Arch, That Hurts! Thoughts After Marlins 3, Phillies 2

PHOTO CREDIT: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

This can’t keep happening…and yet it does.

There’s no such thing as an actual curse… and yet, in Miami, it sure seems like there is.

“We can’t let this happen and have to start winning games,”… except against the Marlins, everything goes wrong and you lose.

Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to Miami was especially frustrating. The Phillies had the game won. And with the Braves losing to Colorado again, the Phils were poised to move to within a game of first place.

Through seven innings, Phillies pitchers had blanked the Marlins. They had limited them to just a couple of hits. And although the Phillies offense, which always seems to disappear in the house of horrors that is Marlins Park, or whatever the hell the corporate sponsorship is there these days, they had done just enough and were six outs away from certain victory.

Then came the bottom of the eighth. And that’s where things went horribly wrong.

Archie Bradley gave up three hits. A double, a single and a two-out, opposite field home run to Lewis Brinson that jut nicked the foul pole, and the lead was gone.

The Phillies got a leadoff baserunner in the ninth inning on a hit by Didi Gregorius, but had consecutive fielder’s choices by Ronald Torreyes and Travis Jankowski, both of whom made really weak contact on 3-1 pitches against Miami closer Dylan Floro who seemed to struggle to throw strikes to the first three batters before he whiffed Odubel Herrera to win the game.

It was the Phillies 20th loss in their last 31 games in Miami. They’ve only hit .217 this season in 15 games against the Marlins.

The Miami rally was started by Bryan De la Cruz, who ripped a pinch hit double to right field off of Bradley to lead off the eighth inning. Phillie killer Miguel Rojas drove him in with an RBI single. Bradley got the next two outs before blowing the save on the Brinson homer.

“Miguel Rojas is a borderline Hall of Fame player against the Phillies, I feel like,” said Bradley.

You know what though, A lot of guys could be hall-of-famers hitting the pitches that Bradley offered to De La Cruz, Rojas and Brinson.

Let’s get into that a minute, shall we?

Leaking Oil

Bradley made a big deal earlier this season about how he wants manager Joe Girardi to lean on him. That he wants to pitch every day. That he can be a reliable setup man for the Phillies.

And, for the better part of six weeks, that seemed to be the case.

From June 30 through August 12, Bradley appeared in 17 games. He pitched 18 2/3 innings and had a 0.48 ERA with a 0.96 WHIP. Opposing hitters were slashing a meager .206/.250/.471 against him.

However, since then Bradley has looked more like a reliever from the 2020 Phillies.

In his last seven appearances, Bradley has thrown seven innings and has had a 7.71 ERA with a 2.14 WHIP. Opposing hitters are slashing .323/.432/.884 against him.

At this point, Girardi probably has no choice but to change his role. He can’t wait for Bradley to find his way out of it. It’s too crucial a stage in the season.

Hector Neris has done really well in his role earlier in games – he had a strong sixth inning against the Marlins Saturday – and probably should be the guy the Phillies turn to now for eighth inning work.

There aren’t many arms in the pen for Girardi to rely on right about now. Neris and Connor Brogdon, who pitched the seventh inning Saturday, are the most consistent. J.D. Hammer was pitching really well before getting roughed up on Friday. Ian Kennedy is a battler, but hasn’t been great since he got here.

The Phillies needed Bradley, and he might be a bit of a dead arm now.

De la Cruz’s double came on a first-pitch fastball that was 94MPH right over the heart of the plate. I’m not sure if Bradley thought he could throw a get-me-over pitch to a pinch hitter who wanted to see a pitch first, but De la Cruz has shown to be an aggressive swinger, so, the pitch was perplexing.

Against Rojas, he threw two pitches. Both fastballs at 94MPH. The first was uncompetitive as it was well off the plate. The second wasn’t much better than the pitch to De la Cruz except it was a little further down in the strike zone.

There’s not much to the pitch. It doesn’t have much movement. And it’s still right over the plate where a guy like Rojas can put it in play.

It was obvious Bradley wasn’t happy with those fastballs and you could see the difference in the next two batters.

He struck out Jazz Chisholm without throwing him a four-seamer. There were two knuckle-curves, a sinker, and a change up off the plate that he got Chisholm fishing on for the first out.

The first three pitches against Jesus Aguilar were also not his four-seamer, as he threw a sinker and two knuckle curves. He did go back to the four-seamer to strike out Aguilar looking, but the guess is it was a bit of a surprise pitch because he had just thrown seven straight pitches that weren’t the four-seamer.

Which begged the question, if pitching backwards against those two hitters was successful, why would he try another straight, 94MPH, four-seamer up in the zone against Brinson, who is known to attack first ball fastballs?

Yet, that’s what he did. It was a meatball. Brinson wasn’t expecting it, which is why he swung a little late, but he was still able to barrel it and just keep it fair 350 feet away.

It was the 27th blown save of the season, a franchise record. It was also the Phillies 11th loss this season when leading in the eighth inning.

Neither of those numbers are good, but one has to question why Bradley kept throwing a pitch that was getting hammered? Is that his call? Is that J.T. Realmuto’s call? Is that Girardi calling it from the bench? Is it a game plan worked out by pitching coach Caleb Cotham? Whatever the reason, it was a bad decision, and it cost the Phillies another game.

Ranger Danger?

The big question during the game Saturday was why Girardi chose to pull starting pitcher Ranger Suarez after five shutout innings on just 71 pitches.

It turns out, Suarez has been dealing with a bit of a triceps issue. It didn’t flare up during the game, but Suarez admitted that he did feel it in recent starts and his last two starts he threw 95 and 99 pitches each.

So, the Phillies wanted to play it safe with him and try to injure the guy who has been their best starting pitcher for the past month.

Girardi had hoped his top four relievers could get the job done with an inning apiece. He got halfway there.

Suarez wasn’t only excellent on the hill, but had a two-out RBI double that stretched the Phillies lead to 2-0.

Nevertheless, There’s a wonder, considering how this decision backfired, if the Phillies don’t take a risk and leave Suarez in for at least another inning in his next start.

Lefty Killer

Andrew McCutchen gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning Saturday with 23rd home run of the season.

McCutchen is slashing .307/.426/1.087 this season in 169 plate appearances against lefties. In addition, 14 of his home runs this season have come off left-handed pitchers.

And while McCutchen has struggled against righties and has found himself in more of a platoon role here down the stretch, he is starting to come around offensively overall after an absolutely brutal stretch of plate appearances.

Since August 25, McCutchen is slashing .320/.485/1.005.

What’s at Stake

The Phillies are still just two games behind the Atlanta Braves in the N.L. East, but lost a game in the race for the second wild card as Cincinnati defeated Detroit Saturday. The Phillies are three games back of the Reds. However, the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals are also ahead of the Phillies in the wild card race.

The Phillies will try not to get swept by the Marlins Sunday. It will be a bullpen game for the Phillies, and no starting pitcher has been announced yet. Matt Moore seems like a possibility, although the Phillies could use him later in the game when the matchups are more in their favor. Cam Bedrosian has been an opener before, so he could get the nod as well.

The Marlins will counter with RHP Elieser Hernandez, who has pitched well in six starts this season, but missed a chunk of time with a biceps injury.

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