The losingest franchise in the history of American professional sports struck again in the 2010s.
The Philadelphia Phillies lost 840 baseball games that mattered in a decade in which they only made the playoffs twice on the tail-end of the most successful period in the team’s history. Per Phillies Nation Editorial Director Tim Kelly, the Phillies would have finished in fourth place in the National League East if the division race spanned the entire decade.
Of the 840 losses, 73 were walk-offs, 81 were lost in extra innings, 107 were shutouts and 36 times, the team lost by 10 runs or more, per Baseball-Reference. All of those losses qualify as painful, even if some of them were both inherently meaningless and led to a higher draft pick the following season. Nonetheless, here is the first installment of the top ten most painful Phillies losses of the 2010s. Many horrible losses are excluded from this list, as it is hard to cut the list down to 10 without excluding a doozy or two.Embed from Getty Images
No. 10 – March 29, 2018 at Braves
Final: Braves 8, Phillies 5
To say that Gabe Kapler’s first series as Phillies manager was an utter disaster would be putting it kindly.
After just 68 pitches, Kapler pulled Aaron Nola in favor of Hoby Milner, who, by no wrong-doing of his own, will forever be associated with Kapler. With Ender Incartie at second and Freddie Freeman up to bat, Kapler opted for a lefty-on-lefty matchup, even though his soon-to-be Cy Young candidate ace was cruising with a relatively low pitch count. That move backfired immediately as Freeman crushed a two-run home run to right to cut the Phillies five-run lead down to two. The Braves would go on to tie it in the eighth and walk-off in the ninth on a three-run home run from Nick Markakis.
It could be argued that the 15-2 shellacking in the series finale was just as or even more painful than Opening Day. Kapler impressively topped his initial mistake by calling for Milner, who was not warmed up or in the process of getting warmed up, to relieve a struggling Vince Velasquez. The embarrassing miscue even led to home-plate umpire Jerry Layne filing a report to the league.
It may be painful to watch nine innings of total incompetence both on the field and in the dugout, but it is even more gruesome to watch a team collapse on Opening Day in the last five years knowing that this situation was completely avoidable.
Sorry it turned out this way, Hoby.Embed from Getty Images
No. 9 – April 29, 2017 at Dodgers
Final: Dodgers 6, Phillies 5
When Hector Neris enters from the pen in a game against the Dodgers, there’s a good chance things become a lot more interesting. For the most part, that tends to be a bad thing for the Phillies.
Neris blew his second career save against the Dodgers in June. A month later, Neris completely collapsed in the ninth inning in a game at Citizens Bank Park, giving up three earned runs while getting ejected for plunking David Freese with a 95 mph fastball. Two days later, Neris picked up a save to split the four-game home series and yelled an expletive towards the Dodgers dugout shortly after getting the final out, which led to a suspension.
All of that happened just in 2019. Neris’ April 2017 outing against the Dodgers, however, was probably the ugliest of his career and one of the most frustrating innings of Phillies baseball in recent history.
Yasiel Puig began the inning working a 3-2 count after being down 0-2. Neris badly missed on a fastball and Puig promptly drove the ball halfway up the Dodgers Stadium bleachers to cut the Phillies lead from 5-2 to 5-3. On the very next pitch, 21-year-old rookie Cody Bellinger, who hit his first career home run in his last plate appearance, hit the right-field foul pole to make it a one-run game on the home team’s fourth solo home run of the game. The few Dodger fans who remained in the ballpark were officially back in the game.
Two pitches later, “absolute madness” ensued.
Pinch-hitter Justin Turner crushed a fastball Neris could not properly elevate. The Dodgers went back-to-back-to-back to tie the game at five.
For some reason, Turner wasn’t Neris’ last batter. He struck out Chris Taylor, then gave up a single to Austin Barnes. Pete Mackanin finally opted to take Neris out in favor of lefty Joely Rodriguez, who was acquired in the Antonio Bastardo trade in 2014. No matter who the Phillies brought in to face the top of the Dodgers lineup, you had a feeling that the Phillies weren’t escaping the bottom of the ninth. A base hit off the glove of Maikel Franco from Adrian Gonzalez ended the game. Rodriguez would end up getting traded to the Rangers less than two months later.
You can rewatch the nightmare inning down below. We would recommend that you don’t if any children are around:Embed from Getty Images
No. 8 – Aug. 16, 2018 vs. Mets
Final: Mets 24, Phillies 4
Did you know that the New York Mets have beaten the Phillies by 10 runs or more 14 times since 1970?
