Phillies News

Mishaps a buzz kill for City Connect debut as Phillies fall to Pirates

The Phillies dropped back to .500 following the 5-2 loss to the Pirates.

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Scene 1. The Pirates had runners on first and third with two outs in the fourth. Connor Joe hit a sharp grounder to the shortstop hole. Trea Turner was there. But just before he was able to complete the play that would end the inning, he tripped. Or slipped on an invisible banana peel. Or something. Regardless, he went down, the ball went through, Pittsburgh had a gift run.

Scene 2. The Bucs had runners on second and third with one out in the seventh, No. 3 hitter Ke’Bryan Hayes at the plate. Reliever Yunior Marte struck out Hayes on a nasty 97.9 mile an hour sinker that started outside and then tailed back to the plate. The problem was that catcher J.T. Realmuto was expecting something else and was shifting to his right on the delivery. The pitch nailed him on the left wrist. Realmuto crumpled to the ground in pain as catcher Henry Davis easily scored from third.

And that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the mishaps and missteps and things that went bump in the night Friday in the Phillies 5-2 loss to the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park, an unfortunate series of events that even Lemony Snicket would have found absurd. It was also a real buzz kill to the excitement that had been generated by the ballyhooed introduction of the franchise’s new City Connect uniforms.

The loss dropped the Phillies back to .500 after Thursday’s win put them a game over for the first time this season.

“Any time you play a game like that you’re not going to win, right?” Bryce Harper said. “We battled to the end but when you start a game like that it’s really tough to come back.”

Still haven’t had enough? A glutton for punishment? There’s more.

Harper came into play shouldering an 0-for-18 slump with just two extra base hits since his three-homer game on April 2. He singled his first time up. Flied out to the base of the wall in dead center in the fourth. “April in Philly. It’s tough. But I thought I hit it well enough,” he said with a shrug. Doubled in the sixth. And came up with a chance to do some real damage with two on and one out in the eighth.

In this situation, the sort of moment he plays for, he ripped a sinking line drive to right, only to see Bryan Reynolds make a shoestring catch. After he got back to the dugout, he screamed in frustration and banged his batting helmet against the bullpen phone.

“Just wanted to get a hit. Just want to be better, right?” he said. “I think whenever you hit a ball like that you’re going to be frustrated when you’re out. I’m pretty emotional.”

It wasn’t just bad juju that doomed the Phillies, either, Starter Cristopher Sanchez threw the ball well, but walked three in the second inning, uncorked a wild pitch and made a fielding error. He was fortunate that the Pirates were only able to turn that into a single unearned run. He also had to pitch around his own throwing error in the third.

Marte, unscored on in his first six outings of the season, needed 27 pitches to get through seven batters. He walked two and left the bases loaded or it could have been worse. He had two balls called on pitch clock violations.

A pregame story line was Sanchez facing former Phillie Bailey Falter. It would be even more dramatic if the Phillies had kicked Falter to the curb in order to make room for Sanchez last season, juicier if the two lefthanders had been competing head-to-head for the final vacancy in the rotation coming out of spring training in 2023, if Falter had won that battle but Sanchez eventually won the war.

It would also be enough of an exaggeration to alchemize fact into fiction.

The real skinny is that, almost certainly, Falter was the Phillies fifth starter when the ’23 season opened only because top-rated prospect Andrew Painter turned out to require Tommy John surgery. And Sanchez did not take his place in the rotation immediately after Falter was excised due to an 0-7 record and a 5.13 ERA in the middle of May. He did, however, step in a month later and lock the spot down.

Not exactly a grudge match, then, at least for Sanchez. “We were just teammates,” he said when asked to describe their relationship. By any measure, though, Falter outpitched him this time around.

The Phillies managed to get only one runner past first base against him. That was Brandon Marsh who doubled in the fifth, advanced when Nick Castellanos grounded out to the right side and scored when Bryson Stott topped a pitch in front of the plate that neither Falter or Davis could handle.

For all the talk of the Phillies lack of pop recently, their first scored on a single with an exit velocity of 28.1 miles an hour that traveled all of 34 feet. The only other came on a bases loaded walk by Alec Bohm in the eighth.

For the third time in the last four games they were held without a home run.

The only positive note for the Phils was that Realmuto, who had to leave Tuesday’s game in St. Louis after a foul tip bounced off the dirt and caromed up, striking him directly in the throat, was able to stay in the game Friday. Manager Rob Thomson said he didn’t think Realmuto was seriously injured and that he expected him to be available Saturday.

On a night like this, you take your silver linings where you find them.

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