So, you are a Phillies fan, and you are exhausted after Friday night’s 15-inning, 4-3 loss to one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball, the Chicago White Sox.
One strike away from victory, the Phillies blew it. The offense left 15 runners on base and went just 2-13 with runners in scoring position. The bullpen coughed up the late lead in the 9th inning. And manager Gabe Kapler‘s decisions resulted in outfielder Roman Quinn having to pitch two innings, ultimately getting hung with the loss.
If you are anything like me, you are completely exasperated with the way this team has lost many games this season. It feels as if there have been a dozen games or more in which the Phillies should have won, but somehow snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Well, I decided to actually go through the grueling ordeal of researching it. And looking back over the 2019 results shows that we are correct in our feelings. It’s not just that the Phillies have blown games that they should have won, they have also won a ton of tight games. The club has been involved in more than their share of close contests this season.
The Phillies have suffered 18 losses by two runs or fewer, and have been walked-off five times. On the flip side, they have 25 wins by two runs or less, with four walk-off victories. That makes 43 of the Phillies 109 games, nearly 40%, as having been extremely tight affairs.
In many of those losses, the Phillies had a late lead. In each of the following 17 games, fans would not need to apologize if they felt that the club missed a golden opportunity at a victory. These are the 17 games, 11 of them coming at home at Citizens Bank Park, that have caused the collective blood pressure to rise.
In the vast majority of these cases, the bullpen blew a late lead or failed in a tie game. However, in a few of them, greater success by the offense earlier in the game would have kept the pen out of the equation.
Nailing down the win in just under half of these games, simply going 8-9 rather than losing them all, would have the Phillies sitting at 65-44, a game up on Atlanta in the division and seven games clear of the NL Wildcard pack. If you have the stomach for it, let’s relive the excruciating details together.
HALF-DOZEN APRIL CRUSHERS
Wednesday, April 3 at Washington: This was the first loss of the season. The Phillies were 4-0, having swept the Braves and taken out the Nats by 8-2 in a series opener. They had outscored those two teams by a 31-13 margin. In this one at Nationals Park, the Phillies rallied to score four runs in the top of the 8th inning to take an 8-6 lead. But then Seranthony Dominguez surrendered a pair in the bottom of the 8th to tie it up. In the bottom of the 9th, David Robertson surrendered a leadoff base hit, then walked three straight batters to walk in the winning run.
Saturday, April 6 vs Twins at CBP: This was the club’s second loss of the season, just three days after the Nats debacle. The Phillies trailed in this one by 3-2 after the offense had left runners on base a couple of times. They would have one more shot in the bottom of the 9th inning. But before it ever got there, Dominguez surrendered a back-breaking three-run homer to Eddie Rosario in the top of the final frame, giving the Twins a 6-3 victory.
Tuesday, April 9 vs the Nationals at CBP: The third loss of the young season was yet another heart-breaker. The Phillies led this one 6-1 after five innings at home with Aaron Nola on the mound. But their ace would struggle in the early going this season, and this was one of those times. After he had allowed just two runs and five hits through six innings, the Nats got to Nola for a pair of 7th inning homers to cut their deficit to 6-5. Then with two outs and two strikes in the top of the 9th, Juan Soto homered off Edubray Ramos to tie it up. It would not be the last time that the Phillies bullpen would blow a game just one strike away from victory. Washington would whack Jose Alvarez around, scoring four times in the top of the 10th to win 10-6. The Phillies offense failed to score over the final six frames after building that early 6-1 lead.
Monday, April 15 vs Mets at CBP: Every time the visiting Mets scored, the Phillies had an answer. The Phils tied it when Mets pitching walked four batters, including walking in the tying run in the bottom of the 8th with two outs. Bryce Harper then stepped to the plate, but popped up, missing a chance to push the lead runs across. In the bottom of the 10th, Jean Segura struck out with the winning run at second and two outs. The rivals went to the 11th inning still tied at 6-6. The Mets put two men on with two outs and Pat Neshek on the mound. Then, an error by Rhys Hoskins on a grounder allowed what would prove to be the winning run to score. Harper, Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto each struck out swinging in the bottom of the inning to end it.
