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Pivetta's struggles continue in loss to Rockies

Valentin hits first career home run in ninth inning
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA - Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta could not catch a break, even hours after he threw his final pitch on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Pivetta answered questions from reporters with a case of the hiccups. Of course, he dealt with worse in a 7-2 loss to the Rockies, which snapped the Phillies' modest winning streak at two games. Pivetta allowed six runs in five innings. He retired seven consecutive batters at one point, striking out five in a row, but then he allowed five runs before recording an out in the fourth inning.

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PHILADELPHIA - Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta could not catch a break, even hours after he threw his final pitch on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Pivetta answered questions from reporters with a case of the hiccups. Of course, he dealt with worse in a 7-2 loss to the Rockies, which snapped the Phillies' modest winning streak at two games. Pivetta allowed six runs in five innings. He retired seven consecutive batters at one point, striking out five in a row, but then he allowed five runs before recording an out in the fourth inning.

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"Yeah, I definitely need to lock it back in here," Pivetta said. "It's a disappointing loss. I'll take that one. It's unacceptable giving up five runs in the fourth inning. You need to be able to limit that inning as much as possible. I'm just going to go back out there, work on what I need to work on in my [bullpen sessions] and my side [sessions] and come back with a better mindset."

Pivetta had been a bright spot for the Phillies through May, going 4-3 with a 3.26 ERA in 11 starts, striking out 67 and walking 14 in 58 innings. He looked so dominant at times that Phillies manager Gabe Kapler even pitched him as a potential National League All-Star if he put together a strong June.

But June has not been a good month for Pivetta. He is 0-3 with an 8.36 ERA (13 earned runs in 14 innings) in three starts. He has struck out 14 and walked seven.

It is hard to pinpoint one reason why Pivetta has struggled this month. Batters aren't suddenly squaring up his pitches. His hard-hit rate this month is 32.6 percent, according to Statcast™. It was 36 percent through May. It is not like Pivetta is missing fewer bats, either. He has an 11.9 percent swinging-strike rate this month. It was 12.9 percent through May.

"I think breaking-ball command is one that is worth looking at," Kapler said. "I also think Nick is the kind of pitcher where if he gets ahead in the count, he's deadly. He gets behind in the count, and hitters get better swings on him. They see his fastball a little bit better and breaking balls that aren't located well, they get on top of."

Video: COL@PHI: Kapler on Pivetta's start, loss to Rockies

After Pivetta walked Nolan Arenado to start the fourth, Carlos Gonzalez beat the Phillies' infield shift with a bunt single. Trevor Story then ripped a 1-2 curveball over the plate for a double to right field to score Arenado and make it 2-0. Gerardo Parra hit a 2-1 two-seam fastball over the plate for a single to score two runs, and then Ian Desmond crushed a 0-1 slider up and out over the plate to right field for a two-run home run, which made it 6-0.

Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro hit a solo homer in the fifth and Jesmuel Valentin added another in the ninth, but Philadelphia never seriously threatened Colorado. The Phillies, who finished with seven hits, have had 10-plus hits in just one game since May 17, and that came on May 29. They have struck out 10-plus times 14 times in that same stretch.

Video: COL@PHI: Alfaro slugs an opposite-field HR to right

"I don't know if me getting frustrated will be helpful for our hitters," Kapler said. "I'm not going to display frustration to them. I'm certainly riding this with them. I'm right by their side, as are all of our coaches."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
CarGo's bunt sparks rally: After Pivetta walked Arenado to start the fourth, the Phillies shifted their infielders, with third baseman Maikel Franco playing almost directly behind second base for Gonzalez. But the outfielder beat the shift by dropping a bunt up the third-base line for an easy single to put runners on first and second with no outs. Pivetta's night quickly unraveled from there, as the Rockies scored five runs in the inning to take a 6-0 lead.

Video: COL@PHI: CarGo alertly bunts against the shift

SOUND SMART
Hector Neris opened the season as the Phillies' closer, but he has since lost his hold on the job, finding himself in fewer high-leverage situations. In fact, Neris has pitched with the Phillies trailing in each of his last four appearances and five of his last six. He pitched a scoreless eighth, striking out the bottom of the Rockies' order on 10 pitches.

"Arguably his best outing of the year," Kapler said. "The [splitter] had real life, down and in to right-handed hitters. I thought the fastball had carry. He was up to 96 [mph]. That was extremely encouraging."

Video: COL@PHI: Neris fans McMahon for 3rd K of the 8th

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Valentin's homer to left-center field was the first homer of his big league career.

"It was amazing," he said. "When I hit it, I knew I had a chance, just because the wind was blowing out a little bit today. I saw a couple balls flying out. So as soon as I hit it, I thought I had a chance. But I saw Gerardo [Parra] trying to get under it a little bit and I got a little bit scared, but I'm glad I got it out of the way."

Video: COL@PHI: Valentin goes yard with his 1st career homer

HE SAID IT
"I think that his composure hasn't been perfect, but he's a young, developing pitcher. He's going to have his bumps. He's going to have hiccups along the way. I think this is just an indication of that." -- Kapler, on Pivetta

UP NEXT
Vince Velasquez (4-7, 4.95 ERA) faces Rockies right-hander German Marquez (4-6, 4.79) in Thursday afternoon's series finale at Citizens Bank Park at 1:05 p.m. ET. Philadelphia's right-hander is looking to bounce back in a major way after allowing 10 runs in just 3 2/3 innings on Friday against the Brewers. He had a 2.14 ERA in his previous six starts.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Philadelphia Phillies, Nick Pivetta