ATLANTA — The Phillies played a shoddy brand of baseball (and that’s putting it mildly) in losing to the Atlanta Braves, 15-2, Saturday night.
Starting pitcher Vince Velasquez did not make it out of the third inning and the defense made four errors.
The sloppiness extended into the dugout and bullpen with what appeared to be an embarrassing communication breakdown that resulted in reliever Hoby Milner being summoned to pitch without throwing any legitimate warm-up pitches in the bullpen.
The snafu happened in the third inning when manager Gabe Kapler went to the mound to remove Velasquez. There was only one problem, however. The Phillies did not have a reliever ready. As Kapler arrived at the mound, Milner frantically sprung into action and tried to get loose with a series of quick throws. Third base umpire Greg Gibson was not happy that Milner continued to throw after Kapler had called for the change. Gibson walked toward the bullpen and ordered Milner to come into the game even though the lefty had not completed a normal warm-up.
When Milner got to the mound, the umpires docked his warm-up tosses and shut him down after five.
Kapler appeared to ask Milner if he was OK to go and the pitcher said he was. He faced three batters and gave up a two-run single as the Braves pushed their lead to 7-2.
It was not immediately clear where the miscommunication occurred, but it did not reflect well on Kapler, who prides himself on being a bold leader and practitioner of “relentless communication.”
And so, this season-opening three-game series ended up being one that the rookie manager would probably like to mostly forget. His call to remove Aaron Nola with a 5-0 lead and just 68 pitches thrown contributed to a demoralizing opening day loss. Kapler went deep into his bullpen to pull out a 5-4 win in 11 innings Friday night. The euphoria of that first big-league managerial win did not last long. Neither did Velasquez Saturday night.
Velasquez came out popping with a fastball that reached 97 mph, but he couldn’t command anything after the first inning. Eleven of the 16 batters he faced reached base on nine hits and two walks. He had some tough luck as two of Atlanta’s hits struck bases, but the bottom line is he was neither effective nor efficient with his pitches.
In the series, the Phillies got just 12 innings from their starters. The bullpen pitched 15 2/3 innings and was tagged for 16 runs. All nine of the team’s relievers appeared in the series. The number grew to 10 when utility man Pedro Florimon soaked up the eighth inning Saturday night. Yes, three games into the season, the Phillies had to use a position player to close out a game.