Phillies hope bad loss doesn't linger

by Marc Narducci | May 15, 2021
Phillies hope bad loss doesn't linger In a 162-game schedule, one game shouldn’t matter much, but it will be interesting to see how much impact last Saturday’s 8-7 loss in 12 innings against the host Atlanta Braves will impact the Phillies.

The Phillies, who have had trouble winning in Atlanta, looked strong in Friday’s 12-2 victory at Truist Park, their fifth consecutive win. This was a team that was surely building momentum, not to mention its lead in the National League East.

Then came last Saturday’s game, which turned into a reminder of last year, when the Phillies had one of the worst bullpens in Major League Baseball history.

The bullpen had been improved this season but not in this game.

The Phillies squandered a two-run lead in the ninth inning, a one-run advantage in the 11th and a three-run lead in the 12th.

The Phillies appeared to have this locked up, holding a 3-1 lead with one on and two out in the ninth inning. At that point, Hector Neris, who still causes manager Joe Girardi and the rest of the team not to mention the fan base plenty of anxiety, surrendered a two-run home run to Pablo Sandoval that tied the score and sent the game into extra innings.

Then Phillies reliever Connor Brogdon couldn’t hold a 4-3 lead in the 11th inning, allowing a game-tying run.

The Phillies then took a 7-4 lead into the bottom of the 12th, but Enyel De Los Santo was charged with four runs. It was Matt Moore who gave up the game-winning walk-off single to Ehire Adrianza to finish the evening.

If you’re counting that was three blown saves in one game by the Phillies.

Last year the Phillies had by far the worst bullpen in MLB. The bullpen ERA was 7.06.

The Phillies began the week with 4.92 bullpen ERA, not great, but an improvement.

With all the momentum of Friday and then losing Saturday, the Phillies were flat in the series finale, a 6-1 loss in which Aaron Nola lasted just four innings, allowing five earned runs. He threw 58 pitches so at least he may be fresh for his next start.

Saturday’s loss not only stopped the Phillies momentum, but it woke up the Braves, who improved to 17-17 after Sunday’s win.

Atlanta is the three-time defending N.L. East champion, but the Braves have suffered key early-season injuries and have not played consistent baseball. The last two games against the Phillies looked more like the Braves of the previous three seasons.

The N.L. East is there for the taking for the Phillies, but the same can be said of any other team. Atlanta, the New York Mets and Washington all have the talent to contend.

And Miami is no longer an automatic W for opponents. The Marlins were the only other N.L. East team besides Atlanta to make the playoffs in last year’s shortened 60-game season. It is a team with an inconsistent offense but some impressive young arms.

The Phillies, who won 18 of their first 35 games, have three starters in Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin, who can compare with most trios, but the No. 4 and 5 starter and the bullpen remain a question, although in his last two starts, Vince Velasquez has a 1.59 ERA in 11 ? innings.

Still, Velazquez, with his past inconsistency, needs a much bigger sample size.

That said, the Phililes look like an improved team, but they can’t afford to give away games the way they did last week, especially to one of their main competitors.

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Author: Marc Narducci

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