As hard as it might be to believe during a season in which they have the worst record in all of Major League Baseball, the Phillies found a new way to lose last night. Fireballing setup man Ken Giles blew a late lead, and the Milwaukee Brewers rallied off him in the 8th inning for a 4-3 win.
Giles came on in the top of the 8th inning, with the Phils holding a 3-2 lead on behalf of starting pitcher Cole Hamels, who himself had fought back from a rough beginning to pitch a sharp game.
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Hamels allowed a two-out, two-strike, 2-run single to Aramis Ramirez in the top of the 1st and fell behind 2-0. It would be all the runs that the ace lefty would allow in a game that was delayed at the start for over an hour by thunderstorms. He allowed just 5 hits and a walk, striking out 7 batters across 7 innings of work in which he threw 111 pitches, 72 of them for strikes.
The Phillies fought back to give him the lead, scoring solo runs in the 2nd, 3rd and 6th innings. In the 2nd, it was a throwing error by Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy after Ryan Howard had been thrown out at the plate that allowed Cody Asche to score the first Phils run.
In the 3rd, Cesar Hernandez scored when Domonic Brown grounded into a force with one-out and the bases loaded. Then in the home 6th, Carlos Ruiz ripped his 1st homer of the season. The solo shot to left-center put the Phillies on top for the first time at 3-2.
Chooch’s homer came off Brewers’ starter Taylor Jungmann, who pitched a solid game himself. The 25-year old allowed just 5 hits and 2 walks across his 6 innings. But once again, the Phillies were unable to score off 5 relief pitchers that Brew Crew skipper Craig Counsell paraded out over the balance of the contest. One of them, lefty Neal Cotts (1-0), would ultimately be credited with the Win, despite pitching just 1/3 of an inning.
All of that action set up the late dramatics. It started innocently enough for Giles (3-2), who came on to relieve Hamels in the top of the 8th. He promptly recorded two quick outs, including striking out Lucroy swinging. Then with two strikes, Ryan Braun grounded a base hit to center field, starting the rally.
That rally probably should have ended with the very next batter, before it even began. Giles appeared to strike out Carlos Gomez swinging to end the inning. However, Ruiz had called for a time out on the pitch, nullifying the strikeout. With new life, Gomez slung a base hit to right field.
Aramis Ramirez then grounded a single up the middle, scoring Braun with the tying run and clearly agitating Giles, who had to be frustrated over the Gomez non-K situation. The righty unraveled at that point, issuing back to back walks to force in the go-ahead run.
With the Brewers now up by 4-3, it was time for them to call on Francisco ‘KRod’ Rodriguez to shut the door for a 2nd straight night. It wouldn’t go as smoothly this time around for the Brewers’ closer.
Ben Revere led off the bottom of the 9th with a walk, and Cesar Hernandez followed by reaching on Lucroy’s 2nd throwing error of the game. However, KRod bore down, retiring the next three batters, two of them on swinging strikeouts, to record his 17th Save of the season.
On losing the chance at a win, and Giles’ deterioration after the Ruiz timeout, Hamels had this quote following the game: “It’s part of the game. You know you have to get the next guy. I think that’s what I’ve had to learn. Bad situations where you think you have the guy, but you have another pitch and you have to get the job done. It just teaches guys in general that you just have to bear down a little bit more sometimes.”
A valuable message for a young would-be closer like Giles to learn. He is going to have to discipline himself to rein in some of his emotion and maintain his focus when something goes wrong, which it inevitably will at times.
With the win, the Brewers moved to 31-48, a full four games better than the Phillies, who now sit at 27-52 in the race for MLB’s worst record and the top pick in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft. The Phils have lost 5 of 6, and 27 of their last 36 games going back to the modest 6-game winning streak in mid-May.