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After rough road trip, Phillies will 'get up strong'

@goodforball
August 12, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- The eighth-inning, two-run single that San Francisco Giants closer Will Smith lashed in his first career plate appearance essentially sealed Philadelphia’s 9-6 defeat Sunday. It also had the effect of posing some inevitable questions to the Phillies: How resilient are you? Can you recover from losing in

SAN FRANCISCO -- The eighth-inning, two-run single that San Francisco Giants closer Will Smith lashed in his first career plate appearance essentially sealed Philadelphia’s 9-6 defeat Sunday. It also had the effect of posing some inevitable questions to the Phillies:

How resilient are you? Can you recover from losing in one of the toughest ways possible? Or will a batch of similar setbacks follow, thus casting the rest of the season into irrelevance?

Suffice it to say that the Phillies are trending poorly. Sunday’s outcome ended a 2-5 trip that left Philadelphia 2 1/2 games behind Wild Card leader Washington. Moreover, the Brewers, Cardinals and Mets stand between the Nationals and Phils, who lost three of four games to the sub-.500 Giants. This wasn’t what Philadelphia manager Gabe Kapler had in mind when the trip began.

“It was a disappointing road trip; We didn’t execute enough on offense or on the mound,” Kapler said. “We go back home; we know we’re right in the hunt and we continue to fight. That’s what we have control over -- how we respond when we get knocked down. This road trip was definitely that. We’ll get up and we’ll get up strong.”

Box score

The Phillies threw some effective counterpunches in the series finale. They surged ahead, 5-2, after San Francisco scored twice in the first inning. But the Giants pulled even with three runs in the third inning off Phillies starter Jake Arrieta, whose ailing elbow limited his pitching repertoire.

“I threw the fastball pretty well,” said Arrieta, who surrendered five runs and seven hits in three innings. “But I lacked the ability to throw off-speed with any effect today.”

The score remained tied in the eighth inning, 6-6, when the Phillies made a decision that proved to be ill-fated.

Evan Longoria singled off Phillies reliever José Álvarez to open the inning. Two outs later, Nick Pivetta relieved Alvarez and flung a wild pitch, advancing Longoria to second. Kapler didn’t even twitch as he watched this scenario unfold. Pivetta simply had to retire .249-batting Kevin Pillar, and the Phillies would receive another inning of life.

“Pillar has chased quite a bit recently,” Kapler said. “He’s chased up out of the zone. He’s chased below the zone. We had that matchup tailor-made. It was the matchup that we looked for. We talked about it prior to the inning. We were going to set up for that with fastballs up and out and hammers down.”

Wild-pitching Longoria to second base didn’t change Pivetta’s objective, particularly since Kapler wasn’t considering intentionally walking.Pillar with first base open. But Pivetta fell behind on the count, 3-1. That forced him to throw a fastball that Pillar crushed to right-center field for a triple, scoring Longoria.

After Pivetta intentionally walked Brandon Crawford, he fell behind again on the count to Smith, 3-1. That, said Pivetta, “is inexcusable in any count [at] any time and he just got his barrel on the ball.”

Pivetta described himself as bearing “a heavy heart.”

“It’s a lot to put on me,” said Pivetta, who moved to the bullpen from the starting rotation in mid-July. “But I know that when I get the opportunity in the next couple of days, I’m going to go out and do what I’ve been doing. Be consistent. There’s always another game. It’s not the right time for us, obviously, because we need to be stacking up wins. That’s on me today, especially. in that [eighth] inning. It is what it is. But you gotta move forward.”

Chris Haft has covered the Major Leagues since 1991 and has worked for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @goodforball.