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Phillies' bullpen slammed in loss to Braves

PHILADELPHIA -- Manager Ryne Sandberg had informed Jake Diekman on Monday afternoon that he would serve as closer if the situation presented itself that night against the Braves.

It would be his first chance to close in his brief career, but it would not be his finest moment.

After the Phillies went into the bottom of the eighth inning with a four-run deficit, they used a dramatic five-run rally to take an improbable one-run lead. That's when Diekman entered with an opportunity to pick up his first save with closer Jonathan Papelbon unavailable after pitching each of the previous three games. But the hard-throwing left-hander loaded the bases before allowing a grand slam to Braves second baseman Dan Uggla in a tough 9-6 loss.

"You watched it, right?" Diekman said of the hanging 0-1 slider to Uggla. "That's pretty much it, right?"

"You hope he doesn't throw a strike or he leaves something up," said Uggla, whose last grand slam came on June 11, 2008, against Phillies reliever Tom Gordon. "He has such great stuff. He throws so hard, you go up and try to get your foot down and get the barrel on it. It was a slider. He threw a fastball first pitch, and I thought, 'This is going to be difficult.' Luckily, I got enough of it."

The bullpen pitched nicely over this past weekend in a three-game sweep of the Marlins, allowing seven hits, three runs, three walks and striking out 11 in 12 2/3 innings to help the Phillies improve to 6-6. But two hard innings late on Monday increased the bullpen ERA from 4.35 to 5.53.

Even so, "We've had some good bullpen work," Sandberg insisted.

The Phillies entered the eighth inning down, 2-1, with the scoring coming on Ryan Howard's solo home run off Braves right-hander Ervin Santana in the second inning and Evan Gattis' two-run homer off right-hander Roberto Hernandez in the sixth.

But reliever B.J. Rosenberg allowed three consecutive home runs, to Gattis, Uggla and Andrelton Simmons, to hand the Braves a four-run lead. Those would be the only three hitters Rosenberg would face.

Retrosheet found 44 pitchers since 1950 who allowed home runs to the only two batters they faced in a game, but no pitcher since 1914 had allowed home runs to the only three batters he faced until Rosenberg.

"Rosenberg struggled," said Sandberg, who said before the game that he'd wanted to avoid using him after pitching him the past two days. "He said he felt fine. He was throwing 94, 95 [mph]. He was just behind in the count with fastballs, and his breaking ball seemed to be up in the zone."

But the Phillies scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth against left-hander Luis Avilan to take a one-run lead.

Tony Gwynn Jr. walked to start the inning, and Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley followed with singles to load the bases. Howard struck out swinging for the first out, but Marlon Byrd then laced a single to right field to score Gwynn and Rollins to make it 5-3.

Domonic Brown then ripped a three-run homer to right field to hand the Phillies the lead. It was Brown's first home run since Aug. 14, snapping a streak of 154 plate appearances without one.

Talk about a dramatic turn.

"For a fan it's got to be a great game to watch, entertainment-wise," Byrd said. "It [stinks] for us. We came out on the losing end, but that was a [great] game."

Diekman walked B.J. Upton on four pitches to start the ninth. Freddie Freeman then hit a ball to Utley, but Utley's flip to second base arrived late. After Diekman walked Justin Upton to load the bases, he struck out Gattis on three pitches to set up a potential inning-ending double play, but Uggla didn't cooperate.

"I felt good," Diekman said. "I just wasn't throwing strikes and attacking the zone. You can't walk people like that."

It would not have been a surprise if emotions got the best of Diekman in that situation.

"Maybe a little," he said, "but you can't start off hitters 2-0 every time."

The loss dropped the Phillies to 6-7 with three more games against the Braves before they hit the road for a 10-game trip through Colorado, Los Angeles and Arizona. They would like to leave with at least an 8-8 mark.

They had a great chance to leave with a better record than that with a victory on Monday.

"It's hard to say, because we didn't win it," said Byrd, asked about the possible momentum a victory could have created. "You can't really speculate on that. We've got to figure out a way to bounce back and make sure this doesn't snowball and turn into something bad."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for
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