Wheeler, Phillies let another game slip away, lose to the Rays 7-4
The Philadelphia Phillies have dropped 10-of-14 games to fall back to .500 on the season with a 63-63 record. Last night, we watched them take an early lead, before shooting themselves in the foot with sloppy defense and poor management. After 126 games played this season, it’s hard to really say anything else about the Phillies besides the fact that they are simply not a good baseball team.
The Tampa Bay Rays, who are the best team in the American League, swept the Phillies in a quick two-game series at Citizens Bank Park. Last night, the result was a 7-4 loss. As for tonight, the Phillies will open up a four game series against the worst team in the National League in the Arizona Diamondbacks, who swept the Phillies just last week. Lord help us.
Zack Wheeler was on the mound for the Phillies and up until the ninth inning, pitched yet another fantastic game. Wheeler struck out 10 batters, including his 200th strikeout of the season, and only threw a total of 93 pitches before the ninth inning. The game was tied 4-4 and Wheeler trotted out to the mound in the ninth. Less than a week after Nola let up a game-tying home run in the ninth inning against the Padres on Sunday, Wheeler let up a leadoff single that almost sailed out of the park over Bryce Harpers head in right field. From there, it would have been nice to see Joe Girardi go to the bullpen. He did not. Wheeler then had Kevin Kiermaier down to an 0-2 count before he doubled just inside the third base line. There were now runners on second and third with nobody out.
Francisco Mejía stepped up to the plate and again, fell down to an 0-2 count. Mejía then crushed a three run home run into the second deck of right field. The Rays took a 7-4 lead. Ball game was over.
At the end of the night, Wheeler pitched eight strong innings and kept the Phillies in the ball game. The problem is, that over his last two starts, Wheeler has let up nine earned runs after the 6th inning. The Phillies are 0-6 in their last six games that Wheeler or Nola have pitched and as a team, are running out of time to catch the NL East leading Atlanta Braves with 36 games left to play.
If we take a step back and look at the few positives in this game, Bryce Harper hit a game-tying two run home run in the fifth inning to jolt some energy into this team and the fans at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies would then lose the lead in the top of the 8th inning after Randy Arozarena grounded into a fielders choice. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Rhys Hoskins, who is basically playing on one leg, stepped up to the plate with two outs and hit his 27th home run of the year to left field. Hoskins slowly jogged around the bases, Phillies fans on Twitter went insane, and honestly, it looked like the Phillies might have been able to pull this one out until the disastrous ninth inning that we covered above.
The Rays scored on two unearned runs and then three at the hands of Wheeler in the ninth inning. Last night hurt, as the Phillies continue to let the National League East slip away in the closing months of the 2021 MLB season. Five games back of the Atlanta Braves is not a position you want to be in on August 26th, but let’s stop for a second and find a way to be optimistic.
The Phillies will now play four games against the Arizona Diamondbacks. They will then play three games a piece against the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins heading into September.
The Braves will play their next six games against the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. They will have to face the Giants again in mid-September for two games, and the San Diego Padres for three games. The Braves and the Phillies will then meet up at the end of September for a three game series.
Although the hunt for Red October continues to get more difficult with each painful loss, the Phillies technically still have several opportunities to make up ground in the standings. Rhys Hoskins’ health will be an important factor, as well as cleaning up defensive mistakes and getting the top half of their rotation back on track over the last 36 games of the season.
Just looking at how things have went so far this season, I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Mandatory Credit: The Philadelphia Phillies