Knebel, Girardi, Phils stay positive amid skid

May 31st, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- Corey Knebel signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Phillies in December because he wanted to reestablish himself as one of baseball’s premier relievers.

He pitched well in April.

May has not been kind.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a tough month for me,” Knebel said following Monday’s 5-4 loss in 10 innings to the Giants at Citizens Bank Park. “I mean, I’ve had two bad outings in a row. Just two solo homers. That’s it.”

Knebel allowed a two-out, go-ahead home run to Evan Longoria in the ninth. Kyle Schwarber hit a game-tying homer in the bottom of the inning, but Phillies right-hander Andrew Bellatti allowed a deciding two-run home run to Curt Casali in the 10th. On Sunday, Knebel allowed a first-pitch, game-tying home run to Nick Plummer in the ninth in a 5-4 loss in 10 innings to the Mets at Citi Field. Knebel then allowed the winning run to score in the 10th, too.

Knebel is 1-3 with a 5.91 ERA and three blown saves in seven opportunities in his last 11 appearances. Monday’s loss was the Phillies’ 11th in 15 games to drop them to 21-28.

“It’s tough,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “But, you know, everybody in that room, everyone in this room, has gone through hard times in their life. And you get to the other side, right? Or you wouldn’t be in that room, right? And sometimes what you’re going through seems like the worst thing you’ve ever been through, but if you look back, you can probably point to a spot in your life where you got through it. And they’ve just got to continue to do their work, continue to grind this out. It’s going to turn. It’s going to. I believe in them. I believe in Knebel. I believe in everybody in that room. There’s a lot of fight in that room every day. We’ve been through a grueling 2 1/2 weeks and we’ve been through some tough losses. They’ll respond.”

Girardi said Knebel will remain his closer.

Knebel has been in the middle of almost everything in May. He was on the mound when the Phillies blew a six-run lead in the ninth inning in an 8-7 loss to the Mets on May 5. He needed one strike to help the Phillies sweep the Dodgers in a four-game series at Dodger Stadium on May 15, but Cody Bellinger tripled on the next pitch. Two batters later, the Phillies lost.

There was the 6-5 walk-off loss last Tuesday in Atlanta. Knebel told Girardi that he could pitch, but Girardi said no because he does not pitch his relievers three consecutive days, especially early in the season. Nick Nelson and the defense blew a one-run lead in just 10 pitches and lost.

Figure in Sunday’s loss to the Mets and Monday’s loss to the Giants, and that is five late-inning losses since May 5.

They always seem to be the toughest to swallow.

“No, it’s a loss,” Knebel said.

If the Phillies win those five games, they are 26-23. If they win just four, they are 25-24. If they win just three, they are 24-25.

“It’s baseball, you get out of it,” Knebel said. “You go in these slumps, you get out of them. That’s just how it is. You ride those hot streaks and you get out of the slumps. That’s it.”

Phillies right-hander Kyle Gibson, who allowed two runs in six innings, remains a voice of optimism in the clubhouse.

“I’ve been on teams that have been to the playoffs, and this is the best team I’ve ever been on,” Gibson said. “We have too many good players and too many good pitchers for it not to turn around. That’s just the basis of my belief. I think that’s why everybody in here believes in each other. Because when you look around the room, we have a lot of really good players and players who have done a lot in their career. I just think it’s a matter of time.”

“We’re losing some tough games,” Rhys Hoskins said. “We’re losing in some weird ways. We’re losing late. … The great teams figure out a way that when [stuff] keeps getting thrown your way, you figure out a way to keep pressing forward.”