As our own Eric Seidman outlined earlier today, facing the Astros in a late-season series has presented more than a few disappointments over the last decade. From the puzzling to the downright agonizing, the Phillies have found many ways to allow the ‘stros to beat them in recent history. Those bad memories undoubtedly caused a bit of trepidation as the Phils entered this crucial series in Houston. Winning the first game would be paramount to calming nerves. Instead, the Phils would compound the tension, falling to Houston 6-4, blowing a late lead, and squandering an opportunity to gain some ground in the standings.
Cloyd On Short Rest
– The Phillies were in a pinch with their starting pitching tonight. With a day-night doubleheader against the Marlins on Sunday, Manuel and Dubee were forced to start rookie Tyler Cloyd on three days rest. For three innings, Cloyd pitched well, even working out of a jam in the third. Then came the fourth inning.
– The frame started with two straight bloop singles. They were promptly followed by a three-run home run, the fourth Cloyd’s allowed since his call up a couple weeks ago. Nursing a one-run lead, Manuel quickly came up the dugout stairs to pull Cloyd. With two bloop hits and a bomb, his night was over after 65 pitches. It was on the bullpen to get eighteen outs.
Bullpen Can’t Finish It Off
– The biggest reason for the rapid ascent in the standings for the Phillies has been excellent pitching, particularly out of the bullpen, which seems to finally be stabilizing after months of torment. Tonight, though, the ‘pen would be asked to go above and beyond their regular duties, forced to pitch six innings nursing a slim lead. For a while, it looked like they just might pull it off. B.J. Rosenberg threw two innings of one-hit baseball. Josh Lindblom pitched in another scoreless frame. Antonio Bastardo let the tying run get into scoring position, but managed to get out of the inning.
– Then came Phillippe Aumont, who was pitching for the fifth time in five days. The heavy workload seemed to affect him, as he ran a three-ball count to the first three hitters he faced, hit a batter and wasn’t nearly electric as he has been. He did get two outs, but he had to be lifted with two on and two outs. It may be time to give him a day off. It was up to Jake Diekman to finish off the inning. He was not up the task, allowing the two-run double that would seal the Phillies’ fate. He’d allow another run to score for good measure, and suddenly the Phils went from eking out a tight victory to letting one slip away.
– The Phillies’ bats came out slugging loudly tonight. For three innings, they looked like they might put up ten runs. As quickly as they got started, they faded into silence.
– Erik Kratz got the scoring started when he doubled in Domonic Brown in the second inning. After leading the team in OPS (.864) during the month of August, Kratz has cooled off a bit in the month of September. Coming into tonight, he had posted just a .458 OPS since September 1. The RBI was also the first for Kratz in more than a week and was a very encouraging sign. It’d be nice to see him start slugging again. He finished the night 1-for-4. The Phillies tacked on three more runs in the third, but they would shut it down after that. It most definitely cost the team, which was looking for some help from the offense tonight.
Please Not Again
– For Phillies fans, tonight’s loss had to feel all too familiar. This has been the script against the Astros. Throughout the game, I felt very tense, but was confident they’d be able to hang on. As soon as Diekman allowed the two-run double, all those old bad feelings came rushing back. Losing the first game to Houston is particular damning, as the Phils are now forced to win three straight if they hope to keep in this race. Anything less has to be considered unacceptable.
– Jimmy Rollins recorded his career 400th stolen base in the eighth inning.