With disruptive thunderstorms in the forecast again Wednesday night, Joe Girardi resolved to not allow Mother Nature to conspire against the Phillies for a second game in a row by making a creative change to the pitching plans.
Here’s the thing, though: The Los Angeles Dodgers were more than capable of defeating the Phillies all by themselves.
Girardi called an audible 30 minutes before the game and had reliever Connor Brogdon start instead of Kyle Gibson, a move that seemed sage when rain delayed a scoreless game for 53 minutes in the third inning. Gibson came in once play resumed, setting up the Phillies with their scheduled starter ready to pitch sans interruption.
But the Phillies lost anyway, 8-2, before an announced crowd of 32,186 at Citizens Bank Park, and fell into a first-place tie with the Atlanta Braves, one game ahead of the New York Mets. The Dodgers did in the Phillies on Cody Bellinger’s two homers, including a two-run shot to cap a 13-pitch at-bat against Gibson; pitcher David Price’s first career extra-base hit; and another costly error by Alec Bohm, this time at first base.
And that wasn’t even the worst news for the Phillies. All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto left the game in the first inning after getting hit in the mask by back-to-back foul tips. He was undergoing tests to determine if he has a concussion.
The Phillies rode an eight-game winning streak into this series against the reigning World Series champs. Now, all that stands between them and getting swept is lefty Ranger Suárez in the matinee series finale Thursday.
It wasn’t the first time Girardi tried to manage against the weather. In 2008, his first season at the helm of the New York Yankees, he held back then-starter Ian Kennedy in favor of using the bullpen in an early-season game at Kansas City. One problem: Although it rained, the game was never stopped. Kennedy didn’t enter until the sixth inning, by which time the Yankees were trailing by two runs.
Girardi’s gambit nearly worked this time. Brogdon wriggled out of a two-on, two-out jam in the first inning before Héctor Neris struck out the side in a scoreless second. Then came the rain, and when the sky cleared and the grounds crew removed the tarp, Gibson walked to the bullpen to warm up. If he could give the Phillies his usual five- or six-inning start, they would seemingly be in good shape.
“I just felt like we couldn’t do what we did [Tuesday],” Girardi said, referring to the 104-minute rain delay that forced Aaron Nola out of the game in the fourth inning. “Because if we only got three innings out of Gibby, our bullpen was kind of compromised.
“We didn’t win. That was the bottom line.”
Bellinger delivered a big blow in the fourth inning by fouling off six consecutive full-count pitches before smashing a sinker out to left-center field to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.
“I know he’s been struggling this year, but that’s a great hitter who has put a lot of great swings on the ball in his career,” Gibson said. “He fought really hard, fouled off and wasted a lot of really good pitches, and eventually got the better of me. Probably left the one a little bit more middle than I wanted to, but it was down in the zone. I felt like we had a good plan.”
Gibson, who said he thought the Phillies’ delayed-start strategy was a “good idea,” wound up going only 4⅓ innings, his shortest outing since an opening-day pounding in which he lasted only one-third of an inning for the Texas Rangers.
Bohm falters at first
With left-handed Price starting for the Dodgers and Rhys Hoskins on the injured list with a strained left groin, Girardi saw a chance to keep Bohm’s bat in the lineup while also getting sure-handed Ronald Torreyes at third base. Bohm, normally a third baseman, made his seventh career start at first base.
It didn’t go well.
Bohm was unable to get his glove down as he moved to his right for Corey Seager’s grounder in the seventh inning. The ball scooted into right field, two runs scored, and Bohm was charged with an error.
“It’s not always easy to learn up here,” Girardi said. “But he’s going to get better because we’re not going to give him a choice with the work we do with him.”
Paying his Price
While the Phillies manipulated their pitching, the Dodgers stuck with Price, who continued in the game once it resumed. Not only did the 35-year-old pitch two more innings after the delay, but he also came up with his first extra-base hit in 66 career plate appearances, an RBI double to center field that made it 3-0 in the fourth inning.
The Phillies cut the deficit to 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth on Torreyes’ two-run single. But Price got out of the inning with help from a running catch in deep center field by Bellinger, and the Dodgers’ bullpen got the final 15 outs of the game.
Leather in left
Andrew McCutchen returned from the injured list and made an immediate impact, especially with his defense in left field.
In the third inning, McCutchen took a carom off the fence and fired a one-hop strike to second base to cut down Will Smith trying to stretch a double. Then, in the fifth inning, he made a running catch in the corner on a fly ball by Muncy.
Over in right field, Bryce Harper ended the fifth inning with a sliding catch in foul territory against Chris Taylor.