TORONTO -- The losses have piled up and blended into a nightmarish 18-game blur that has put the Phillies' postseason hopes in serious peril.They insist they will recover.If the Phillies do recover and somehow make the postseason for the first time since 2011, it will be quite a story. They
TORONTO -- The losses have piled up and blended into a nightmarish 18-game blur that has put the Phillies' postseason hopes in serious peril.
They insist they will recover.
If the Phillies do recover and somehow make the postseason for the first time since 2011, it will be quite a story. They suffered another late-inning meltdown Saturday in an 8-6 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. They have lost 12 of their last 18 games to remain three games behind the first-place Braves in the National League East and two games behind the Brewers and the Rockies for the second NL Wild Card.
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They have 33 games to save their season.
"It doesn't matter how many times you fall. It's how many times you stand up and keep going forward," Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro (El Oso) said. "We know that we're going to get out of this."
Saturday was the latest in a series of bad losses over the past three weeks. The Phillies had a 5-0 lead in the fourth inning, but the Blue Jays had whittled the deficit to 6-3 when Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta allowed a leadoff double to Danny Jansen in the seventh.
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Phillies left-hander Luis Avilan (Avi) whom the front office acquired earlier this week to be a left-handed specialist, started to warm up in the bullpen. Pivetta struck out Teoscar Hernandez (Oca) and Aledmys Diaz (Papito) for the inning's first two outs, when Billy McKinney stepped to the plate.
McKinney is a left-handed hitter. Left-handers have hit just .214 with a .562 OPS against Avilan this season. Avilan has allowed just one homer against a left-hander since 2015.
But Pivetta remained in the game. McKinney hit a first-pitch fastball for a two-run homer to make it 6-5.
"No, no," Avilan said, asked if he was surprised not to enter the game. "I don't get paid to make those decisions. It's their decision."
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler explained that he had Pivetta face McKinney because, if the Phillies had summoned Avilan from the bullpen, the Blue Jays would have countered with pinch-hitter Randal Grichuk (Grich).
In fact, that is exactly what Blue Jays manager John Gibbons would have done.
Kapler simply preferred Pivetta vs. McKinney, who was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts against him, than Avilan vs. Grichuk. Grichuk has hit .218 with a .669 OPS vs. lefties this season. Righties have a .776 OPS vs. Avilan.
"I think it was more about Grichuk looming than anything else," Kapler said. "We didn't feel like we were going to get that [Avilan vs. McKinney] matchup, even though it looked like we would. One of the things you may want to go look at is McKinney looking back in the dugout before he went up there against Nick.
"One of the things I share with our hitters who are going up there who may get pinch-hit for is, 'Give me a look before you walk up there.' All it is is just to remind them before they go up to the plate to report, just give me a look. 'I might pull you out and hit somebody else for you.' I think that's what McKinney did right there. Even though Pivetta was still on the mound, I think he had just gotten that directive. 'Give me a look before you go up there.' Had we gone to Avilan there, and I think you can probably confirm, they would have gone to Grichuk."
Phillies right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (Sir Anthony), once the team's greatest bullpen weapon, recorded the final out in the seventh, but loaded the bases with one out in the eighth. Victor Arano (El Wey) allowed a two-out double to Diaz to clear the bases and make it 8-6.
Dominguez is 0-2 with a 12.71 ERA and three blown saves in seven appearances since Aug. 3. The Phillies maintain that he will be fine.
"What we want to do is look to help him get his confidence back," Kapler said. "He didn't have his command in the second inning of work. This is a lot for a young pitcher who is still developing. We have a ton of confidence in him. That hasn't wavered at all."
But Dominguez and the Phillies are running out of time.
"This one has been undoubtedly difficult, but we remind our guys how tough and how resilient we are and that good teams have rough stretches, and by no means does this mean we don't have the ability to win the National League East," Kapler said. "We're still in good position to strike."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Phillies could not come up with a big hit in Friday's 4-2 loss, but they scored four runs on five hits in the fourth inning to take a 5-0 lead. Roman Quinn (Rome) doubled with the bases loaded and two outs to score the inning's first two runs. Quinn has four consecutive multihit games and is hitting .481 (13-for-27) with one double, one triple, one home run, four RBIs and a 1.204 OPS in his last nine games.
Phillies shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (Chiquitin) went 3-for-5 with one double and two runs scored. Before Saturday, he had just two hits in his previous 26 at-bats and hit just .189 (17-for-90) with six doubles, two home runs, nine RBIs and a .554 OPS since joining the team on July 28.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera (Torito) had no chance to catch Diaz's double in the eighth. The ball had a zero percent catch probability, according to Statcast™. Herrera would have needed to run 77 feet in 4.4 seconds straight behind him to catch that ball.
HE SAID IT
"He just jumped on an away fastball. [Kendrys Morales, Monina] went with it and took it over the fence. I'm going to be more disappointed if I throw a different pitch there and he hits it deep. I went out with the best thing I have, and he got the better half of me. That's just the way the game goes. I would've liked to limit those runs in the fourth inning a little bit better and give us a little better of a lead, but that's on me at the end of the day." -- Pivetta, on allowing Morales to homer in a sixth consecutive game, tying a Blue Jays record
Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez (Vicente) (8-9, 4.06 ERA) faces Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada (Estratosphere) (7-9, 4.88 ERA) in Sunday afternoon's Players' Weekend series finale at Rogers Centre at 1:07 ET. The Phillies hope to have catcher Wilson Ramos (Buffalo) in the lineup. He has started just five of 11 games since being activated from the 10-day DL because of hamstring and left wrist injuries.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.