Another night, another loss. The 5-4, fall-from-ahead defeat to the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park left the Phillies with four losses in their last five games and at 5-8 overall. It also pushed them behind the New York Mets and into last place in the National League East.
Only the 3-13 Pittsburgh Pirates and Gabe Kapler’s 8-12 San Francisco Giants have a worse record than the Phillies, and in a season that is only 60 games, it is already getting too late to say it’s still early.
The Phillies will send Jake Arrieta to the mound in an attempt to salvage the final game of their series with the Orioles on Thursday afternoon, then must face Jacob deGrom, winner of the last two National League Cy Young awards, when they open a three-game series with the Mets on Friday night.
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— Bob Brookover (firstname.lastname@example.org)
By the exceedingly low bar established by the Phillies relievers so far this season, it actually wasn’t that bad an evening for the bullpen Wednesday night.
Adam Morgan, Blake Parker and Ramon Rosso combined to allow a single run on four hits and a walk over the final three innings. The one run was allowed by Morgan, who hung a slider and surrendered a leadoff homer to Chance Sisco in the seventh inning that proved to be the deciding run.
The bullpen has held opponents scoreless in only two of 13 games this season, but the relievers did get their worst-in-baseball ERA under double digits Wednesday unless you are one of those people who like to round up. It now stands at 9.80.
In five appearances, Morgan has allowed three earned runs on five hits in 2 2/3 innings for a 10.13 ERA. His velocity sat in the 92-m.p.h. range Wednesday, and only three of his 17 pitches were fastballs. Morgan insisted he is healthy after missing the final two months of the 2019 season with a strained hip flexor.
“I am healthy,” he said. “Everything feels good. I think for me the biggest thing is getting in a rhythm. The week off and then not playing and taking a couple days off from not throwing is playing a huge factor in it.”
Manager Joe Girardi said the Phillies are aware that Morgan’s velocity is down, but he pointed out that that is true for a number of pitchers on the staff and he, too, believes that could be a result of the pandemic-forced layoff during the first full week of the season.
“He has talked about that he feels good,” Girardi said. “His slider was not extremely sharp tonight. He ended up getting through the inning after giving up the home run basically doing a little bit better, but he’s a big part of our bullpen and we have to get him going. I know his velocity is down and we’re aware of that. But we have some other guys [with lower velocity] and I don’t know if that’s a result of they don’t have the arm strength yet just because of the starting and the stopping and the short spring training.”
It’s impossible to dismiss that evaluation as a lame excuse because the start to this season has been more difficult for the Phillies than most other teams. The problem is it’s really going to get late early this season and if Girardi and pitching coach Bryan Price can’t figure out a way to get Morgan and the rest of the bullpen right pretty soon, this pandemic-shortened season is going to get away from them.
The Phillies season is only 13 games old, but that’s not too soon to talk about the COVID-19 season’s trade deadline, which is only 18 days away. Bullpen help has to top the Phillies’ list of needs, and Scott Lauber believes general manager Matt Klentak would be wise to strike a deal for Baltimore reliever Mychal Givens.
“Sometimes a good snap helps you get out of things, too,” Girardi said after Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins spiked his helmet while hitting into the second of his three double plays during Wednesday night’s loss to the Orioles.
Rookie Connor Brogdon got a call from director of player development Josh Bonifay to join the Phillies bullpen Tuesday, but he also had to finish a video game. Matt Breen explains.
Photographer Charles Fox captured the Phillies’ loss with a gallery of terrific shots.
Today: Former Phillie Thomas Eshelman faces former Oriole Jake Arrieta, 4:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Jacob deGrom pitches for Mets in series opener at Citizens Bank Park, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Lefty Steve Matz goes against Aaron Nola, 6:05 p.m.
Sunday: Ex-Met Zack Wheeler faces New York in series finale, 1:05 p.m.
Tuesday: Phillies play at Boston in just their second road game of the season, 7:30 p.m.
On this date in 1972, Karl Wallenda, at age 67, made a 17-minute tightrope walk across Veterans Stadium between games of a doubleheader between the Phillies and Montreal Expos. Wallenda called it the “toughest” walk of his career because “it was the loosest rope I ever walked on.”
“My hands are still numb from the experience,” Wallenda said afterward. “Any time I made a step, I didn’t know where I was going. The wire was swaying back and forth so much.”
Nobody was more relieved than Wallenda to complete the difficult and unusual feat, but Phillies promotions director Bill Giles came in a close second.
“I’ve smoked three packs since I went out to the park to help assemble the apparatus,” Giles said. “I’ve been doing a lot of praying, too. My wife went to church twice.”
Organist Paul Richardson played “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” as Wallenda nervously navigated his way across the stadium.
As for the baseball that night, Steve Carlton pitched a three-hitter to win the opener, 2-1. It was his 14th straight win, and he improved to 19-6 overall. The Phillies managed just four hits and lost the anti-climatic nightcap, 8-3.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Question: Bob, what are penalties or penalty if managers decide to change relief pitchers too soon? — Steve T., via email
Answer: Thanks for the email, Steve, and I still fondly remember your days as a batting-practice pitcher at Veterans Stadium. Hope you’re doing well.