Phillies Bullpen Collapses in Defeat


6. 5. 17. Final. 2

The Phillies (6-12) played two games tonight, or at least it appeared that way. Unfortunately for them, there was just one true outcome. After getting a brilliant start from David Buchanan and taking a 2-0 lead into the top of the 7th, the bullpen collapsed in the late innings, surrendering the lead and resulting in a 5-2 Braves victory.

The first four innings proved to be a continuation of the goose eggs that the two teams put up last night, when the Phils scored in the bottom of the 9th to win it 1-0. The teams remained scoreless into the 4th inning as the Phils’ Buchanan and the Braves’ Shelby Miller were mowing them down.

Buchanan extended his shutout through the 4th, but Miller was not as fortunate. In the bottom of the 4th, the Phils broke through. Jeff Francoeur lined a one-out double down the right field line, and Ryan Howard immediately followed by blasting his 2nd homer of the season over the dead-center field wall.

In the top of the 5th, the Phillies received the defensive play of the young season. Shortstop Freddy Galvis dove full-out to snare a laser shot into the hole to his left off the bat of Nick Markakis. In one motion, Galvis rolled and fired to first on a one-hopper that was scooped by Howard for the 3rd out. Galvis looked like he was injured on the play, apparently the left shoulder that he extended in order to make the play, but he was able to stay in the game.

In the top of the 7th, the Braves finally broke through themselves. First, they cut the lead in half when the best defensive player in the game today, shortstop Andrelton Simmons, did it with his bat this time. Simmons lined a homerun to the stands in left center for his 1st of the season and the first Atlanta run of the series.

More from That Balls Outta Here

Buchanan appeared as if he would get out with just that damage, retiring the next two batters. But then with two outs, he appeared to finally start tiring. He walked two straight, and that was the end of his night. Manager Ryne Sandberg called on lefty Jake Diekman to face a string of right-handed hitters, something that has proven dangerous this year.

The next two batters came through for Atlanta. First, Chris Johnson drilled a base hit back through the box, scoring Jonny Gomes to tie it up. Then Eric Young Jr doubled to left, scoring Kelly Johnson to put the Braves on top 3-2.

In their half of the 7th, the Phils got a one-out hopper off the wall from Carlos Ruiz, who tried to stretch it into a double. Ruiz was thrown out in an extremely close play after a nice play and throw by Gomes to nail him. Replay was inconclusive, and the call was left to stand, erasing a Phillies scoring opportunity.

Diekman wasn’t finished giving up runs, unfortunately. Left in to pitch the 8th, he yielded another when A.J. Pierzynski lined a 2-out rbi single to center, scoring Markakis to make it 4-2 Braves. That sent Sandberg to the mound to replace Diekman with righty Luis Garcia, and left onlookers wondering why Garcia hadn’t been brought in back in the 7th for Buchanan.

Apr 25, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Buchanan (55) throws a pitch against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Garcia, however, did not prove to be a panacea for what was ailing the Phillies tonight in these late innings. He allowed a single to Gomes, and then an rbi single by Kelly Johnson to score Pierzynski and extend the Braves lead out to 5-2. As most fans know by now, that’s too many runs for the Phillies to score. Game over.

The Phils tried to rally in the bottom of the 8th when Cesar Hernandez and Ben Revere led off with singles against Braves reliever Jim Johnson. Odubel Herrera then ripped a ball right on the screws, but it was a liner directly at rightfielder Markakis. An easy fly out, and a force out grounder, and Atlanta was out of trouble with no Phillies runs.

The Braves then brought in new closer Jason Grilli for the Save opportunity, and as he has done ever since they traded away flame-thrower Craig Kimbrel, he dropped the Phillies hitters in order for his 6th in as many opportunities this year.

When asked about the issue of having just the currently struggling Diekman as a lefty bullpen option, Sandberg replied: “Well, yeah, he’s the only lefthander, and I gotta pick the spots with him. Tonight he just left some pitches out over the plate, one was a fastball, the other was a slider. But, um, trying to pick the spots with him.”

Pressed further on the lefty reliever, Sandberg went on: “I think he’s just missing over the plate. I think that’s a control thing. He can usually work ahead on the corners, or even down on the plate, and he’s elevating some pitches. And his slider, his secondary pitch, isn’t quite as sharp. He’s not locating that down where he wants that either for a pitch that could be in the dirt. He was throwing 97-98 right from the git-go. Velocity went down a little bit, but just missed over the plate.

This is a legitimate issue that the Phillies are going to have to address by calling up another lefty from the minors, or making a signing at some point soon. When asked if the team needs another lefty, Sandberg seemed a tad defensive on the issue, saying that Diekman isn’t being overworked.

On Sunday afternoon, the Phillies and fans will celebrate today’s 37th birthday of the Phillie Phanatic with a special pre-game party and festivities throughout the game. In the actual baseball action, it will be Jerome Williams (1-1) getting the start against Trevor Cahill (0-2) who has struggled thus far for Atlanta.

NOTE: Sandberg also announced following the game that Severino Gonzalez would be called up to make a start on Tuesday when the team will need someone.