Phillies Blow Early Chances to Score (Again) as Bullpen Falters (Again)

Diamondbacks Beat Phillies
PHOTO CREDIT: RICK SCUTERI-USA TODAY SPORTS

Didn’t stay up to watch the Phillies game last night?

No worries—I come with good tidings. If you’ve watched this team on an even semi-routine basis since June 1, you’ve already seen this game.

It had all of the familiar ingredients that you’ve come to know and despise about the 2019 Phillies: terrible situational and clutch hitting to go along with a mind-numbingly bad performance from a tattered bullpen, paired with frustration, regret and just a hint of apathy.

The Phillies lost to the Diamondbacks, 8-4 last night, failing for the seventh time to reach seven games over .500 since June 19. Indeed, they are now 0-7 in such games.

Come, let us together relive the magic of this instant classic.

Corey Dickerson, who appears to have some pop, welcomed Mike Leake to Arizona with this housewarming gift:

That was a 463 ft. shot to center field, good for the 34th longest homer of the season and the second longest one hit by a Phillies player this season. The leader remains a 466 ft. Bryce Harper bomb at Citizens Bank Park back on May 18.

It was a fun start, but then, well, you know.

Things played out in an eerily similar fashion to the Phillies’ debacle against the White Sox last Friday night as they again failed to capitalize on a number of early scoring chances.

Consider this progression:

  • The Phillies had eight hits and nine total baserunners through the first four innings, managing only two runs.
  • They had 11 baserunners through five innings, producing only three runs.
  • They had 14 baserunners through six innings, still producing only three runs.

The sixth inning was particularly frustrating as Rhys Hoskins and Harper both struck out to kill the Phillies’ last true threat. By the end of the sixth, they were a pathetic 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position. They would finish the night 2 for 16 with RISP. And since we’re on this topic, let’s take it a step further. Since last Friday night (5 games), the Phillies are 12 for 62 (.194) with runners in scoring position. Just nightmare stuff – the same nightmare stuff – again and again.

Meanwhile, Arizona’s bats were quiet early as they were held hitless through the first three frames by Jake Arrieta, but quickly tied the game in the fourth with two runs on their first two hits of the game. A single by Ketel Marte was followed by a two-run homer off the bat of Eduardo Escobar.

That’s efficiency.

Two innings later, Ranger Suarez, who threw only 11 of his 25 pitches for strikes, gifted Arizona a golden scoring opportunity. Previously unbeknownst to the Phillies, producing a clutch hit with runners in scoring position is an option that is also available to baseball teams:

And welp, that was pretty much it.

The Phillies reached the roll over and die phase by the seventh.

I particularly enjoyed J.T. Realmuto’s late swing on a 3-0 fastball that produced a weak fly out to right as the leadoff guy in a one-run game to start the seventh. Jean Segura’s careless throwing error in the bottom of the frame that allowed Jarrod Dyson an extra base on what should have been an infield single was cool, too. Of course, he came around to score.

Luckily for Segura, Blake Parker and Zach Eflin made sure that a single insurance run wouldn’t be the difference.

The Phillies are now 12-34 on the road against NL West teams since the start of the 2017 season. Somehow, they remain clinging to a wild card spot.

Something Positive

The pitching has been bad, and the hitting has been infuriating, but at least the Phillies’ defense has been (mostly) better this season.

Christian Walker hit an 89.4 mph liner to a perfectly-positioned Rhys Hoskins to begin the bottom of the second inning. That play got me wondering about the team’s overall defensive play this season. One metric commonly used to determine overall fielding quality is “defensive runs saved.” It isn’t a perfect statistic, but it provides a decent overall indication of how many runs a player has saved or cost a team relative to a league average player.

If it feels like the Phillies are a better defensive team this season than they were a year ago, that’s because they are.  This play, which saved probably two runs and temporarily preserved the lead, is indicative of such improvement:

According to FanGraphs, the Phillies’ combined -148 defensive runs saved were last in all of baseball in 2018. By comparison, they are +8 this season. They are by no stretch a “good” defensive team (they entered the night ranked 17th overall in DRS), but they are markedly improved from the almost impossibly bad defensive team they were a season ago. Here’s the two-year breakdown by position:

Position20182019
Pitcher-202
Catcher-107
First Base-2-3
Second Base-150
Third Base-14-1
Shortstop-23-3
Left Field-279
Center Field-16-10
Right Field-93

Some observations:

  1. Holy shit, the 2018 Phillies outfield defense was bad.
  2. This year’s team is currently better in eight of nine positions. There have been monster improvements behind the plate, on the mound, in the corner outfield spots and the left side of the infield.
  3. What the hell were the pitchers doing last season? I mean, -20 DRS? How?

Still, like I wrote above, defensive runs saved isn’t a perfect metric. Case in point: Arizona came into the night second in baseball with +88 DRS, including +4 DRS at first base:

So yeah.

Jake Arrieta, Tough Guy (Really)

As for Jake Arrieta, who’s clearly limited by the bone spurs floating in his right elbow, he lasted only five innings, allowing just two runs on five hits to go along with five strikeouts. It seems the popular thing to do is give Arrieta a bunch of shit because he hasn’t pitched to the hype of his contract. Plus, there was the whole tough guy act with Todd Frazier after a loss to the Mets just before the All-Star break which was admittedly kind of lame, but he has stepped up for the Phillies in the second half. The numbers over his last five starts:

25.2 IP, 24 H, 10 BB, 20 K, 3.16 ERA

What’s Next

It will be Jason Vargas vs. South Jersey product Zac Gallen in the series finale. The Bishop Eustace grad will be making his first start with the Diamondbacks after being traded by the Marlins prior to the July 31 deadline.

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