Phillies Game Story

Phillies' cold bats shut down by Spencer Howard and Giants' bullpen

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SAN FRANCISCO — It never seems to matter how well or poorly either team is playing, the Bay Area is rarely kind to the Phillies.

They lost to the Giants, 1-0, on Tuesday night to drop their second straight series after going unbeaten in the prior 15. The Phillies have lost nine consecutive games at Oracle Park, 12 of their last 13 and are 26-53 all-time in the Giants' scenic home park.

Zack Wheeler (2.32 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) did his thing with six scoreless innings and nine strikeouts but the bats remained quiet. The Phillies have scored 16 runs on their 1-4 road trip and six of those came in their ninth-inning comeback Saturday at Coors Field. They've scored just 10 runs in the other 47 innings of the trip.

""It's baseball, it's the ebbs and flows of the game," manager Rob Thomson said. "This club's gonna hit. We're just going through a rough patch right now."

Orion Kerkering, Jose Alvarado and Jeff Hoffman held the Giants off the board in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings but Matt Strahm gave up the walk-off sacrifice fly to Luis Matos in the bottom of the 10th. Four of the Phillies' last six losses have come in extra innings.

The Phils had a sizable advantage on paper heading into Tuesday night with their ace on the hill in a bullpen game for the Giants. San Francisco has only two left-handed relievers — Erik Miller and Taylor Rogers — and they were the first two pitchers used to cover three innings.

The opportunity to score was ripe in the middle innings when the Giants brought in Spencer Howard, who like Miller is a former Phillies prospect. The Phils traded Howard to the Rangers at the 2021 deadline for Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy and traded Miller to the Giants in January 2023 for Yunior Marte.

Howard has struggled mightily in the majors with an 8.37 ERA and .894 opponents' OPS since the trade, but the Phillies were unable to take advantage of him Tuesday.

Nick Castellanos and Edmundo Sosa singled in Howard's first inning (the fourth) but were stranded when Brandon Marsh struck out swinging on a full count.

Johan Rojas singled against Howard in the fifth but was erased on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play.

J.T. Realmuto doubled off Howard to start the sixth but was thrown out at third base trying to advance on a groundball to shortstop Brett Wisely's left. Realmuto might have thought the ball was going up the middle but Wisely made an impressive play to field it and contort his body for the throw to third.

Sosa singled off Howard to lead off the seventh and didn't advance.

Howard threw four scoreless innings. The only better night he's had as a major-leaguer was in July 2022 with the Rangers when he pitched five scoreless against the Angels.

"His fastball looked pretty similar to what it did before," Realmuto said. "I thought he looked good, though, his velo held up. He threw the ball well, kept us off balance, threw his offspeed for strikes when he needed to."

The Giants' strength is the funkiness and depth of their bullpen. Tyler Rogers and Ryan Walker have unusual, deceptive deliveries, Taylor Rogers is one of the stingiest lefty specialists in the game and Camilo Doval is a top-tier closer. That San Francisco bullpen has racked up 15 scoreless innings in the series.

"It's tough. That's something they do a really good job of — no two at-bats are the same," Realmuto said. "Their staff and their bullpen, they do a good job of giving you different looks every single at-bat. They've got some uncomfortable righties out there and some uncomfortable lefties.

"It's definitely different. That's something you can tell they focus on when they're signing guys and looking for pitchers, they try to give you different looks. My two at-bats, I went from looking down in the dirt on the mound (against Tyler Rogers) to the next guy (6-foot-11 Sean Hjelle), I was trying to look at the scoreboard to find the ball. It's a lot different eyesight, a lot different angle.

"Nevertheless, you've still got to try to get the job done and put the ball in play, we just couldn't come up with a hit tonight."

Third baseman Alec Bohm, who is 3-for-22 with one RBI over his last six games, was out of the starting lineup. It was planned and not a response to his two-error game Monday, Thomson said pregame. Bohm will be back in the lineup for the series finale Wednesday afternoon. He pinch-hit with one out and the go-ahead run 90 feet away in the top of the 10th but cued a ball to first base.

It will be a losing trip no matter what for the 38-18 Phillies, who look to salvage their three-game set in San Francisco behind Cristopher Sanchez. They fly home after the game Wednesday and have Thursday off before opening a six-game homestand against the Cardinals and Brewers.

"It's hard to maintain what we were doing," Wheeler said. "It's baseball at the end of the day, you're gonna have your ups and downs. Just take it as it comes. We'll be all right."

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