Wednesday afternoon started to feel like Tuesday night when the first three Phillies batters loaded the bases without an out less than 24 hours after they scored 13 runs. The Phillies appeared primed for another offensive onslaught in Boston as they readied to pounce left-hander Kyle Hart, a Red Sox rookie making just his second career start.
After Andrew McCutchen’s leadoff double, Hart walked Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper on eight pitches, seeming to wilt against a Phillies lineup constructed to mash the way it did Tuesday night in a seven-run win.
But Wednesday’s 6-3 loss proved to be much different from Tuesday. The Phillies scored just two runs in the first inning as the rally fizzled and their offense went flat the rest of the way, adding just one more hit over the final eight innings.
The Phillies struck out 12 times, left seven runners on base, and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Red Sox used four relievers -- none of whom has an ERA below 4.05 -- after Hart left in the fourth inning, and the Phillies could not solve any of them.
“I don’t necessarily think only coming away with two runs was bad, but we weren’t able to build on it, that was the problem,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “We made him work really hard in the first inning and we weren’t able to do much after that. To me, that was the issue. He was effectively wild and he made some pitches when he had to. For whatever reason, we just didn’t swing it as well today.”
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak and denied the Phillies their first winning record this season. They have not won five straight since 2018. The Phillies play a doubleheader Thursday in Buffalo, N.Y., against the host Toronto Blue Jays before opening a three-game series Friday night in Atlanta.
Wednesday’s loss felt like a missed opportunity against a team that had lost nine straight and started a pitcher who needed 29 pitches to complete the first inning. It was a great situation for a lineup that entered the day with the National League’s best slugging percentage, batting average, and runs per game. Instead, the Phillies settled for a series split.
The offensive shortcomings were not helped by Jake Arrieta, who allowed four runs on five hits in 4⅓ innings. He erased that early two-run lead by allowing a two-run homer in the third to Rafael Devers. Arrieta walked four batters after entering his fourth start of the season with just two walks in his first 15⅔ innings. He threw 79 pitches, 45 of which were strikes.
“I didn’t command the ball very well,” Arrieta said. “I wasn’t able to throw breaking balls for strikes. They put some good swings on fastballs in the third inning and that was the turning point for me. Collectively, not being able to throw my offspeed for strikes, and I was behind in too many counts. They made me pay for it.”
Girardi lifted Arrieta after Hoskins misplayed a grounder at first base and allowed a run to score. Adam Morgan relieved Arrieta, ended the inning with a pair of strikeouts, and struck out four of the six batters he faced to keep the game close.
Ramon Rosso allowed a run in the seventh and one in the eighth after Girardi tried pushing the rookie for a second inning of work. Connor Brogdon finished the eighth by retiring three of the four batters he faced and stranding the two runners he inherited from Rosso. He, at least, gave the offense a chance.
Neil Walker’s pinch-hit double in the seventh was the team’s lone hit after the first inning. He scored on an infield grounder by Hoskins, who reached base when Red Sox shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin fired the routine throw into the stands.
Both teams seemed to struggle later in the game with the early-evening shadows created from the Fenway Park grandstands. Harper struck out after Hoskins brought home Walker and mouthed to the dugout that he could not see the pitch. A batter later, J.T. Realmuto seemed to have trouble picking up Matt Barnes’ pitches, especially a fastball he watched sail down the middle for strike one.
“I didn’t hit with the shadows bad, but they looked bad,” Hoskins said. “I can tell you that batting practice here is one of the harder ones on the road because of the shadows. Obviously, both teams are affected. You just have to find a way to compete and get the job done.”
It was easy to imagine that seventh-inning sequence carrying little weight when the Phillies loaded the bases in the first for Realmuto. But he swung at three straight changeups and flew out. Phil Gosselin singled in a run for his ninth RBI of the season and Didi Gregorius scored Hoskins with a sacrifice fly before Alec Bohm ended the inning with a strikeout.
The Phillies settled for just two runs, but it still felt like it could be the start of a long afternoon for a rookie pitcher. Instead, it was the start of a long afternoon for a lineup that had done all its damage the night before.