Phillies Game Story

Mercado lit up by Braves as Phillies lose series to end trip

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ATLANTA — It was a difficult assignment on paper and Phillies rookie Michael Mercado was lit up by the Braves in his second career start, serving up three homers and five runs without finishing the second inning.

Mercado loaded the bases on walks in the bottom of the first but escaped with a lineout to shortstop. The second went significantly worse. Adam Duvall greeted Mercado with a home run to the second deck in left field, Orlando Arcia and Eli White singled to turn the lineup over and Jarred Kelenic popped a three-run homer. Two batters later, Matt Olson took Mercado out to right-center.

"Just couldn't throw strikes, just couldn't find the strike zone," manager Rob Thomson said. "He's got great awareness — I said to him after he came out, these guys hit a lot of home runs off a lot of really good pitchers and he said yeah, but I've got to throw strikes. He understands. For whatever reason, couldn't find his release point. This is his first time ever throwing on four days' rest. We were gonna have a really short pitch count anyway."

The rookie needed 57 pitches to record just five outs in the Phillies' 6-0 loss. He lines up to make one more start before the All-Star break — Saturday at home against the A's — but it remains to be seen if he does.

"We're gonna discuss some things," Thomson said of that next turn in the rotation.

The Phillies have little starting pitching depth beyond Mercado. Their fifth and sixth starters, Taijuan Walker and Spencer Turnbull, are on the injured list with a blister and lat strain, respectively. Turnbull is out until mid-to-late August. Walker is set to throw a bullpen session Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park and could throw live batting practice on Saturday. He will need multiple rehab starts before returning to the Phillies' rotation but could be back in late July or early August.

The Phils also have right-hander Tyler Phillips, who started 15 games at Triple A with a 4.89 ERA, on the active roster. Phillips made his big-league debut Sunday in the bottom of the fifth and struck out Olson, Marcell Ozuna and Travis d'Arnaud in order in his first career inning. The 26-year-old struck out seven over four innings, allowing one run on a solo homer to White.

Phillips was the lone bright spot in a Phillies loss. They had no extra-base hits Saturday for the fifth time this season and were shut out Sunday for the third time.

The Phils are off on Monday ahead of a six-game homestand that leads into the All-Star break. They have the Dodgers Tuesday through Thursday and the Athletics Friday through Sunday. Kyle Schwarber and potentially Bryce Harper could be back Tuesday and the Phils' scuffling offense needs them.

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