Phillies Game Story

Brogdon melts down in a bad Phillies loss: ‘I'm just kind of scrambled out there'

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A crowd of 33,754 gave Connor Brogdon a Bronx cheer when he finally found the strike zone after seven consecutive balls in the 10th inning.

He would've been better off missing again.

Brogdon came over the plate with his next pitch to Spencer Steer and it was crushed over the wall in left-center for a grand slam.

The Phillies, who carried a two-run lead into the sixth inning, lost 6-3. They're 1-3 to start the season.

Manager Rob Thomson has worked the bullpen hard through the first four games, using Jose Alvarado, Matt Strahm, Jeff Hoffman and Brogdon three times apiece. Seranthony Dominguez and Gregory Soto were both unavailable Monday after being used Saturday and Sunday. Soto threw only one pitch Sunday, but Thomson does not like to use relievers three days in a row, especially this early.

With Alvarado, Strahm and Hoffman already used and Dominguez and Soto down for the night, the Phillies turned to Yunior Marte in the eighth inning of a tie game and he went 1-2-3. But when they had to use Brogdon in the 10th, he couldn't command the baseball.

Brogdon walked nine-hole hitter Will Benson as the auto-runner stole third base. He then walked Jonathan India to fill the sacks. He went 2-0 to Steer, and two pitches later, the game was basically over.

"I don't even know how many balls I'd thrown in a row before I showed him a strike, so at that point I was just like, man, just throw the ball in the zone," Brogdon said. "You just can't leave a ball there to a big-league hitter, he's going to hit it out.

"I'm out there thinking about every single step of my delivery at times. Not every pitch but there are pitches where I'm thinking about every step I go through in my entire delivery. I'm just kind of scrambled out there right now."

Brogdon was so effective in the 2022 postseason, pitching 8⅓ scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts and just four baserunners against some of baseball's best offenses from NLDS Game 3 through World Series Game 5.

He began the 2023 season with a 3.42 career ERA, and it seemed the postseason success might propel him forward as a high-leverage arm the Phillies could count on.

But last season was a struggle from Day 1. He was hit hard on Opening Day in Texas. His ERA was down to 2.61 by mid-May, but from May 15 through June 4 he put 18 men on base in 8⅓ innings and allowed seven runs. He was sent to Triple A and didn't pitch well enough to put himself back on the big-league club's radar.

His velocity has been down in his first two appearances this season and the results have been ugly. Brogdon has allowed six earned runs on three hits, two homers and six walks in just two innings.

"The changeup doesn't have the same depth," Thomson said. "The command of his pitches isn't the same."

It would not be at all surprising to see the Phillies designate Brogdon for assignment Tuesday morning to get a fresh arm in the bullpen. They'll need it. They have Spencer Turnbull making his season debut and Turnbull is not expected to go much deeper than four or five innings. He topped out at three innings and 52 pitches in his final spring appearance on March 23.

"I feel like it's been kind of a constant journey to find the right stuff mechanically," Brogdon said. "Probably since around the time I got sent down last year, I'd say.

"Every day, I feel like I'm right there. I felt like I was right there today. I was talking to (assistant pitching coach) Brian Kaplan, saying I think I've got it down, and then tonight happened. I do always feel like I'm right there, but the results aren't exactly showing that."

Hours earlier, the vibes were positive for the Phillies. They scored two runs in the first inning with a little small ball from Kyle Schwarber (single), Trea Turner (walk, steal) and Alec Bohm, who cued a ball down the first base line for a two-run double 10 seconds after Turner stole second to leave that space open.

Cristopher Sanchez found his bread-and-butter changeup eight batters into the game and ripped off a run of 11 straight outs with eight strikeouts.

But in the sixth inning, India walked and Steer doubled to chase Sanchez. Jeff Hoffman entered and quickly got ahead 0-2 on Christian Encarnacion-Strand, who flailed at two pitches outside the strike zone. Hoffman caught too much plate on the next pitch and Encarnacion-Strand hit an RBI single, as did the next batter, Jeimer Candelario.

The Phillies had a couple of chances to untie the game in the seventh and eighth innings. Bryson Stott walked to start the seventh but was picked off and caught stealing. In the eighth, Schwarber and Turner singled to put men on first and second with nobody out, but pinch-runner Johan Rojas fell for an inside pick-off move and Reds closer Alexis Diaz shut down the threat.

"It can't (happen)," Thomson said, "but it's youth. We'll talk about it."

They had runners on second and third with two outs and Bryce Harper representing the tying run in the 10th, but Harper struck out to end the game. He is 0-for-10 with two walks to start the season, lining out hard three times.

"It's always timing with him (when he's struggling)," Thomson said. "He'll get it."

The Phils' offense has been very quiet through four games, scoring 15 runs. Six of those runs have come in the first inning, which means they've scored nine combined in their other 32 innings.

After facing three consecutive left-handed starters in Max Fried, Chris Sale and Andrew Abbott, they'll see right-handers in the final two games of the series, Graham Ashcraft and Frankie Montas.

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