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Phillies 'pen can't tamp down Cardinals' bats

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies made the case Tuesday afternoon that their bullpen not only has pitched better than results have shown recently, but it has been one of the best bullpens in the National League.

A few hours later, that bullpen blew a two-run lead in the seventh inning and allowed the game-winning home run in the ninth inning in a 7-6 loss to the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park.

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PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies made the case Tuesday afternoon that their bullpen not only has pitched better than results have shown recently, but it has been one of the best bullpens in the National League.

A few hours later, that bullpen blew a two-run lead in the seventh inning and allowed the game-winning home run in the ninth inning in a 7-6 loss to the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park.

View Full Game Coverage

"I think we have a pretty solid group," Tommy Hunter said. "Just need to make better pitches."

The Phillies' bullpen had a 2.86 ERA through May 5. It ranked among the best in baseball in expected wOBA (.308, tied for fifth), expected batting average (.226, tied for fifth) and expected slugging percentage (.384, sixth). But the bullpen has been hit much harder since. It has a 5.42 ERA since May 5. It has ranked toward the bottom in xwOBA (.330, 20th), xBA (.264, 28th) and xSLG (.441, 25th). Former closer Hector Neris not only lost his job in that time, he got demoted to Triple-A. The Phillies have been operating without a closer since.

The talent might be there, but the results have not.

Video: STL@PHI: Alfaro throws out Munoz at second base

"Roughly six days ago, the questions that we were addressing were: Are you concerned about this offense?" Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "I said very comfortably that I had a lot of confidence in this offense, and the reason I said I had a lot of confidence in this offense is because I know that we have a talented group of individuals, guys that have a track record of success.

"I'm very confident in our bullpen too for the same reason. We have a lot of athletic arms out there, guys that are prepared to play every single night, guys with a track record of success. Seranthony Dominguez has been dominant through the beginning of his career. Tommy Hunter has years of success under his belt. That's why we went and got him. Do I have confidence in our bullpen? Absolutely. Just like I have confidence in our offense."

Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez carried a 4-2 lead into the seventh inning when he allowed two batters to reach base with one out. Kapler summoned Hunter from the bullpen. Before the game, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak mentioned that Hunter arguably could be having the best season of his career, possibly referring to Hunter's career-best 2.34 FIP.

But after Hunter recorded the second out in the seventh, he allowed a double to Matt Carpenter, a single to Tommy Pham and a double to Jose Martinez to score four runs. The Cardinals had a 6-4 lead.

"I mean, it sucks," Hunter said. "It was a big part of the game, and I didn't come through."

Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins hit a two-out double to right-center field in the eighth -- he hit a 1-2 fastball from Jordan Hicks that registered 101.3 mph -- to score Jesmuel Valentin and Cesar Hernandez to tie the game. But then, Dominguez, who has established himself as Kapler's most trusted bullpen weapon in a little more than a month, allowed a two-out solo home run to Carpenter in the ninth to make it 7-6.

Dominguez threw Carpenter three consecutive fastballs, the last hitting 98.1 mph.

"I prefer that pitch because when you're ahead in the count sometimes hitters tend to shorten the swing to protect the zone," Dominguez said, asked why he preferred his fastball over his slider. "It has worked for me plenty of times, and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose."

Carpenter said he expected the fastball.

"Ninety-eight with cut," he added. "The last time we faced him, he didn't show a ton of sliders. Everything was firm. It's something where you have to step in the box and be ready to go. Because it's coming at you."

Video: STL@PHI: Santana drills a solo homer to right field

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
So smooth: Carlos Santana hit a solo home run to right field in the fifth inning to give the Phillies a 4-2 lead. It was his 11th homer of the season. Santana entered the game hitting .285 with eight homers, 27 RBIs and a .940 OPS since May 4. He ranked 18th in OPS out of 168 qualified players in that span. Santana also has 40 RBIs and 51 walks this season. The only other three players in baseball with 40 or more RBIs and 50 or more walks are Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and Bryce Harper.

Odubel stays hot: Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera hit a rope over the right-field fence in the third inning for a solo home run, handing the Phillies a 2-1 lead. The ball left his bat at 108.5 mph and traveled a projected 403 feet. It was Herrera's 11th homer of the season. He is hitting .370 (10-for-27) with one double, four home runs, seven RBIs and a 1.245 OPS in his last six games.

SOUND SMART
Hoskins is hitting .333 (13-for-39) with three doubles, four home runs, 13 RBIs and a 1.118 OPS in 10 games since returning from the 10-day disabled list because of a broken jaw. He has reached base safely in eight of those 10 games.

Video: STL@PHI: Hoskins hits 2-run double to tie game in 8th

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Hoskins' double was the second-hardest pitch hit for an extra-base hit this season. The Cubs' Kris Bryant hit a double off a 101.9 mph fastball from Hicks on May 5. Arizona's A.J. Pollock tied Hoskins, hitting a double off a 101.3 mph fastball from Hicks on April 5.

HE SAID IT
"I don't think it was a rookie mistake at all. I think it was not a perfectly located pitch. But you can find those from veterans and you can find them from rookies. It's just imperfect. If you can rewind time maybe you throw that pitch a little more in off the plate, maybe it's foul. This is a game of inches and we've seen that over the last couple of days." -- Kapler, on Dominguez throwing Carpenter three consecutive fastballs in the ninth

Video: STL@PHI: Crawford shaken up after HBP, later exits

CRAWFORD BREAKS LEFT HAND
Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford broke his hand in the fourth inning, when he got hit by a pitch. Kapler said Crawford will miss 4-6 weeks. Maikel Franco is expected to pick up the bulk of playing time at third base, while Crawford recovers.

UP NEXT
Phillies right-hander Jake Arrieta (5-5, 3.33 ERA) faces Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha (8-2, 3.24 ERA) on Wednesday afternoon in the finale of a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park. Arrieta had a 2.16 ERA through his first 10 starts this season, but he has struggled in June. He has a 7.98 ERA in three starts this month.

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

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