Another day, another blown save, another ugly loss. If you’re just joining this Phillies season in progress, we want to warn you that there are a lot of days and nights like Monday in Cincinnati.
This particular one ended in a 12-4 loss to the Reds at Great American Ballpark, but it wasn’t as lopsided as the score indicated. The Phillies, in fact, led, 4-2, with one out in the bottom of the seventh when manager Joe Girardi waved in Neftali Perez from the bullpen.
Nothing good happened for the Phillies after that. They did, however, remain five games behind the New York Mets, who lost to the Nationals in Washington. The Phillies begin a six-game homestand Tuesday night against the Miami Marlins.
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Hang this ‘L’ on Girardi
Not even Antonio Alfonseca has enough fingers on his right hand to point out the number of blown saves his former team has compiled over the last six games. That number reached seven Monday night when Perez entered with a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning and proceeded to walk one batter and hit another before surrendering a grand slam to Nick Castellanos on a 97-mph fastball.
All hope was lost for the Phillies an inning later when reliever Enyel De Los Santos gave up six runs with the help of his own costly throwing error.
Bad relief pitching and hideous defense have been a recipe for disaster for the Phillies during the last week and the entire season, for that matter. But the bulk of the blame for this latest defeat should be pinned primarily on Girardi.
Another erratic opening/start by Spencer Howard put the Phillies in a 2-0 hole in the third inning, but left-hander Bailey Falter came on with one out in the inning and limited the damage.
Falter followed with three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out five. He also retired pinch-hitter Tyler Stephenson to start the seventh inning before surrendering a broken-bat single to right-center field by Alejo Lopez on a first-pitch slider that caught too much of the plate.
At that point, Falter had thrown 66 pitches, 22 fewer than he had in his last start for triple-A Lehigh Valley on June 4. Falter said he felt as though he had something left in the tank even though his last four appearances had been three innings or fewer and he had thrown fewer than 50 pitches in all of them.
“Yeah, definitely, I was feeling good,” Falter said. “A little tired. That’s the life coming out of the bullpen, so I’m not really used to it, so I’m just trying to get a feel for it, but I’m not going to question Joe Girardi’s decision. He saw something in the game, and I’m completely OK with that.”
That’s exactly what the 24-year-old rookie should have said, and it was a lot better answer than Girardi had for removing Falter from the game.
“It has been a while since he has been [at that high a pitch count] and we just thought physically he was done,” Girardi said. “I guess I could have [left Falter in], but then I probably would have had to let him face a couple more and I just wasn’t comfortable doing that.”
Actually, no, he would not have had to let him face a couple of more hitters beyond the next one. If, for instance, Falter walked the next batter on four pitches, Girardi could have removed him then and been far more justified in doing so.
Instead, the manager called upon Feliz, who had pitched very well at Lehigh Valley this season but had not been in a big-league game since Aug. 13, 2017. Feliz walked pinch-hitter Aristides Aquino on four pitches before striking out Jonathan India. With the count even at 2-2, Feliz hit Jesse Winker, setting the stage for Castellanos’ grand slam and another gut-punching Phillies defeat.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Girardi said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it — it’s really frustrating.”
Yes indeed, and this time the manager deserved the bulk of the blame.
The Phillies did get some good news before their loss to the Reds on Monday night when they announced that second baseman Jean Segura could be coming off the injured list in time for the start of Tuesday night’s game against the Miami Marlins.
Scott Kingery told our Matt Breen last week that he considers it a blessing that he was removed from the 40-man roster because his mind is completely focused on recapturing the form he once flashed during his rise through the Phillies’ minor-league system.
Tonight: Vince Velasquez takes on Miami ace Trevor Rogers, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Aaron Nola faces the Marlins, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Zach Eflin goes against Pablo Lopez in series finale vs. Marlins, 6:05 p.m.
Friday: Fernando Tatis and the San Diego Padres come to town, 6:05 p.m.
Sunday: Happy Independence Day! Phillies play series finale against San Diego, 1:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
After going hitless in 10 at-bats over the weekend against the Mets in New York, Alec Bohm went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs against the Reds on Monday night, improving his batting average to .240 and his on-base percentage to .279. It’s only the fifth time this season he has ended a game with his average at .240 or above and his on-base percentage has been above .300 for only one day this season.
But the most disturbing number attached to Bohm is his .326 slugging percentage, which is tied for the lowest in baseball among third basemen with enough at-bats to be qualified for the batting title. Bohm was drafted third overall out of Wichita State in 2018 in part because he projected as a power-hitting corner infielder, but he has just eight home runs in his first 427 big-league at-bats.
Perhaps there’s hope, however. Mike Schmidt had just 20 homers in his first 427 at-bats before leading the National League eight times in homers during his Hall of Fame career.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob
Question: We were all hopeful coming out of spring training that the bullpen was going to be much better this season. Unfortunately, this has not materialized. Where does J.D. Hammer sit with the organization? Of all the pitchers with the IronPigs, Hammer is clearly doing the best: averaging over one strikeout per inning, ERA under 2.00 and good strikeout- to-walk ratio. He’s been up for a cup of coffee with Phils before. Any chance we might see him in red pinstripes any time soon? Thanks. — Roger S. via email
Answer: Thanks for the question, Roger. Hammer has pitched very well at Lehigh Valley, and if he continues to do so, I think he will get a shot to pitch for the Phillies at some point this season. He, however, is not the only guy who has pitched well for the IronPigs. De Los Santos and Feliz also pitched well out of the ‘pen, and Falter was exceptional in a starting role. All three, of course, are with the Phillies right now.
Hammer also deserves another shot if he keeps pitching well. He actually did a solid job with the Phillies in 2019, posting a 3.79 ERA over 20 games and 19 innings. He in fact appeared in the same number of games and more innings that season than Pat Neshek, who was paid $7.75 million to mostly spend time on the injured list. We mention Neshek because the Phillies acquired Hammer from Colorado as part of a 2017 trade in which Neshek went to the Rockies.