Final score: Diamondbacks 3, Phillies 2
Much of the reason the Phillies have been perceived as a potential favorite in the National League East is their forgiving second-half schedule. The stretch that began Tuesday — in which they will play 27 of 44 games against the six worst teams in the NL and the very worst team in the AL — is where the Phillies are supposed to make up ground.
So far, not so good.
As it turns out, teams won’t win many games with three hits, even if the opponent is a staggering 38-81 on the season. The Phillies’ pitching staff exceeded its slim margin for error, and as a result, the Phillies dropped to 2 1/2 games behind the first place Atlanta Braves.
The Phillies’ offense has been struggling for more than a week now. It entered Tuesday averaging 2 1/2 runs per game since the eight-game winning streak. Bryce Harper has been getting fewer pitches to hit because of it. Opposing pitchers’ strategy has been to simply pitch around the slugger, hope he chases and if not, go after the rest of the Phillies’ lineup instead.
Perhaps that was Taylor Widener’s intent against Harper in the third, but that’s not how it worked out. Widener left a 3-1 fastball in the upper third of the zone with two outs and the bases empty, and Harper did not miss it. His titanic solo home run, which had a launch angle of 37 degrees, landed just left of the pool out in right, giving the Phillies a 1-0 lead:
But despite Harper’s torrid second half, he may not have been the hottest hitter in this game, as Diamondbacks shortstop Josh Rojas entered the evening 10 for his last 17. He struck again with a leadoff single in the first, and again with a leadoff single in the third.
Unsatisfied, Rojas decided extra-base hits are more appealing — as are RBIs. His one-out double in the fifth tied the game two batters after Daulton Varsho led off with a double of his own. Kyle Gibson eventually limited the damage by inducing a 3-6-1 double play featuring some nifty footwork by the right-hander.
Circling back to missed locations, Gibson had himself quite the mistake in the sixth. He hung a 2-2 slider to second baseman Josh VanMeter with two outs and a man on second, and VanMeter deposited it just over the right field wall for a tie-breaking two-run shot. Moral of the story: Two-out walks kill. (As do middle-middle sliders.)
The Phillies didn’t lack opportunities. Jean Segura popped out after a pair of two-out walks in the seventh. Brad Miller doubled in the ninth for the Phillies’ third and final hit of the game, and Travis Jankowski walked to put the tying run on with two outs. The former scored and the latter advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch, but pinch-hitter Alec Bohm couldn’t bring him in, and the Phillies fell.
Shibe Vintage Sports Starting Pitching Performance
Taylor Widener: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO, 68 pitches
The 3-1 meatball to Harper was really the only mistake Widener made, as even two of his three walks (one to Harper, one intentional to bring Gibson up) were forgivable. Ben Davis expressed some qualms on the NBCSP broadcast about Widener’s early exit, and they may have been well-placed. He had thrown 80 pitches in each of his last four starts, but he was lifted for a pinch-hitter following Varsho’s leadoff double in the fifth. (For what it’s worth, that pinch-hitter struck out.) Widener’s ERA dropped to 4.59.
Kyle Gibson: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO, 91 pitches
Perhaps Gibson’s best pitch through 5 2/3 very effective innings was his sinker. Gibson and J.T. Realmuto would start the pitch at lefties’ hands before it tailed back to the inside corner, freezing plenty of Diamondbacks hitters. It seemed as though that pitch would help Gibson keep a quiet Phillies offense tied entering the seventh, but VanMeter had other plans. Gibson’s ill-fated slider missed badly and got punished accordingly — souring his night, the scoreboard and his ERA, now at 3.18. It was technically a quality start, but it could have been a great one.
Phillies Nugget Of The Game
Even Segura, who has been the Phillies’ most consistent hitter this season, is having a rough go at the plate these days. With Tuesday’s 0-for-4, Segura is now 1 for his last 21.
Ticket IQ Next Game
- Wednesday, August 18 vs. Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field
- 9:40 p.m. ET
- TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
- Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP
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