Phillies woeful again with runners in scoring position during loss to Pirates

Phillies woeful again with runners in scoring position during loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

There are many reasons why the Phillies have the worst record in the major leagues.

Their inability to consistently produce hits with runners in scoring position is a big one — and it has been glaring during the first three games of the current homestand.

The Phils lost, 5-2, to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night (see Instant Replay). For the second night in a row, the Phillies had trouble getting base runners home.

They were 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position in Tuesday night's 3-0 loss to the Pirates and 1 for 8 in those situations on Wednesday night.

Not good.

The Phils jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning on the strength of a two-run home run by Maikel Franco, but got nothing the rest of the game.

"We just can't string together enough hits to score some crooked numbers," lamented manager Pete Mackanin.

Just four days before the All-Star break arrives, the Phillies are baseball's only sub-30-win team — and it's not even close. The Phils are 28-55. The San Francisco Giants have the next lowest win total and they won their 34th game on Wednesday night.

The Phils beat Pittsburgh, 4-0, on the back of Aaron Nola in the first game of this series. In the three games, the Phillies are just 1 for 20 with runners in scoring position. For the season, they are hitting just .235 with runners in scoring position. That ranks in the bottom four of major league baseball. The major-league average is .260.

On Wednesday night, the Phils got a one-out triple from Tommy Joseph in the third inning. He died on third. They got a one-out double from Daniel Nava in the seventh. He was gunned down at the plate — with ease — by Pirates rightfielder Gregory Polanco as he tried to tag and score on a fly ball by Franco. With a poor offensive team that struggles to score, Mackanin has instructed third base coach Juan Samuel to take chances. Samuel did. Polanco responded with a perfect throw. Dead duck.

"I'm glad Sammy sent him," Mackanin said. "It was just a perfect throw."

Nava reached base four times on two singles, a double and a walk. Mackanin has an obligation to play the kids, the guys that might be part of the future, but he also has to keep finding at-bats for Nava, for a couple of reasons. One, the team could end up getting something for Nava at the trade deadline if he keeps hitting. The return would probably be modest, but it's worth letting Nava play more to see what he could bring. And, two, Nava has one of this team's best bats at the moment.

"He gives us the best at-bats on the team, quality at-bats," Mackanin said. "I'm going to try to keep him in there as much as I can."

Nava will likely join Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera in the outfield on Thursday. It appears that rookie Nick Williams, three times a strikeout victim Wednesday night, will get a day off Thursday.

After giving up the two-run homer (on a hanging curveball) to Franco in the first inning, Pirates starter Gerrit Cole was tough. He did not allow a run the remainder of his six innings and struck out eight.

Cole got all the run support he needed in the fourth inning when rookie Ben Lively was tagged for four runs. Two of them were unearned after he made a throwing error with two outs. The next batter, Cole, then stroked a 1-1 fastball up the middle to score a pair of unearned runs and give Pittsburgh the lead.

"Lively was pretty good tonight until that fourth inning when the wheels kind of came off and he made some bad pitches in the zone," Mackanin said. "He rushed on that [throwing error] then he gave up the hit to the pitcher. I would have let him go back out there but he had too many pitches, 84 pitches in four innings, and I didn't want to send him back out there."

Lively said, "I left too many pitches over the plate in the [fourth] inning."

And the Pirates did something with them.

As for the Phillies ... 1 for 20 with runners in scoring position the last three nights says a lot.

Instant Replay: Pirates 5, Phillies 2

Instant Replay: Pirates 5, Phillies 2

BOX SCORE

The Phillies scored two runs in the first inning Wednesday night and nothing the rest of the way. They ended up losing, 5-2, to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pirates scored four times against rookie Ben Lively in the fourth inning.

The Phillies are 28-55. That's the worst mark in the majors. They are the only team shy of 30 wins. San Francisco entered Wednesday with the next lowest number of wins — 33.

Starting pitching report
Lively lasted just four innings. He gave up five hits and four runs. All of the runs came in the fourth inning. Only two of those runs were earned. Lively made a costly throwing error with two outs in the fourth inning and the Pirates capitalized with a couple of runs.

Lively has made seven starts. He is 1-4 with a 3.80 ERA.

Pittsburgh right-hander Gerrit Cole, a trade candidate, held the Phillies to two runs over six innings. Both of the runs came on a first-inning homer by Maikel Franco. Cole hung a 2-2 breaking ball and Franco got enough of it to hit it out to left. Cole did not allow a run the rest of the way.

Bullpen report
Adam Morgan kept things in check with three innings of one-run ball.

Felipe Rivero had the save for Pittsburgh.

At the plate
Franco's homer was his 12th of the season. The Phillies had a pair of extra-base hits later in the game, but neither time got the run home. Tommy Joseph died on third after a one-out triple in the third and Daniel Nava was thrown out at the plate after a one-out double in the seventh.

Nava reached base four times with two singles, a walk and a double. Odubel Herrera had two hits. Rookie Nick Williams struck out three times.

Josh Bell and Jordy Mercer each had an RBI triple for the Pirates.

In the field
Pittsburgh leftfielder Gregory Polanco showed off a mighty arm in gunning down Nava at the plate to end the seventh. Nava tried to tag and score on a fly ball to right field by Franco.

Galvis, by the way, was typically superb at shortstop.

Health check
Jerad Eickhoff is set to come off the disabled list and pitch on Sunday. The word on him and several other pitchers on the mend (see story).

Up next
The series concludes on Thursday night. Jeremy Hellickson (5-5, 4.48) pitches against Pittsburgh right-hander Chad Kuhl (2-6, 5.26).

Tonight's lineup: Scuffling Aaron Altherr sits against Gerritt Cole

Tonight's lineup: Scuffling Aaron Altherr sits against Gerritt Cole

After a flying start to the season, Aaron Altherr's hot bat has cooled quite a bit. The 26-year-old is hitting just .176 (3 for 17) in the Phils' last five games and he's the most notable absence in tonight's lineup for the Phillies as they play game no. 3 of a four-game set vs. the Pirates.

Taking Altherr out of the lineup means that Nick Williams will slide back to his natural position in right field — after starting his MLB career with a four-game hit streak, Williams failed to get a hit Tuesday as his average dropped to .278. Still, he's played every possible inning in the field and recorded his first extra-base hit yesterday. He'll bat fifth behind Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph.

It's been a revolving door in the leadoff spot with Cesár Hernandez still on the disabled list and Odúbel Herrera's scuffling at the plate. Daniel Nava gets the nod in the top spot tonight — he'll play left field — and Herrera will bat seventh. Hernandez hit in the batting cage Monday, but his return to the 25-man roster is still up in the air.

Ben Lively is on the hill tonight looking to snap his two-game losing streak. The righty hasn't won a game since June 3 against San Francisco but also has gotten little run support. In six starts, he has a 3.72 ERA but the Phillies have scored more than three runs just once (June 18 vs. Arizona) when Lively's been the starting pitcher.

Here's the full lineup for tonight's 7:05 start at Citizens Bank Park:

1. Daniel Nava, LF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Nick Williams, RF
6. Andrés Blanco, 2B
7. Odúbel Herrera, CF
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Ben Lively, P