The Philadelphia Phillies lost a heartbreaker to the host Saint Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.
The Phillies have been one of the feel-good stories of the first five weeks in the 2016 Major League Baseball season thanks to close wins and great pitching performances. With a chance to add yet another to their ledger last night in Saint Louis, the Fightin’ Phils blew it.
The Cardinals rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom of the 9th for a come from behind, walkoff victory over the Phillies by a 5-4 score. The victory brings the Cards back to the .500 mark at 14-14, and kept the Phils from moving to six games over .500 for the first time since 2011.
Things began well in this one for the visiting Phillies thanks to a familiar combination. First, the starting pitcher was strong. Adam Morgan allowed just two hits through the first four innings as his offense uncharacteristically built a nice 4-0 lead.
The Phils offense began with another familiar sight, especially on their visits to Saint Louis over the years. Hometown boy Ryan Howard blasted his 7th home run of the season, a 3-run shot, to put the club on top by 3-0 in the top of the 4th inning.
In the top of the 5th, Odubel Herrera lined his 3rd home run of the season over the right center wall to push that lead up to 4-0. Morgan had that healthy lead as he headed out to the mound for the bottom of the 4th, but quickly came unglued.
The Cards’ 4th began with a double down the left field line off the bat of Ruben Tejada that was initially called a foul ball. A challenge by Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny resulted in an overturn, as the ball barely nicked the chalk line. As a result, Tejada got a double, and it would set the tone for the inning.
Morgan followed that by hurting himself with a walk to Eric Fryer. Brandon Moss then singled to load up the bases with nobody out. That led to the second replay challenge of the inning, and a second call that benefitted the home nine in their rally.
Aledmys Diaz singled home Tejada, and when Fryer slid in behind him he was initially ruled out by the umps. Matheny again called for a challenge, and again the umps were overruled, with Fryer being declared safe. Thus, two runs were in, and still nobody was out. When Stephen Piscotty followed with another single, Diaz came home with a run that cut the Phillies lead down to 4-3.
“I don’t want to make that as an excuse and I’m sure Adam doesn’t because he’s very accountable,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said regarding the challenges and subsequent time delays per MLB.com reporters. “And you know long innings are long innings no matter what the reason.”
Mackanin pulled Morgan at that point. Reliever Colton Murray, pitching in just his second game since being called up from AAA Lehigh Valley, came on and completely settled things down. First, he got veteran Matt Holliday to roll into a 4-6-3 double play, and then got a ground out to end the inning.
The game would remain at that 4-3 score heading to the bottom of the 9th inning, when Mackanin called on Jeanmar Gomez to try and close it out. Gomez began the inning by committing the cardinal sin, pardon the pun, of walking the leadoff man in Kolten Wong.
After recording one out, Matt Adams very nearly ended it with a two-run bomb to dead center field. The ball instead pounded off the very top of the padded outfield wall, missing a game-winning walkoff homer by inches. Instead, the Cardinals were left with runners on 2nd and 3rd bases with one out.
Gomez then intentionally walked Diaz to load the bases, and had a chance then to wriggle out of it when he coaxed Piscotty into hitting a grounder at shortstop Freddy Galvis. Unfortunately the grounder was too deep into the hole between 2nd and 3rd for Galvis to do anything more than knock it down, and Wong scampered home with the tying run.
The Phillies got a break on the play, however. Carlos Martinez, a pitcher who was sent in to pinch-run for Adams at 2nd base, went too far around 3rd on the grounder to Galvis. The Phils shortstop fired to 3rd, and the Phils eventually got Martinez after a brief rundown for the 2nd out of the inning.
Now with a chance to at least escape with a tie and send the game on to extra innings, Gomez faced Holliday. On a 1-1 pitch, the still-talented veteran hitter grounded a clean single into left field, with Piscotty coming home with the game-winning run.
The Phillies had gone from another one-run victory and at least a split of the series, with a chance to win it today, to instead suffering a disheartening defeat. It was a rare time over the last few weeks that the Phillies have tasted what it is like on the other side of these tough one-run games.
The two teams will meet on Thursday afternoon in the finale of this four game series. The Phils then move on to Marlins Park for a three game weekend series with the host Marlins as their 10-game road trip continues.