The story this morning could have been about how a Cesar Hernandez three-run homer supplied the offense, Vince Velasquez turned in a solid effort after carrying a no-hitter into the sixth, and Seranthony Dominguez continued the ascendant start to his young career in an impressive wire-to-wire victory. It actually seems impossible that the focus this morning won’t be on Dominguez’s brilliant 13-pitch seventh inning that saw him blow away Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, and Chase Utley with his electric fastball:
— Platano Power RD (@PlatanoPowerDO) May 29, 2018
Nope. Instead, his performance will most certainly go overlooked because of the clown show eighth inning that featured the Phillies’ infield collectively soiling itself as they quite literally dropped the first game of an important 10-game road trip.
The inning began when Luis Garcia, who appeared for the third time in three days as Gabe Kapler continued his season-long experiment to see if he can actually make a reliever’s arm detach from his body, allowed an infield single to Yasiel Puig. The ball was a 107 mph rocket to Maikel Franco’s right, but it was also one that he probably should have handled. Matt Kemp followed with an RBI double to make it a one-run game. That’s when the real fun began.
Phillies pitcher Adam Morgan entered the game and quickly induced what appeared to be seemingly harmless pop out off the bat of Keke Hernandez, but…
That’s when you knew they were boned. And not only that, but you knew it wouldn’t be a quick death. You knew it would be followed by yet another infuriating miscue. Alas, Hernandez may have gotten off the hook for his gaffe had Morgan handled this comebacker off the bat of Max Muncy:
Not great. pic.twitter.com/UtmRcgxe9M
— BWanksCB (@BWCrossingBroad) May 29, 2018
It appeared Morgan may have had Kemp hung up in a run down had he fielded it cleanly, but he didn’t, the game was tied, and a batter later the Dodgers finished the rally with a fitting and completely predictable Yasmani Grandal bleeder that squirted its way through a drawn-in infield. It was perfectly agonizing in every way possible.
I know. It’s just one game of 162. It’s not the first game the Phillies have lost in painful fashion this season, and it won’t be the last. Still, this one felt different. I have previously written about this team’s resilience, but they’re going to need more than just poise and a set of balls if they are going to bounce back after this disaster. What will most certainly go overlooked in the wake of last night’s meltdown is the offense’s inability to generate a run in the game’s final seven frames. What appeared to be a potentially big first inning resulted in only a single Phillie crossing the plate. Only a catcher’s interference call, a pair of walks, and a wild pitch gifted that run. Last night’s quiet offensive effort again revealed this lineup’s struggle to consistently generate offense and its dangerous reliance upon the big inning. If the Phillies plan to continue their success of the first-two months, they will need to do much more to aid the outstanding starting pitching they’ve gotten to this point.
Maybe that help comes in form of playing more “small ball” which I know is a taboo phrase in the world of analytics. The Phillies have only nine sacrifices as a team this season, the third-lowest total in the National League. Or maybe that help comes by way of playing better defense. Their 39 defensive errors is the second-worst mark in the National League behind only the Giants, and last night’s parade of blunders was only the latest example of their troubling inability to handle routine plays. Whatever the solution, the Phillies better find it fast. They’ll face Kenta Maeda, who has struck out 20 hitters and allowed only four hits in 14.2 IP over his last two starts, along with Clayton Kershaw on Thursday, and, most likely, Madison Bumgarner this Friday. If they don’t dig in, this recent stretch that has seen them drop three of their last four games could get ugly fast.