On Saturday, Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson said when a team is winning, things just seem to go right. Nick Castellanos will drive in a run with a check-swing double. First-time second baseman Matt Vierling will have six ground balls hit to him, and will field them all with ease.
On Sunday, in the Phillies’ 13-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citizens Bank Park, those things stopped going right.
In the first inning, with runners at first and second and no outs, third baseman Alec Bohm, whose defense has looked much better recently, missed a runner coming toward him at third base and decided to throw to second base on a potential double play ball. No outs were recorded on the play, and it loaded the bases.
One out later, a ground ball was hit right at starter Ranger Suárez, who tried to get the force at the plate, but catcher J.T. Realmuto missed it. Two runners scored. Those defensive miscues set the tone for the rest of the game, which put many of the Phillies’ shortcomings on full display.
Suárez and the bullpen combined for 11 walks, and the Phillies went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The Phillies’ win streak came to an abrupt and ugly end, at nine. It was a bullpen game for Arizona, and seven relievers combined on a seven-hitter. It was Thomson’s first loss after winning his first eight games as the Phillies’ interim manager.
“Well, it’s tough,” Thomson said. “It was a tough day. What did we have, 11 walks? A hit batsman? That’s not a recipe for success, that’s for sure. So we have to do better there. But at the end of the day, we won the series, and we’ve got to move on to tomorrow [against the visiting Miami Marlins]. That’s the message to the guys: just move forward. We’ve got a new series coming. Just keep winning series.”
Suárez struggles with command
The infield defense certainly didn’t do Suárez any favors in the first inning, but he also struggled with his command. In his previous start, in Milwaukee on June 7, he allowed no walks for the first time this season. On Sunday, he allowed two walks in the first inning alone, and four for the day.
After throwing 40 pitches in the first inning, Suárez bounced back in the second, third and fourth, allowing a walk and two hits. But he ran into more trouble in the fifth, and was pulled with one out. He finished his day at 4 ⅓ innings pitched, allowing four hits, four runs, two earned runs, four walks, with two strikeouts. He threw 88 pitches and 53 strikes.
“That’s a problem I’ve been having all season long, but [my command]is something I’m working on,” Suárez said through a translator. “I want to get better at that, for sure.”
Bullpen woes return
The bullpen had a pretty good streak going entering Sunday’s game. It pitched three scoreless innings on Saturday night, and three of its four relievers pitched scoreless frames on Friday night. But Sunday was an implosion.
Nick Nelson entered the game in relief of Suárez and allowed four earned runs and two walks over 1⅓ innings pitched with one strikeout and hit a batter. Andrew Bellatti, pitching for his second straight game, allowed two walks over one-third of an inning. José Alvarado, in his first outing since he was recalled from triple-A Lehigh Valley, allowed two earned runs and two walks over one inning. James Norwood piled on the damage in the eighth inning, allowing two more earned runs, and backup catcher Garrett Stubbs came in for the ninth, allowing one home run (but ironically, no walks).
Bats go quiet
In the bottom of the fifth, the Phillies seemed to arrive at the onset of a momentum shift. Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins drew walks, and Bryce Harper reached first on a fielder’s choice, with Schwarber safe at third on an error by Diamondbacks third baseman Josh Rojas.
The Phillies were only down 4-1. If there was any momentum to capitalize on, this was it. But Castellanos and Realmuto recorded back-to-back strikeouts.
“I haven’t been comfortable [at the plate] all year,” Castellanos said. “But it’s only a matter of time, I’ll tell you that. It’s kind of one of those things. Sometimes you go through phases where you don’t have a good feeling at the plate, at least for me, you know? Honestly, sometimes all it takes is just one swing, and it then it clicks and starts rolling.”