Friday April 19 at Colorado: Vince Velasquez was shutting out the host Rockies at Coors Field into the 6th with the Phillies leading 2-0. But he gave up a one-out homer and a pair of two-out doubles, and the game was tied at 2-2. The Phillies offense failed to score after the 5th, and the teams moved into the 12th still tied at 2-2. In the top of the 12th, Harper’s clutch two-out RBI double put the Phils on top 3-2. But in the bottom of the 12th, Juan Nicasio surrendered a two-out, two-strike, walkoff home run to Charlie Blackmon to blow it.
Thursday April 25 vs Miami at CBP: The Phillies took an early 1-0 lead on a solo homer from Sean Rodriguez in the bottom of the 2nd inning. It was the only run they would score. The Marlins tied it in the top of the 3rd off Nola, and the game remained 1-1 into the 10th inning. Hector Neris retired the first two Miami batters. But then he allowed a two-out, two-strike double to Neil Walker followed by a two-strike, two-run homer to Starlin Castro to give Miami a 3-1 lead. The Phillies went out 1-2-3 in their half and suffered yet another home heartbreaker.
PAIR OF MAYDAY CALLS
Saturday, May 4 vs Washington at CBP: With the game tied at 3-3 into the 7th, the Nats scored twice to take the lead. But the Phillies offense responded immediately on this night, scoring five times in the bottom to take an 8-5 lead. In the top of the 8th, Neshek put two runners on base, and with two outs he was lifted for Adam Morgan. The lefty promptly surrendered a game-tying home run to Kurt Suzuki, and then a go-ahead homer to the very next batter, Victor Robles. The Nats tacked on one more in the 9th off Ramos, and escaped with a 10-8 win in South Philly.
Tuesday, May 21 at Wrigley Field vs the Cubs: After blowing that game against Washington, the Phillies recovered to begin one of their best runs of the season, winning 10 of 15 to move out to a 2.5 game division lead. In the second game of their series at Wrigley Field, the Phils suffered what would be just their second truly blown opportunity of the month of May. Leading 2-1 into the bottom of the 9th inning, Nicasio loaded the bases with one out. The Cubs then tied it on a fielder’s choice in which Kris Bryant was nearly thrown out at the plate. The Cubs then did the ending, when Javier Baez drilled a first-pitch walkoff single.
HALF-DOZEN MORE DURING JUNE SWOON
Saturday, June 1 at Dodger Stadium: Still in first place themselves, the Phillies had a chance to dump the best team in baseball on the road. Harper’s two-run home run in the top of the 8th inning tied the game at 3-3. But with one out in the bottom of the 9th and the count full, Neris gave up a walkoff home run to rookie Dodgers catcher Will Smith for a 4-3 defeat.
Sunday, June 9 vs Reds at CBP: After a tough road trip, the Phillies had won four straight to move 10 games over the .500 mark and two games up in the NL East race. Nola took a 3-1 lead into the top of the 7th inning at home, then again ran out of gas after retiring the first two batters. After he surrendered a two-out single and walk, manager Gabe Kapler brought in Alvarez. The lefty reliever promptly yielded a two-run single to tie it up, and then an RBI single to the very next batter to give Cincy a 4-3 lead. The Reds bullpen then retired nine of the final 10 Phillies batters.
Friday, June 14 at Atlanta: A truly back-breaking defeat. The Braves had slipped past the Phillies in the NL East standings by 1.5 games as the two division rivals opened a big weekend series in Atlanta. The Phils bolted out to a 5-1 lead behind Nick Pivetta, who then took a 7-2 lead into the bottom of the 7th inning. Brian McCann reached him for a leadoff home run. Then with two outs, Pivetta allowed a double and a walk. Kapler went to Vince Velasquez out of the bullpen, and the former starter immediately allowed an RBI single to Freddie Freeman to cut the Phils lead down to 7-4. The Phillies pushed their lead out to 8-4 in the top of the 8th, but then Alvarez allowed a two-out, two-strike RBI single. Ramos came on and yielded a two-strike RBI triple to the next batter to make it an 8-6 ball game. In the bottom of the 9th, Neris put two on but also got two outs. Then he gave up a two-strike RBI double to Austin Riley to make it 8-7, followed by a two-strike, two-run walkoff double to McCann to blow it.
