Every loss counts the same. That’s what players and managers always say. But the punch to the collective gut seems a little more acute whenever it happens with a team’s best pitcher on the mound.
Or when the $330 million right fielder exits in the fourth inning with a sore right shoulder.
And the star catcher is lifted in the eighth inning because his left wrist is aching.
How must it feel, then, when all three things happen simultaneously?
Let the Phillies tell you about it. If it wasn’t bad enough Saturday night to make three errors and get shut out, 4-0, in Dunedin, Fla., by a Toronto Blue Jays starter who entered with a 10.54 ERA and four relievers — in an Aaron Nola start, no less — the Phillies also were forced to deal with Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto leaving the game with a bothersome shoulder and wrist, respectively.
“It’s tough,” Nola said after allowing three runs in 6⅔ innings and losing his second consecutive start. “Hopefully we get those guys back pretty soon.”
Manager Joe Girardi classified Harper and Realmuto as “day to day,” but conceded that a quick turnaround for Sunday’s 1 p.m. series finale might be unrealistic.
“I’m not sure about tomorrow for either one of them,” Girardi said. “Sleep and we’ll see what we have.”
Harper didn’t complain of shoulder soreness until the fourth inning, according to Girardi, who speculated that he may have aggravated it on a swing in either of his two strikeouts against Blue Jays starter Anthony Kay.
“He came to us, which was smart,” Girardi said. “You don’t want to make it worse. We got him out. And hopefully it’s just day to day.”
Realmuto missed two games last month after taking a game-ending wild pitch off his wrist in St. Louis. It flared again in the late innings Saturday night, with Girardi noting that Realmuto felt it on swings and misses.
It was a rough week for Realmuto. He took a foul ball off the left knee Tuesday night in Washington, causing him to sit out the next game, then came down with a fever and stomachache that left him in COVID-19 protocol on Thursday before he rejoined the Phillies in Dunedin on Friday.
The Phillies were already shorthanded because shortstop Didi Gregorius is nursing a swollen right elbow that is limiting his ability to swing. They hoped to avoid placing Gregorius on the injured list. But if Harper and/or Realmuto are unable to play Sunday, the Phillies would be down to a one-man bench. A roster move seemingly would be unavoidable.
“I’m sure that we’re going to have to figure something out,” Girardi said.
With Harper and Realmuto, the Phillies weren’t generating much offense. Without them, they stood almost no chance.
The defense didn’t help either. Rookie shortstop Nick Maton didn’t catch a throw from left fielder Andrew McCutchen on Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s double in the second inning, allowing Gurriel to take an extra base and score on a base hit through a drawn-in infield two batters later. In the eighth, a pop fly clanged off second baseman Jean Segura’s glove, leading to the Jays’ fourth run.
Girardi didn’t conceal his frustration.
“Just catch the ball. That’s all we need to do,” he said. “I don’t know what that is. They work every day, they do their stuff. It has to be they’re just not following the ball in their glove. Miscommunication? It shouldn’t happen at this level.”
Nola struggled to locate his signature curveball, especially in the early innings. He turned to his changeup, throwing it 40 times, more than any start in his career. He gave up a solo homer to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the first inning and two runs in the second.
But Nola also held the Jays scoreless from there, keeping the game close if only the offense didn’t shoot blanks.
“It makes it a little harder not to have [the curveball],” Nola said. “I haven’t had it the past few games. But I feel like I used my other pitches to the best of my ability to get the ground balls I needed. I kind of put zeros up the rest of the time.”
In pulling out a victory in the series opener Friday night, the Phillies were shut down for five innings by Blue Jays lefty Steven Matz before getting into the bullpen and taking advantage of four walks in a decisive five-run seventh inning.
But at least Matz is a rotation mainstay for the Blue Jays. Kay was making only his third start and the fifth of his career.
It was a more glaring indictment of the offense, then, that the Phillies managed one hit in four innings against him. Never mind that the leadoff man reached base in the first three innings. Neither Andrew McCutchen (walk), Rhys Hoskins (hit by pitch), nor Maton (single) were able to advance.
The Blue Jays pieced together the last five innings with their bullpen, and it was more of the same for the Phillies. From Travis Bergen and A.J. Cole to Tyler Chatwood and Jordan Romano, the Phillies were held to a total of six hits.
A loss just like any other? Not with Harper and Realmuto in the trainer’s room.
“We expect those guys to be healthy here soon, hopefully,” Nola said. “Obviously it’s a blow to us. But other guys have got to step up, too. That’s why they’re in the big leagues, so I think they will do that.”