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Phillies Disappointing Loss Proves They Desperately Need Bullpen Help

The Phillies suffered arguably the most heart wrenching loss of the season on Saturday when they blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning to the Dodgers.

Despite leaving runners stranded on multiple occasions, the Phillies were still able to score five runs on an impressive 13 hit night. But the team could’ve easily added more runs on the scoreboard. If the Phillies did, then the result may have been different.
But you can’t change the past.

“It’s one of the worst losses I’ve ever been associated with, the way we lost,” said Phillies coach Pete Mackanin. “I’m not really happy with the outcome.”

Phillies’ starting pitcher Zach Eflin threw a gem Saturday night. In seven innings, he allowed just two runs on four hits and recorded four strikeouts. It appeared as though Eflin was in line for his first victory of the season.

Then Hector Neris happened.

“I’d like to have a lights-out closer, but we don’t have one right now,” Mackanin said. “We’ll continue to look at it.”

The Dodgers entered the bottom of ninth inning trailing 5-2. Neris just had to record three outs without coughing-up the lead and the Phillies would come away victorious. But the Dodgers had other plans. Before you could even think, the Dodgers tied the game when Yasiel Puig, Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner hit back-to-back-to-back solo home runs off the lackluster closer.

Two of the three homers came on fastballs. His fastball clearly wasn’t working, so the question has to be why he kept throwing the same pitch. Adding insult to injury, the location of his pitches were almost identical.

The location definitely hurt Neris and the Phillies, but it remains unseen what will be done about blowing leads in the ninth inning. “I think Neris is capable of being a closer,” Mackanin said. “But for some reason, he’s just not throwing his split as often as he did and that’s his out pitch, the pitch that makes him who he is, who he was, and he’s gotten away from it and throwing more fastballs. We’ll have a talk with him and get it straightened out.”

The Phillies, as a team, have an 8.83 ERA in the ninth inning. Mackanin said the he doesn’t know who the full-time closer is yet, as the team already had three different closer this season. After giving up a single to Austin Barnes, Neris was replaced by Joely Rodriguez. The lefthander got a quick out, but then allowed a single to Corey Seager. With two men on, Adrian Gonzalez hit a bouncing ground ball to Maikel Franco, but it hit his glove rolled into left field, and Barnes was able to score from second.

“What a way to lose,” Mackanin said. “It was a real letdown.” The Phillies actually had a decent night offensively and, of course, had solid starting pitching. The Dodgers are a playoff team and, to have a win slip away like that, really is painful.

The team needs to do something about that bullpen, because the performance of the relievers and closers have been ailing the Phillies for the past few seasons.

There are those out there who think the team should be focused on acquiring hitting first, and the Phillies do need better bats at the plate. But, when the team does hit and has a lead in the last few innings, it’s unacceptable to waste the win.
The bullpen has blown other games this year already, and it’s only been a month. The hitting has been an issue in some games, but the bullpen has been the overwhelming concern.

Right now, Matt Klentak has an important job if leads keep getting blown by the atrocious bullpen. It’s on been the first moth of the season, so there are arms he can can sign to help the Phillies hold leads and win games in the eighth and ninth innings.

Will Klentak do that is another question, but the Phillies could have a better record than 11-11 if they had better relievers and closers.

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