PHILADELPHIA -- The Rockies socked four home runs Sunday, including two by Ryan McMahon as part of his argument for playing time at second base. But, as has been the case in four of the five games on this road trip, they left with no reason to celebrate.
Sixth-inning homers by J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper, against a bullpen that had been performing well, lifted the Phillies to a 7-5 victory over the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park to complete a three-game sweep.
The Rockies’ power display came from Charlie Blackmon to open the game. McMahon’s home runs in the fourth and sixth bracketed Trevor Story’s fifth-inning shot. McMahon, whose playing time will be in question because of the recent call-up of Rockies’ No. 1 prospect Brendan Rodgers, also hit two homers at home against the Phils on April 18. But all the homers were undone through a disjointed performance, as the Rockies lost their fourth straight game.
The result kept a pattern that could be seen as either heartening or maddening for the Rockies (20-25). No matter what went wrong -- and this time, the downers were an off start in an inconsistent year from lefty Kyle Freeland, soppy play and strikeouts (nine Sunday to run the total to 66 in 49 innings this road trip) -- they had a chance to win. All four previous games this trip were one-run decisions, and Sunday was a two-run differential.
“I think that’s good for us,” said Blackmon, who has reached in 25 of his last 27 games. “If we could win a couple of those key at-bats over the past few days, we pick up a couple extra wins. We’re putting ourselves in position. We’re just not quite finishing it off.”
The Rockies have had to overcome solid pitching. They won at Boston when Chris Sale struck out 17 and the team fanned 24 times. The Phillies’ Aaron Nola, a Cy Young Award candidate, struck out a career-high 12 on Saturday. Three of the homers on Sunday came off Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff, who entered with a 2.65 ERA. They also were beaten by lefty Cole Irvin on Friday.
“Eickhoff kept us on our toes today,” McMahon said. “We battled, but just didn’t get the hops our way."
McMahon homered not only off Eickhoff, but also off lefty Jose Alvarez, on the heels of his pinch-hit, RBI double in Saturday’s 2-1 loss.
But Story said the time has come to not be tipping a cap in disappointment at the end of a game.
“I’d say it’s more so us,” said Story, whose 10th homer of the season tied him with Blackmon for second on the team behind Nolan Arenado (11). “It was the first time facing Sale, so that was a little different. But we’ve seen Nola and these guys a lot, and played well. It’s not like we just can’t hit them or anything. But we haven’t played to our standard offensively, so it’s frustrating.
“It’s not for lack of preparation or effort. We’re just not executing right now.”
The lack of execution was not limited to offense on Sunday. Here are some areas where less-than-crisp baseball helped wash away the homers:
• With one on in the first inning, Story backpedaled into short center and lost a pop-up in the sun to let Harper reach. But McMahon didn’t cover second, so the Rockies didn’t get an out. And McMahon failed to catch a throw from Story to negate another possible fielder’s choice. It all served to force Freeland to throw 31 first-inning pitches.
“Anytime that happens, to where it hurts your pitcher, that’s never a good start to a game,” McMahon said.
• Freeland flamed out with 34 more pitches in a second inning that included Andrew McCutchen’s two-run single. Freeland left after 1 2/3 innings -- his shortest start, outside of facing two Phillies batters on Aug. 4, 2017 before leaving with a groin injury. After finishing fourth in NL Cy Young voting last year, Freeland has a 6.02 ERA in 10 starts.
“Overall, I need to have better command, need to finish hitters better, need to get ahead in counts,” Freeland said. “I need to make sure of a lot of things.”
• The bullpen had given up two runs, one earned, this road trip. But righty Bryan Shaw walked Andrew Knapp before giving up Realmuto’s first career pinch-hit homer to tie the game at 5 in the sixth. Mike Dunn entered with one on and coughed up Harper’s eighth homer of the year. The only homer Dunn had given up previously this season was to Harper in the Phils’ 8-5 victory at Coors on April 20; and Harper is 5-for-23 with three homers off him.
“I’m not going to trick him with anything I throw up there,” Dunn said. “He knows what I got. I know what he can do. It’s a chess game. You’ve got to make sure you execute your pitches, but you’ve got to execute your pitches to everybody. It’s just the elite players, they don’t miss.”