DENVER — One unintended consequence of the Phillies’ sluggish slugging has been a lack of high-leverage action for their rebuilt bullpen.
Or, as manager Joe Girardi put it, “We haven’t had a lot of leads.”
Indeed, entering Tuesday night’s game here against the Colorado Rockies, new closer Corey Knebel had one save opportunity, new setup man Jeurys Familia hadn’t pitched with a lead since opening day, and Seranthony Domínguez came into a close game with a lead once.
So, naturally, Kyle Schwarber swatted a two-run homer in the sixth inning to give the Phillies a one-run lead and press the bullpen into action. And, sure enough, it didn’t go well.
Domínguez was one strike from finishing a clean seventh inning. Instead, he walked Charlie Blackmon and gave up an infield single on Kris Bryant’s chopper to third baseman Alec Bohm. Girardi turned to Familia, who got ahead in the count to C.J. Cron before leaving a slider over the plate for a three-run homer.
The Rockies seized a two-run lead, emerged with a 6-5 victory, and sent the spiraling Phillies to their seventh loss in eight games. The Phils are 4-8, their worst 12-game start since 2017 (4-8), and facing a sweep if they can’t win the matinee series finale Wednesday.
“These are hard ones,” Girardi said. “These are really hard ones. But you’ve got to bounce back tomorrow. We’ve got to find a way to win a game [Wednesday]. Do whatever it takes.”
Familia is accustomed to pitching in big late-inning situations. He averaged 65 appearances in the last seven full seasons, mostly with the New York Mets. But he went four days without pitching before Girardi called him in to a two-on, two-out spot in the seventh.
“When that happens, it’s not an excuse,” Familia said. “You’ve got to continue to work hard every day. If you have four or five days that you don’t throw, you’ve still got to get them tomorrow.”
Familia got ahead of Cron, then tried to get him to chase a sinker in the dirt. Cron fouled off another sinker to stay alive before Familia threw a slider.
“I wanted to throw it in the dirt, and it just stayed on the plate,” he said. “It stayed in the middle.”
At least the offense began to stir. The Phillies grabbed a 2-0 lead against Rockies lefty Kyle Freeland, who agreed to a five-year, $64.5 million contract extension before the game, and a 4-3 edge after Schwarber’s homer.
Domínguez appeared to have gotten squeezed by home plate umpire Paul Emmel on a two-strike pitch to Blackmon, although Girardi said he couldn’t tell. Blackmon worked the count full before drawing the walk to extend the inning.
“It’s frustrating,” Girardi said. “A 3-2 walk, infield hit, and then Familia just hung a slider. It’s frustrating. Really frustrating.”
Lend him a hand
Didi Gregorius exited in the fourth inning, two innings after getting hit on the left hand near the knuckle by a 91 mph sinker. X-rays were negative. The Phillies diagnosed him with a bruise and listed him as day-to-day, although he had his hand wrapped in ice after the game.
Girardi said Gregorius also suffered a cut on his hand.
“The cut’s not the concern. It just swelled up,” Girardi said. “We’ll see how he is.”
Before the game, Girardi gave Gregorius a vote of confidence as the team’s primary shortstop against righties and lefties.
“I’ve seen Didi hit lefties,” Girardi said. “Last year was just a bad year for him. He dealt with the elbow issue almost the whole time. He’s also our best shortstop, I believe. I think it’s important to have him out there.”
Johan Camargo replaced Gregorius and picked up two hits.
Gibson strums along
Kyle Gibson gave up three runs on six hits and left with a lead after six innings. But he actually pitched better than that.
The Rockies made mostly soft contact in a three-run fourth inning. Blackmon started the rally with a broken-bat single. Bryant beat the shift by punching a single through the right side. After a sacrifice fly and a walk, Brendan Rodgers reached on a fielder’s choice that may have been an inning-ending double play if Bohm had made a better throw to second base.
Randal Grichuk followed with a two-out RBI single up the middle to tie the game before Elias Díaz gave the Rockies a short-lived 3-2 lead by lining a single to center field.
Otherwise, Gibson avoided trouble. He didn’t yield a hit until the third inning and worked out of a two-on, two-out spot in the fifth. He has a 3.57 ERA through three starts and has reached 90 pitches in back-to-back outings, a rarity for starters after the short spring training.
“Got behind some hitters, but man, was able to execute pitches when I was behind in the count,” Gibson said. “Other than Cron’s [sacrifice fly], they were either out front or they didn’t really hit it hard. But sometimes the ball finds a hole. Really not much I’d probably do different.”
Schwarber had his best game since opening day.
After waging an 11-pitch at-bat that ended in a strikeout in the second inning, he hit an opposite-field, two-run homer to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning and stroked an RBI single to cut the deficit to 6-5 in the eighth.