The Phillies finally had a rookie to take them deeper into the game they led, and put together the bullpen formula they wanted.
It didn’t matter because they lost to the Marlins, 3-2 in extra innings, to drop the series and fall to 4-8 on the season.
Leading with an inning of seven, manager Rob Thompson sent super reliever Jose Alvarado for a second inning of action. Alvarado rarely hits more than a turn in the first inning but Thompson wanted to take on left-handed batter Luis Aries, who scored on the turn Tuesday night and was slated for second in the eighth.
Unfortunately for Thompson and Alvarado, the game was tied by the time Aries got to the plate. Right fielder Jorge Soler hit a Rocket left center on a tying home run to lead off the eighth.
With a runner positioned at second base to start in the top of the tenth, the Marlins took the lead on an RBI single off Bryan De La Cruz down the first base line against Craig Kimbrel. Nick Castellanos de la Cruz threw to second but the damage was done.
The Phillies were unable to get a run through the half of the tenth inning. Christian Patch popped out, Bryson Stott went out of sight and Trea Turner flew to shallow left to end the game.
Alvarado has been off this season. He struck out 11 straight batters before Jacob Stallings doubled in the seventh inning, the most consecutive hits during a season for any reliever since at least 1961. He was allowed to run.
“He showed us as he went on last year that he can do that, handle (more than one run),” said Thompson. “I had a lot of confidence, I was kind of shocked when Soler hit that ball like he was shooting.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Zach Wheeler pitched the Phils’ best start of the season, holding the Marlins to one run with three hits over six innings with six strikeouts. It was only the second time this season that a Phillies player had completed six innings. They entered the day ranked last in the National League, averaging 4.85 innings per start.
“Wheeler was great today,” said Thompson. “The pace was high and he held it for most of the game. His slider or sweeper, whatever they call it, was really good. He got a lot of nice contact, and did a great job. … Looks like our initial bid is starting to come through.”
The only damage Wheeler allowed came in the fourth inning when the hottest hitter in the universe, Arraez, doubled with one out and hit on De La Cruz’s single. Wheeler walked the bases loaded with two outs in the fifth inning but had Ariz line up sharply to center in a pivotal moment in the game.
While he escaped unscathed in the fifth, the extra pitches may have cost him an entire run, which again had a ripple effect on the bullpen. He used Velez Alvarado, Ceranthone Dominguez, Gregory Soto and Craig Kimbrel. Soto and Kimbrell likely won’t be available Thursday in Cincinnati.
It was the second time Wheeler started by walking at least three batters, and the first time he had done so in 62 starts.
“I felt so good next to the fifth, it just kind of got away from me,” Wheeler said. “We as pitchers, you guys need to stop walking, myself included.”
The Phillies grounded in the bottom of the fifth when Stott doubled on Cody Clemens. Stott led Wednesday for the second time in three games. He hit eighth Tuesday against lefty Jesus Lozardo. It will be interesting to see if he remains down in the lineup or returns to the top on Thursday when the Phillies take on lefty Nick Ludulu for the second time in a week. Thompson made it sound this week that Stott was going to lead against right-wingers to give the Phillies a reason to make a change.
Stott also started the first inning with one second and a stolen base. He and Turner got into scoring position in the opening frame but were stranded when Kyle Schwarber, Castellanos and GT Realmoto followed up their singles goals with a pop-up and two putts. The Phillies didn’t benefit from a 12-game but run. The Phils entered Wednesday second in the majors with a . 28 batting average and third with a . 310 batting average with men on base but only twenty-second in runs per game at 4.45.
Realmuto, in particular, struggled on the plate. He is 1-for-17 with no walks and nine hits in his last four games, and the first hit was a ninth-inning double on Tuesday with the Phillies to five runs. Realmuto hit three times on Wednesday, stranding two runners in scoring position the first time out and one the second time out. His trick came to start in the bottom of the ninth.
“He just gets out of the zone a little bit, a lot of ups and downs, but he’s a good hitter,” said Thompson. “His timing may be a bit off at the moment, but he’s a really good hitter and he’ll keep it up.”
The Phillies went 3-3 in their first ballpark of 2023, which is a disappointing result considering they’ve led in five out of six games. They’ve now hit the road for four at Cincinnati and three at Chicago against the White Sox.
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