The Phillies have also lost a game by 20 runs or more only three times in the franchise’s history. The first two came in the 1920s against the St. Louis Cardinals. The third occurred almost 100 years later in the 2018 season.
The Phillies were only two games behind the Atlanta Braves for first place in the National League East and were heading into a day-night doubleheader against the fourth-place Mets, who had just scored 16 runs against the league-worst Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
It was a competitive game up until the top of the fifth inning. The Mets sent 15 men to the plate and scored 10 runs. The real blow came when José Bautista hit his seventh career grand slam in his second at-bat of the inning to put the Mets up by 11. Bautista would go down as one of the Phillies’ last-ever post-deadline trade acquisitions as he would join the team 12 days later, which did nothing to improve the team’s odds of reaching the postseason.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Phillies blowout loss in the Kapler era without a position player or two taking the mound. Roman Quinn gave up seven earned runs in 1.2 innings of work. Scott Kingery fared much better, only surrendering two runs in an 1.1 innings despite some of his pitches not even registering on the radar gun.
Kapler’s strategy to conserve the bullpen in favor of historic humiliation ended up working for the Phillies as they would go on to split the doubleheader. Kind of like how former Eagles coach Chip Kelly didn’t care about time-of-possession, Kapler didn’t care about run differential. At least Kingery received a cool t-shirt out of this ordeal:
The worst (or maybe even the best) part about this victory was that the Phillies had to suit up all over again within the next few hours and play another nine innings of baseball. They didn’t even have enough time to cry about it over a game of Fortnite.Embed from Getty Images
No. 7 – June 16, 2015 at Orioles
Final: Orioles 19, Phillies 3
The screenshot of pitching coach Bob McClure waving the white towel toward the bullpen to signal toward fellow coach Rod Nichols that the phone was off the hook is the defining image of what probably is the ugliest loss during the rebuild.
We would, however, argue that there are a couple of other notable pictures that better exemplify just how painful it was to be a Phillies fan in 2015:
Nichols doesn’t seem to care that Jeff Francouer has thrown 35 pitches and that virtually the entire coaching staff in the visiting dugout is trying to tell him that he needs to hang up the phone. It doesn’t help that Jonathan Papelbon looks like he’s devising a plan to get traded to the Nationals for Nick Pivetta in July and escape Philadelphia.Embed from Getty Images
Perhaps the ill-timed photo of starter Jerome Williams grabbing his hamstring after trying to tag out Ryan Flaherty at home is the real lasting image of this game. Williams was only able to get two outs in an ugly first inning in which he gave up six earned runs, with the final two coming off a wild pitch.
The Orioles would go on to crush eight home runs, which stands as the most home runs Baltimore has ever hit in a game and the most the Phillies have given up in a game since 1999, when they surrendered nine round-trippers in a 22-3 loss to the Reds. The Phillies surrendered eight home runs in a game two more times in this decade, with the last coming in 2019 against the Arizona Diamondbacks in June at Citizens Bank Park.
The only positive to take out of this disaster was Francouer’s performance on the mound. He may have thrown the prettiest called third strike pitch by a Phillies position player in the history of the franchise:
It wouldn’t be the worst idea if Matt Klentak tried to pry Francouer away from the Braves broadcast booth and into the Phillies bullpen. His contract is sure to be luxury-tax friendly:Embed from Getty Images
No. 6 – May 25, 2014 vs. Dodgers
Final: Dodgers 6, Phillies 0
Considering the team raked up over 90 losses three times in the 2010s, it’s a miracle the team finished the decade with four times as many no-hitters thrown then no-hitters thrown against.
Josh Beckett came into this game with a respectable 9-5 record and 3.44 career ERA against the Phillies. He also came into this game with an ERA of 2.89 in his first eight starts of the season. A great pitcher like Beckett was due to have at least one no-hitter in his career, even if he was written off as a castaway looking for his last hurrah. Unfortunately, it had to come against the lowly 2014 Phillies.
While Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS marked the end of the Phillies era of dominance, this game might as well been the existential crisis that triggered the realization that the Phillies needed to move on from the most beloved core in franchise history. It took the organization another year to act on that realization as the team did not fully commit to a rebuild until 2015.
Ryan Howard couldn’t hit. Jimmy Rollins couldn’t hit. Chase Utley was caught looking at a fastball for the final out. It was the first time since 1978 that the Phillies put up a goose egg in the hit column. To go 36 years between no-hitters is an impressive feat for any organization, but there was nothing impressive about the Phillies efforts on offense that day:
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