At what moment did the confidence completely fall?
Was it after Devin Mesoraco squibbed the most ridiculous non-bunt bunt single to put two one with one out in the ninth inning? Or was it even before that, when Dalier Hinojosa surrendered a clean stroke single by Eugenio Suarez to lead off the ninth?
Either way the Phillies lost a second consecutive game thanks to a bullpen implosion. Monday it was the Kingston Trio of David Hernandez, James Russell and Hector Neris. Wednesday night at a rainy Great American Ballpark, it was just Hinojosa, all alone, the Closer Of The Night whose hot spring didn’t quite translate to the regular season.
Hinojosa’s implosion – capped by a two-run double by Scott Schebler – squandered an outstanding first start by Aaron Nola. The righty threw seven strong, striking out a career-high eight while walking none and surrendering only four hits. One was a home run by Suarez, but for practically the entire night Nola was in command, peppering his fastball around the zone while tossing his superb curve for a few swinging Ks.
While one can surely blame the bullpen for the loss, one cannot look past the offense, which for much of the night looked pathetic. Maikel Franco hit his first home run of the season in the first inning – an impressive opposite-field liner against the wind – but that was the only run-scoring strike for the Phillies. Freddy Galvis and Cameron Rupp added doubles, but throughout the night Phils’ hitters swung at obvious balls and showed impatience against Reds starter Brandon Finnegan. He struck out nine Phils over six innings.
In short, much like Monday afternoon’s debacle, Wednesday served as a microcosm of our expectations for the 2016 Phillies. There’s good starting pitching, a bad bullpen and – not to be lost – a struggling offense with undisciplined hitters. They’ll need to improve as the year progresses; hopefully, as the weather warms and the Phils get settled, that’ll happen.