'It stunk': Doomed by 0-2, Phils drop series

September 12th, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- Joe Girardi said very little about the Phillies’ blowout loss to Colorado on Friday, choosing to keep his frustrations to himself.

He spoke freely on Sunday.

“It stunk,” he said following a 5-4 loss to the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park. “It stunk. It stunk. There’s no other way to describe it. It stunk.”

It stunk because the Phillies lost three of four to the Rockies, who started planning their October vacations months ago, and who are 21-51 (.292) on the road. It stunk because the Phillies allowed a pair of home runs on 0-2 pitches to a Rockies batter who had a .469 OPS on the road and a .584 OPS against right-handers, compared to an .857 OPS at home and an .849 OPS against left-handers. It stunk because Sunday’s loss dropped them 4 1/2 games behind the Braves (76-66) in the National League East with only 19 games to play.

Maybe it is time to focus on the second NL Wild Card. The Phillies (72-71) are 2 1/2 games behind the Padres (74-68) and Reds (75-69). But even then, the Phillies will have to outplay San Diego, Cincinnati and St. Louis (73-69) the rest of the way.

“You still look at the division,” Girardi said. “But the bottom line is you have to win games. We have to win games and we have to play better.”

The Phillies have lost seven of 10 since they swept the Nationals in Washington earlier this month. There are myriad issues. Bryce Harper is almost single-handedly carrying the offense – he hit a solo home run in the eighth to pull the Phils within one -- but he cannot be the only one hitting down the stretch.

Zack Wheeler and Ranger Suárez are pitching well, but the rest of the rotation is struggling.

The Phillies are not doing the little things, either.

Rockies center fielder Garrett Hampson hit an 0-2 curveball from for a three-run home run in the fifth to give them a one-run lead. Nola is tied for third in baseball with 12 two-strike home runs allowed. Only Robbie Ray (17) and Casey Mize (13) have allowed more. Opponents entered Sunday batting .181 with two strikes against Nola. They batted a combined .149 with two strikes against him from 2015-20.

It has been a struggle for Nola with runners on base. The fifth inning has been a struggle, too.

• Nola’s splits entering Sunday with nobody on base: .225/.259/.377

• Nola’s splits with runners on base: .256/.332/.461.

• Nola’s fifth inning ERA: 10.56.

He has pitched more than 5 1/3 innings only once in his last eight starts.

“I just made a bad pitch,” Nola said about Hampson’s homer. “The last one hung. I should have tried to throw it 50 feet. But he put a pretty good swing on it -- as he should have with a curveball down the middle.”

Hampson clubbed an 0-2 fastball from Héctor Neris for a two-run home run in the seventh. MLB batters had a combined .145 batting average and .379 OPS on 0-2 pitches this season. The Phillies have allowed 16 homers on 0-2 counts, which leads the Majors.

Too many of those pitches are thrown down the middle of the plate. The Phillies have thrown 35.9 percent of their 0-2 pitches in the strike zone, which is tied for third in baseball. Their 541 0-2 pitches in the zone are tied with the Dodgers for the most in baseball.

“With today’s hitters, there’s a lot of chase in the game,” Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto said. “You don’t always want guys always chasing the strikeout for two or three pitches in a row, but 0-2 is a good time to do it. I think our guys have the right intent. Obviously, they’re not trying to throw in the middle of the plate with an 0-2 count. We’re just not doing a very good job of executing in those counts, and it’s something that we’re going to have to work on.”

Time is running out. The Phillies have 19 games to play. They will finish at worst 13-6 if they win every series the rest of the way.

Even then, will it be enough?

“It’s go time,” Realmuto said. “We don’t have any more time to waste. We can’t have anymore splitting series, losing series. We have to go. We have to win every series the rest of the season. We have to sweep a couple of them to be able to catch the Braves. They’re going to play well down the stretch. They always do. We have to do a better job. We can’t sit around and play .500 baseball and expect them to come back to us.”