Bailey Falter at a loss as struggles continue in Phillies’ 6-3 setback vs. Giants
Coming off the end of their recent win streak, the Phillies lost a second game to fall just below .500 again.
SAN FRANCISCO — The losingest pitcher in the National League so far this season was at a loss.
A total loss.
Bailey Falter had just given up six runs — all unearned, by the way — in the Phillies’ 6-3 loss Monday night to the Giants. But an exceedingly rare error by second baseman Bryson Stott didn’t absolve Falter entirely. The lefty gave up six hits in the Giants’ six-run second inning, including a three-run home run to Michael Conforto.
It dropped Falter’s record to 0-7 in eight appearances and left his ERA at 5.13, and it isn’t at all what the Phillies expected from their No. 5 starter.
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So, how does he turn things around?
“I do not know,” Falter said.
OK, what’s different from last year, when he pitched so well down the stretch in place of injured Zack Wheeler that he cemented a spot in the rotation and even made a start in the postseason?
“I feel like I’m doing the same thing, honestly,” Falter said. “Just not as sharp.”
It must be frustrating.
“Very,” Falter said.
And that’s how it went for nearly three minutes in a postgame debriefing that produced little in the way of enlightenment.
It all prompts the overriding question of where the Phillies go from here when it comes to filling the fifth spot in the rotation.
“We haven’t talked about anything yet,” manager Rob Thomson said.
Yet? That implies they will. But what, exactly?
Cristopher Sánchez, the top depth starter at triple-A Lehigh Valley, has allowed 14 runs and walked 14 batters in 13⅓ innings over his last three starts. Fellow lefty Michael Plassmeyer has a 6.19 ERA in triple A. Nick Nelson reinjured his hamstring. Griff McGarry is coming back from a strained muscle in his side. Mick Abel isn’t ready.
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It may be, then, that the Phillies will continue to get as much as they can out of Falter.
They tried to get creative this time around, using days off to skip Falter once in the rotation in the hopes that extra rest would help him regain some of his lost fastball velocity. They also opened the game with reliever Connor Brogdon and planned to turn to Falter later to pitch through the middle innings.
Instead, they asked Falter to extinguish a bases-loaded, two-out first-inning fire — and, lo and behold, he did it by striking out Brandon Crawford on a 92.8 mph heater, his fastest pitch of the season.
But the second inning brought a reversion to Falter’s previous issues, notably too much contact and not enough swing and miss.
Two batters after Stott dropped a one-out feed from shortstop Trea Turner on a potential force play, Conforto ambushed a first-pitch slider for a three-run homer to left field. J.D. Davis and Mitch Haniger lashed full-count fastballs for a double and an RBI single, respectively; Crawford lined a single to drive in a run.
Add it up, and Falter became the fifth Phillies pitcher in the last 55 years to give up at least six unearned runs in a game.
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“There were times [in previous starts] when he was walking people, which was uncharacteristic,” Thomson said. “Now he’s not walking people, but unfortunately he’s not executing pitches. And that’s really the key.”
Said Falter: “Changed up mechanics. Trying to throw harder. Just a whole bunch of things. Just going to go back to what got me here.”
The bigger picture is always worth seeing. If the Phillies continue to get solid starts from Aaron Nola, Wheeler, and Taijuan Walker, and if Ranger Suárez stays healthy, Falter will remain a No. 5 starter.
And a No. 5 starter should be easy enough to upgrade before the trade deadline.
Unless Falter can figure it out.
“I would love to,” he said. “But things have to change for that.”
How rare was Stott’s error?
Consider this: Entering the game, he played 84 games at second base and got 317 total chances without making an error. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Stott had the longest errorless streak of any second baseman to begin his Phillies career, eclipsing Tomás Pérez’s streak of 57 games.
“I just missed it,” Stott said of the feed from Turner. “I didn’t try to turn a double play or nothing. I just dropped it. I don’t try to look at how many errors I have or don’t have. But I think making an error is the thing that makes me the most mad on a baseball field because it’s all controllable.
“Just dropped it, and it kind of spiraled out of that. I don’t like saying one play cost you the game, but when it’s a play like that and what ensued after, yeah, it [stunk].”
Thanks to Davis’ leaping catch on Stott’s ninth-inning line drive to third base, the Phillies finished 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Including Sunday’s loss in Colorado, they are hitless in their last 22 at-bats with runners on second or third base.
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