Friday, June 21 vs Miami at CBP: The Phillies were in the midst of their worst stretch of the season, having lost four straight and six of seven. When the last-place Marlins came to town, it was a chance for the Phillies to get things re-stabilized. It was not to be, as the Fish would win all three games of the weekend set by two runs or fewer. In this Friday series opener, the Phillies offense left 11 men on base and went just 2-12 with runners in scoring position. With the game knotted at 1-1 into the 6th, Miami scored an unearned run off Nola to take a 2-1 lead. The Phillies left the tying run at third base in the home 8th, and dropped a lifeless decision.
Saturday, June 22 vs Miami at CBP: The very next night, the Phillies took a 3-1 lead into the top of the 7th against Miami. Morgan came on in relief and allowed the first three men to reach base, giving up a run to make it a 3-2 game. Then with two on and two out, Ramos came on and allowed a two-run double on the first pitch he threw, putting the Marlins up 4-3. They pushed another across on J.D. Hammer in the top of the 8th, and beat the Phillies by 5-3.
Saturday, June 29 at Miami: A week after that second-straight disheartening defeat at home to the Fish, the Phillies suffered one at Marlins Park. After building a 6-1 lead behind Zach Eflin, Miami got a two-run homer from Walker to make it a 6-3 game in the bottom of the 6th inning. In the next inning, Nicasio allowed a run and gave way to Morgan with one out and runners at first and third. Morgan then got ripped by the Marlins, allowing two singles around a pair of doubles over the next four batters. The result was five more runs for the hosts, who took a 9-6 lead. The Phillies bats went silent over the final four frames, and it was another loss to the last place team in the division.
TRIO OF SECOND HALF COLLAPSES (SO FAR)
Saturday, July 13 vs Washington at CBP: Their awful 10-17 stretch had dropped the Phillies into third place, 8.5 behind Atlanta and now 1.5 back of the Nationals. With a chance to gain ground head-to-head, Nola had the Phillies on top with a shutout, leading 3-0 into the top of the 6th inning. But then he walked two and allowed a two-out RBI single to Robles to make it a 3-1 game. In the top of the 8th, Morgan would blow it again, though his defense also let him down. He walked two and retired two batters. With two outs, an error by Maikel Franco at third base allowed a run to score, cutting the Phillies lead down to 3-2. Then it was Neris’ turn in the top of the 9th inning. The closer retired the first two batters, but then allowed a base hit to Anthony Rendon. That was followed by a game-turning, first-pitch, two-run homer off the bat of Soto that put the Nationals up 4-3. The Phillies got Roman Quinn to second base with two outs in the bottom of the frame, but a series of moves by Kapler had left his best pinch-hit option for Neris as backup catcher Andrew Knapp. The result was as expected, a 4-3 Phillies loss.
Wednesday, July 17 vs the Dodgers at CBP: After winning a spirited walkoff victory the prior night against baseball’s best team, the Phillies and Dodgers were tied at 2-2 into the 7th inning. But Nicasio allowed a two-run homer to David Freese in the top of the 7th, Austin Davis gave up a two-run homer to Justin Turner in the top of the 8th, and the Dodgers coasted home with five runs over the final three innings for a 7-2 victory. The Phillies offense produced just two hits off a half-dozen Dodgers pitchers, who retired nine Phils batters in a row in the late innings as their own hitters opened up the lead.
Friday, August 2 vs the Chisox: Last night. I refuse to relive this 15-inning debacle completely. But the Phillies offense failed to score over the final eight frames, Velasquez was forced to play left field, and Quinn was forced to pitch two innings. If you are that much of a masochist that you need the full details, enjoy my game story at that link.
The Phillies have lost 52 games this season, so their performances in these 17 do not tell the full story. However, they do tell much of the frustrating 2019 story for Phillies fans who feel that they have suffered through far too many late defeats that looked like the could have, usually should have, been put into the win column.
Again, the Phillies did not need to win all of these games. They didn’t even need to win half of them. An 8-9 record in games they definitely could have won with a few timely hits and/or a better effort from the bullpen would have them in first place right now. Somehow, they have to find a way to make this stop over the next eight weeks.
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