Late drama from 'pen sinks Phillies

April 20th, 2022

DENVER -- Jeurys Familia had not pitched with a lead since Opening Day until Tuesday.

He said it did not feel strange to him.

But it was strange for the Phillies.

The Phillies invested $22 million in their bullpen in the offseason because it had been a long-time problem and because they expected to have plenty of late-inning leads to hold. Manager Joe Girardi even talked in Spring Training about needing to be careful with his relievers, including closer Corey Knebel and setup men Brad Hand and Familia, because he needed them healthy and effective throughout the season. But the trio has barely pitched through the Phillies’ 4-8 start. There simply have not been enough leads.

Philadelphia's bullpen finally got an opportunity on Tuesday night, but the Phillies blew a one-run lead in the seventh inning in a 6-5 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field.

“These are hard ones,” Girardi said. “These are really hard ones, but you’ve got to bounce back.”

Kyle Schwarber hit a go-ahead, opposite-field, two-run home run in the sixth inning to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead, and Kyle Gibson pitched a scoreless bottom half of the frame. Seranthony Domínguez started the seventh, marking his first time entering a game in a hold situation since Opening Day. He retired the first two batters and had Charlie Blackmon in an 0-2 count, but he walked him.

Domínguez then allowed an infield single from Kris Bryant to put runners on first and second.

Domínguez threw 25 pitches to that point, plus the warmup pitches he threw in the bullpen in the fifth and sixth innings. So, Girardi summoned Familia from the bullpen to face C.J. Cron.

It was Familia’s fourth appearance of the season, and his first appearance since Friday in Miami. He worked Cron to a 2-2 count.

Familia tried to throw him a slider down and in. He did not get the pitch down or in enough, and Cron crushed it to left field for a three-run home run to hand Colorado the lead, 6-5.

“I wanted to throw it in the dirt,” Familia explained. “It just stayed on the plate. It stayed in the middle.”

This is the way things are going right now for the Phillies. They are 4-8, which is their worst start since 2017. They need to win Wednesday’s series finale to avoid a sweep and their first 4-9 start since 2015.

The 2015 Phillies lost 99 games. The 2017 Phillies lost 96 games.

This Phillies team is more talented than those teams. But right now nothing is working.

“I mean, it is frustrating for us,” Familia said. “But, at the end of the day, it’s part of the game. The season just started. There are a lot of games left. We can turn the page.”

What they need is to win on Wednesday. The bullpen would welcome another opportunity. Knebel hasn’t pitched with a lead since the second game of the season, when he earned his first and only save. Hand hasn’t pitched with a lead since the fourth game of the season, when he earned a save.

“That’s baseball,” Gibson said. “Sometimes, that’s Colorado, too. Familia came out and made some really good pitches. That was a good pitch as well -- the bottom of the zone. Cron just did a good job of putting a good swing on it. That’s what he does. It’s just something. Things haven’t been clicking.”