LOS ANGELES -- For a moment, it looked like Bryce Harper had saved the Phillies.
He dropped a two-out single into left field in the ninth inning on Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. The hit kept the Phillies’ hopes alive after a five-run lead in the third inning had turned into a one-run deficit in the eighth.
It sparked something, like so many late-inning hits in Harper’s career. Nick Castellanos followed with a walk. Bryson Stott singled. Harper scored to tie the game. But in the bottom of the ninth, Max Muncy hit a first-pitch fastball from Craig Kimbrel into the right-field seats for a walk-off grand slam, sending the Phillies’ to a gut-wrenching 10-6 loss.
It left everybody in the Phillies’ clubhouse frustrated.
“That can’t happen,” Harper said. “We just gave that game away. That cannot happen. With the way we want to do it this year and the way we want to play this year -- every year -- that just can’t happen. It’s a really good team over there. But a 5-1 game, our guy [starter Aaron Nola] on the mound, we’ve got to do better. We’ve got to be better.”
The Phillies opened this six-game road trip with a pair of impressive victories in Houston to move to a season-high two games over .500. They lost Sunday’s series finale in Houston, then got outscored 36-11 in their three losses in Los Angeles, giving the Phillies a 5.13 staff ERA, which is the second-highest mark in the National League.
It was just the second time the Phillies have allowed double-digit runs in three consecutive games since June 1958. It last happened from Sept. 24-26, 2018, at Coors Field.
The pitching needs to be much better because the offense can only do so much, even with Harper. He went 3-for-3 with one double and two walks in just his second game back from Tommy John surgery. He sparked the Phillies’ four-run rally in the third with a one-out double to left.
It was a nice turnaround from Tuesday, when he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his season debut.
“I calmed myself down a little bit,” Harper said. “Like I said yesterday, pitch selection was huge. My dad says when I’m walking, I’m doing pretty good. Just slowing it down, right? Yesterday, I sped up a little bit. Today, I was more under control. Any time you’re a little fired up at the beginning of the season or whatever it is, it’s going to happen.”
It would have been a great story to have Harper bounce back Wednesday and help send the Phillies home with a 3-3 road trip. Instead, they were looking at everything that went wrong.
The Phillies staked Nola to a five-run lead. He grinded through 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits and four runs while striking out five.
Phillies left-hander José Alvarado had been nearly unhittable all season, striking out 24 and allowing just six hits and one run in 12 1/3 innings. But tasked with pitching the eighth inning, he gave up a single and a double to Miguel Rojas and James Outman, respectively, to put runners on second and third with one out. Trea Turner made a nice throw to the plate to keep the Phillies’ lead at 5-4. Then Austin Barnes hit a ball directly at third baseman Edmundo Sosa.
Inning over … except Sosa missed.
“I should have caught that ball,” Sosa said through the team’s interpreter. “That’s a play that needs to be made. Honestly, it wasn’t even a very difficult play. I just missed it.”
Harper, Castellanos and Stott’s two-out heroics in the ninth gave the Phillies hope, but Kimbrel loaded the bases with one out when Muncy homered to win it for Los Angeles.
“The ball ended up in the seats, and [with us] walking off the field,” Kimbrel said. “That's pretty frustrating.”
Frustrating for everybody.
“As a team as a whole, catch the ball, throw the ball, hit the ball and make the plays,” Harper said. “When you play the game the right way, ‘play it sound,’ as they say, you win a lot of games. There were some mistakes made today. I think there were some mistakes made over the last couple of weeks that we just need to clean up, myself included. I need to play the game the right way. Just as a whole, I think we need to do better.”