Instant Replay: Phillies 6, Diamondbacks 1

Instant Replay: Phillies 6, Diamondbacks 1

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PHOENIX — Mark Leiter Jr.'s first big-league start was a memorable one. The 26-year-old right-hander from Toms River, New Jersey, pitched six shutout innings to lead the Phillies to a 6-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Friday night.

The win was the Phillies' second in a row and just their third in the last 16 games. It came against an Arizona club that entered the day in second place in the NL West. The D-backs are 46-28 and have the best home offense in the majors, averaging 6.48 runs per game in their ballpark.

But Leiter, called up to replace injured Jerad Eickhoff, held off that lineup for his first big-league win. He also had his first big-league hit.

The Phillies are 24-48, worst in the majors.

Starting pitching report
Leiter held one of baseball's best offenses scoreless for six innings. He gave up three hits, walked just one and struck out five. The right-hander had one trouble spot. It came in the fourth when he allowed a one-out double to David Peralta then walked Paul Goldschmidt to put runners on first and second. Leiter then retired Jake Lamb and Chris Owings to get out of the inning. He punched his glove with excitement as he left the field. Leiter retired the final six batters he faced and left with a 1-0 lead.

Arizona's Patrick Corbin pitched one-run ball over 6 2/3 innings.

Bullpen report
Pat Neshek pitched a scoreless seventh inning to protect a one-run lead. Neshek, the subject of some controversy in recent days (see story), has allowed just two runs in 29 2/3 innings this season.

Joaquin Benoit allowed a run in the eighth, but got the final two outs with the tying run at third.

Hector Neris pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

Arizona's bullpen gave up five runs in the final two innings.

At the plate
Freddy Galvis tripled with one out in the first inning and scored on a groundout.

Maikel Franco put the Phils up, 2-0, on a solo homer in the top of the eighth. He got the green light on 3-0 and hammered a liner over the right-field wall.

The Phillies were clinging to a 2-1 lead when they erupted for four runs in the top of the ninth, highlighted by Tommy Joseph's two-run homer. Cameron Rupp and Howie Kendrick (pinch-hitter) also had important hits in the ninth.

The D-backs got on the board on an infield single by Rey Fuentes and a triple by Daniel Descalso in the eighth.

In the field
Odubel Herrera had an adventurous night in center field. He misplayed a ball into a double in the third inning then promptly gunned down the runner at third as he tried to advance on a fly ball.

Galvis made a tremendous snag on a hard liner by Peralta for the second out of the eighth inning. Galvis made the play up on the grass with the potential tying run on third.

Health check
Kendrick was scratched from the starting lineup with left hamstring tightness. Andres Blanco started at second base. Kendrick had a pinch-hit double in the ninth.

Up next
The series continues Saturday night with Ben Lively (1-1, 3.33) pitching against Arizona lefty Robbie Ray (7-3, 2.87).

For Pat Neshek and Pete Mackanin, goal is same: Contribute without risking injury

For Pat Neshek and Pete Mackanin, goal is same: Contribute without risking injury

PHOENIX -- Pete Mackanin and Pat Neshek talked on Friday.

"We're good," Mackanin said. "If there was some miscommunication, I'll put it on me."

"Yeah," Neshek confirmed. "I think it's just miscommunication. There's really no story. We laughed about it. We were like, 'This is kind of a stupid issue.' There's really nothing."

A mini-drama evolved over Neshek's availability to pitch the last few days. On Wednesday, the right-handed reliever was a no-go in a close game. Afterward Mackanin said he checked in with Neshek before the game and the pitcher had indicated he was sore. Neshek took some issue with that, saying he was told by Mackanin that he was getting a day off even before his condition was discussed.

In Thursday's 5-1 win over St. Louis, Neshek got two outs on five pitches in the eighth inning. It was his seventh appearance in 11 games. After the game, reporters asked Mackanin if he considered having Neshek, the team's best reliever, stay on for the ninth inning. Mackanin said he had but Neshek told him after the inning that he'd had enough. After the game, Neshek said the conversation never occurred, which was technically true because he had spoken to pitching coach Bob McClure, not Mackanin.

While the events of the last few days have been kind of silly, they have underscored something everyone already knew: The Phillies are going to be careful with Neshek and watch his workload closely. And Neshek is going to do the same. As he said Friday, he's a Tommy John surgery survivor and will protect himself.

Entering Friday, Neshek had allowed just 18 hits and two runs in 28 2/3 innings, many in high-leverage situations. That excellent work could make him an attractive trade chip for the Phillies in the coming weeks. This has put Mackanin on a tightrope as he looks to get contributions from Neshek without jeopardizing the 36-year-old pitcher's health and trade value.

Does that make Neshek just a one-inning reliever?

"I wouldn’t say he is," Mackanin said. "You know what? Let’s put it this way: I don’t want to upset or lose something that’s really working for us. If I push him, I’d hate for him to come up with something wrong with his arm. Last year, I don’t think he pitched a lot of full innings. He was pretty much a situational right-hander. I’m more cautious with him than he would be with himself."

Neshek pitched just 47 innings with Houston last year, mostly in medium- and low-leverage situations. The Astros were a contending team with a good bullpen. These Phillies are the worst team in the majors with a poor bullpen. Because of that, Neshek has been asked to pitch in more high-leverage situations and there could be a temptation to overextend him, to ask him to go more than an inning.

"I could do that," Neshek said Friday.

"I don't know about tonight," he added with a laugh.

"When you have a good bullpen, you usually don't need guys to do that kind of stuff," Neshek added. "I mean, a lot of guys, you know, kind of have been struggling here, so you're going to have to pick it up if that’s the case. But I mean, when you have a bullpen that's fully functional you'll never see that. In Houston we never had that problem, so I never did that. In St. Louis, a couple times we had that problem. But, I mean when you’re pitching middle relief you'll see a lot of 1 1/3 and stuff like that. … It's not an issue, man. If it's the playoffs, yeah, you're going out two innings. When you're down 30 games in the standings and I'm tired. … Yeah, I've been through Tommy John surgery. It's not any fun and I don't ever want to have to go through that again, so I'm going to protect myself."

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."