Do you blame the bullpen or do you blame the hitters? It’s a pick-your-poison proposition that you could have stayed up all night and into Wednesday morning contemplating if you watched the Phillies’ 8-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
For those of you snoring at home through it all, congratulations on your wise decision and we’ll try to catch you up with an abridged recap of the Tuesday night events in the desert.
The Phillies lost a game in the standings to their three closest division rivals because the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and New York Mets all won. The first-place Braves lead the Phillies by seven games. The second-place Nationals are a game ahead of the Phillies and lead the N.L. wildcard race. The surging Mets, after winning for the 12th time in 13 games, are just 1 ½ games behind the third-place Phillies.
Another St. Louis loss at Dodger Stadium did allow the Phillies to hold on to the second wildcard spot in the standings by a half game, but it’s a crowded field manager Gabe Kapler’s team is trying to hold off.
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Making his fifth start since it was discovered that he had a marble-sized bone spur attached to his right elbow, Jake Arrieta allowed just two runs on five hits in five innings and left the Phillies’ game against the Diamondbacks with a 3-2 lead. Arrieta has not been able to give the Phillies much length since his condition was revealed, but he does have a 3.28 ERA and he told reporters Tuesday that he wanted to go another inning.
Instead, Kapler opted to lift Arrieta for pinch-hitter Roman Quinn in the top of the sixth and the game unraveled from there. The bullpen had allowed just four runs in 28 innings during the 6-1 road stretch the Phillies took into Tuesday night, but against the Diamondbacks the trio of Ranger Suarez, Blake Parker and Zach Eflin combined to allow six runs on seven hits in three innings.
“We had this very specific stretch of the lineup lined up perfectly for Ranger,” Kapler said. “He was going to get several lefties. Felt like it was the right spot to deploy Ranger. He just wasn’t able to come in and attack the strike zone like he’s capable of.”
Those were kinds words. To be more succinct, Suarez could not throw a strike. When he finally did, it was a 3-1 fastball with the bases loaded that Alex Avila lined into right field for a two-run single that gave Arizona its first lead of the evening. The Diamondbacks would not relinquish it.
Parker surrendered three runs on three hits, including a seventh-inning home run by David Peralta, leaving him with a 7.20 ERA in four relief appearances with the Phillies. Eflin allowed an eighth-inning home run to Avila. It was his first run allowed in 4 2/3 innings since being moved to the bullpen.
As bad as the bullpen was, the hitters deserved their fair share of the blame for the defeat. They went 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position, left 12 men on base and scored just four runs despite having 15 hits. According to the NBC Sports Philadelphia post-game crew, the Phillies are 3-for-33 with the bases loaded since July 1.
For those of you who stayed up and watched it all Tuesday night, we recommend an afternoon nap.
Closer Hector Neris knows how third baseman Maikel Franco felt after being optioned to triple-A Lehigh Valley Sunday. The same thing happened to him late last June, so Neris, as Scott Lauber writes, felt it was his duty to offer counseling to his close friend and Dominican Republic countryman.
Brian O’Grady is not a Phillies story, but he is a Philly baseball story. The Northeast Philly native and Archbishop Wood graduate had 27 doubles and 27 home runs for triple-A Louisville this season when he got called to the big leagues by the Cincinnati Reds Monday. O’Grady also once went head to head against Bryce Harper in a home run derby.
Bryce Harper’s batting stance change reminded Phillies manager Gabe Kapler about how former Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. used to tinker with his approach quite often during his Hall of Fame career.
Tonight: Jason Vargas makes his second start for the Phillies vs. Arizona’s Zac Gallen, 9:40 p.m.
Tomorrow: Aaron Nola pitches series opener at San Francisco, 9:45 p.m.
Friday: Drew Smyly faces Giants, 10:15 p.m.
Sunday: Phillies-Giants on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, 7:08 p.m.
Monday: Off day.
There was a lot of talk before the season that the National League East could be the best division in baseball and with 7 ½ weeks remaining that actually appears to be the case. The New York Mets have won 12 of their last 13 games to push their record to 58-56, giving the Phillies’ division a major-league leading four teams with winning records. The N.L. East is also the only division with three teams -- Atlanta, Washington and the Phillies -- that would qualify for the playoffs right now.
In the 25 seasons since Major League Baseball realigned into three divisions in each league, one division has had four winning teams in the same season just 11 times. The last time the National League East had four winning teams in the same season was 2005 when the Phillies finished one game behind Houston in the wildcard race and two games behind Atlanta for the division title.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Question: When Jay Bruce returns from IR who do you think will be removed from the 25 man roster? I hope it is not Adam Haseley! -- Al M. via email