Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before, Phillies Bullpen Blows Lead to Cardinals

Actually, don’t stop me, I need to rant. After blowing a 4-2 off the heels of a fantastic start from Nick Pivetta Monday night, the Philadelphia Phillies had their starter pitching looking great and the bullpen couldn’t hold up the win for him. The Phillies rallied but the bullpen faltered once more as the Phils fell to the Cardinals 7-6 Tuesday night.

Tuesday night started off on a good foot for the Phillies. Vince Velasquez started off without allowing a hit through nearly three innings while the Phils built him a 1-0 lead via a Carlos Santana RBI in the first. Velasquez’s first hit, like Nick Pivetta the night before, was a Cardinal home run from Tommy Pham and like that, the game was tied through 2.5 innings. Odubel Herrera would follow up Pham’s homer with one of his own in the bottom half of the third. Velasquez would make quick work of the Cards in the top of the fourth and the Phillies looked like they would blow the game open in the bottom half.

Scott Kingery singled and quickly moved to third from a Jorge Alfaro single. After Velasquez laid down a sac-bunt to move Alfaro into scoring position, JP Crawford took a pitch off of his hand and it did not look good. Crawford would stay in to run the bases but was removed after the inning to get x-rays. Wednesday morning revealed he has a fractured hand and will miss 4 to 6 weeks. With the bases loaded, Cesar Hernandez walked in a run and the Phils were poised to blow up on STL SP Luke Weaver. Rhys Hoskins swung as if he wanted to hit the ball to New Jersey but popped out and Odubel Herrera struck out looking. A small missed opportunity then, given the 3-1 lead, but a HUGE missed opportunity knowing the score now.

Kolten Wong and Carlos Santana traded homers in the fifth moving the score to 4-2 until the seventh inning. Velasquez saw three batters: striking out Dexter Fowler, allowing Yairo Munoz to single, and beaning Wong. Gabe Kapler pulled Velasquez from the game after Vince threw 97 pitches and for the second-straight night, the Phils bullpen had a 4-2 to hold onto. Tommy Hunter entered the game and couldn’t get control. Matt Carpenter doubled in the two runners Vince left for Hunter and two batters later, Jose Martinez doubled two more in. 6-4 Cardinals.

The Phillies looked absolutely dummied offensively in the bottom of the seventh and went down 1-2-3. Yacksel Rios came into relieve Hunter and thankfully, cooled off the St. Louis onslaught. The Phillies slowly but surely recomposed themselves in the bottom of the eighth with Cesar Hernandez singling with two outs to put two runners for Rhys Hoskins. Hoskins drilled a double to right-center and tied up the ballgame. Seranthony Dominguez entered the game in the top of the ninth and the Phillies looked like they could pull this one out in the bottom half.

Dominguez struck out the first two batters he saw and brought the third, Matt Carpenter, to a 0-2 count. Dominguez shook off Jorge Alfaro’s pitch selection and Carpenter knew the fastball was coming. BOOM! Like Charlie being told the duece was coming in Bull Durham, Carpenter slammed a ball to right field but this time, it just curled around the right field pole. The Phils would go down quietly 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th. Cards win 7-6.

I don’t blame Dominguez for this loss. Not one bit. He hadn’t let up a home run in his career and we knew that streak wouldn’t last. The missed opportunity in the bottom of the fourth inning and Tommy Hunter’s complete lack of clutch are what frustrate me. Hunter has been, for intents and purposes, a bust since the Phillies signed him in the offseason. The bullpen continues to look like swiss cheese instead of the lifeboat it’s supposed to be and it needs to be better. Starting pitchers are tossing great games for two-thirds of the contest but the final third turns into a coin flip. Thankfully, the offense is regaining its ability to score in the later innings along with the power surge we’ve seen. Rhys Hoskins has been electric since returning from the DL and Odubel Herrera has been fantastic in the last week. The fourth inning can’t be spared, however, and the Phillies should expect one of those two to come through with the bases loaded. Both Herrera and Hoskins at least provided RBIs at different points, though, but seeing only one run come across with the bases juiced is a tough pill to swallow.

Velasquez’s final line ended up with him allowing four runs, four hits, three walks, eight strikeouts over 6.1 innings. I can’t say enough how great he looked over those first six innings. His fastball was blazing through the zone and his curveball was sharp, for the most part. The two home runs he allowed were from poorly placed pitches but overall, Vinny has been great at CBP this year.

The rubber match between these two is Wednesday afternoon at 1:05 (about an hour from when I’m posting this blog). Here’s the Phillies lineup:

It’s great to see Nick Williams in the starting lineup after missing last night because of the fly ball he took off his nose. With Crawford now on the DL, Mitch Walding has been called back up to the bigs. Let’s see the boys pull this series out for Pivetta and Velasquez.

(cover photo via)

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