walk and a single to open the seventh. He then surrendered a long, three-run, pinch-hit homer to Ichiro Suzuki as the Marlins broke a 3-3 tie. Giancarlo Stanton hit his majors-high 46th homer two batters later, also off Nola. Marcell Ozuna added a two-run homer in the inning against Jesen Therrien. Realmuto clubbed the Marlins' fourth homer, a three-run shot in the ninth.

Transactions
The Phillies transferred pitcher Vince Velasquez to the 60-day disabled list and put pitcher Zach Eflin on the 10-day disabled list. Velasquez will have a surgical procedure this week (see story). Reliever Yacksel Rios was added from Triple A.

Up next
Nick Pivetta (4-8, 6.25) pitches against Marlins right-hander Jose Urena (11-5, 3.61) in the second game of the doubleheader.

The series continues on Wednesday night with Mark Leiter Jr. (1-3, 4.38) pitching for the Phillies against Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino (2-1, 4.11).