'It's frustrating': Defense haunts Phils vs. Sox

May 22nd, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies continue to stress the importance of the simple things, but so far the words and the work have not helped.

Just look at everything that happened in Friday night’s sloppy 11-3 loss to the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies struck out 13 times and picked up six hits. Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola allowed five runs (four earned) in five innings. He has a 5.19 ERA in his last six starts. The defense continues to cost them outs and runs in almost every game, including this stretch of five losses in six games to drop them below .500 for the first time since May 3.

“We knew we weren’t going to be a real good defensive club,” Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said before the game. “But you hope that you can play well and catch the balls that you can catch.”

It is more than just catching the ball at times.

It is making the correct decisions, too.

The Red Sox had runners on first and second with two outs in the fifth inning when Xander Bogaerts singled to left field. Andrew McCutchen fielded the ball cleanly and threw home. Statcast tracked the throw at 84.9 mph, which was McCutchen’s hardest-tracked throw since May 17, 2019. He had an excellent chance to get Alex Verdugo at home, but Alec Bohm cut it off.

“I think there’s a play at the plate,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “It will be taken care of.”

Bohm threw to second baseman Jean Segura to try to nab J.D. Martinez, but his throw went wide to Segura’s right.

Segura fell to the dirt as the ball rolled into shallow center field, just a few feet behind the infield dirt. Segura stayed on the ground as Martinez rounded third and scored.

Bogaerts rounded second. He hurdled Segura, who was still on the ground, and headed to third. Segura finally got up after Rhys Hoskins sprinted all the way from first base and picked up the ball.

What was Segura doing on the ground that entire time?

“Yeah, I’m not sure,” Girardi said.

The Red Sox turned a 3-2 lead into a 5-2 lead on one ugly play.

Christian Vazquez scored from second on Hunter Renfroe’s single to left-center in the sixth. McCutchen let the ball get past him to allow Renfroe to reach second. Kiké Hernandez reached first to start the seventh when Bohm’s throw pulled Hoskins off the bag. Hernandez scored on Rafael Devers’ two-out, two-run homer to right to make it 8-3.

Two errors led to three unearned runs. Or, four runs overall, if McCutchen’s throw in the fifth would have had Verdugo at the plate. To cap the night, Bryce Harper let a ball fall in the right-field corner to clear the bases with two outs. 

“It’s frustrating,” Girardi said about the defense. “It’s really frustrating. I believe we’re better than what we’re playing. We work on it every day and do things every day. It’s frustrating for everyone involved.”

Harper, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, is 2-for-20 with 10 strikeouts and one walk in his last six games.

He doesn’t look like himself out there.

“He’s just off,” Girardi said. “We’ve seen a ton of left-handers. I mean, a ton. I know he’s hit left-handers in his career but obviously his numbers are a little bit better against right-handers in his career. He’s off. He’s went through this before. He’ll get it back. He’ll get hot again and he’ll do a lot of great things. But right now he’s off.”

Nola is off, too.

“It’ll turn around,” Nola said.

The Phillies have been saying that about the defense since the beginning of the season. So far it hasn’t happened. But it must. Because they cannot win consistently like this.

“This has not been a good week for us,” Dombrowski said before the game. “The answer is I think we can get better. I think you need to make the routine plays. That’s what we used to stress over there [with the Red Sox] all the time.”