SAN FRANCISCO — An already unsettling road trip got a little worse on Saturday when the Phillies crumbled and lost, 5-4, to the San Francisco Giants at 24 Willie Mays Plaza.
The loss was the Phillies’ second straight against a Giants team that entered the seven-game, 11-of-13 losing streak.
Prior to San Francisco, the Phils lost two of three games at Arizona. They are 1-5 in their last six games and 0-2 in September.
Surely you’ve heard that the last few months of September have been a problem for the Phils. They haven’t had a win in September since 2017 and a bad month this year could kill their chances of making the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Rob Thomson, the Phillies’ Canadian skipper, spent four years on the coaching staff before taking over from Joe Girardi in June. He knows all about those poor Septembers and thinks this one will be different.
“Different players,” he said after Saturday’s loss. “We have six or seven players in different positions from last year and a whole bunch of different pitchers. And, I’ve always said, we have a good bullpen and once we get Seranthony Dominguez back, that will be even better.
“The Toronto Maple Leafs had the same thing. They can’t get out of the first round. Well, they couldn’t get out of the first round for 15 years. Well, it’s not the same team. believe in all that. I think you have to fight and you have to win and you can’t listen to all this.
Ohio-born Phillies team manager Kyle Schwarber also struck a soothing tone after the game.
“Baseball’s ebbs and flows are real and you’re going to have times where you go through things like this, and as a group we need to make it as short as possible,” Schwarber said. “Our job right now is to shorten what is happening right now.
“It’s frustrating, of course, but it’s also exciting because we’re still in a good position. Don’t get me wrong, it’s frustrating, but it’s still in our hands right now.”
Schwarber is right. The Phillies left the stadium three games in Milwaukee for the last wildcard spot with 29 games remaining. They also hold a tiebreaker over the Brewers.
But that doesn’t eliminate the need for wins and the need to play a cleaner ball mark. The Phillies played sloppy defense on this trip, the walks piled up and the starting pitchers didn’t go far enough in games.
Saturday’s loss epitomized all of the above. The Phils gave away the game. They played poor defense and gave the Giants a run in the first inning. In the sixth inning, they gave San Francisco five outs and the Giants broke a 4-4 tie in that frame.
In that sixth inning, Schwarber misplayed a catch ball against the left wall in a starting brace and the Giants finally got the go-ahead on a base-laden walk by Brad Hand. Hand walked three batters in the frame but could have come out of the inning unscathed had second baseman Jean Segura tried to convert a double play instead of throwing home to cut a run.
Five games into the trip, Phillies pitchers walked six and hit a batter with the bases loaded.
Think about it a bit.
“We’re just going through a tough time right now,” Thomson said. “We have to fight to get out of this.”
The pitcher and defense weren’t the only culprits in Saturday’s loss. The Phillies lost a first single in the first inning. They opened the fifth with a double and a single and got nothing. In the seventh, they squandered a header triple by Schwarber. They put the first two runners on base in the eighth and got nothing.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler pulled all the right strings with his deployment of right-handed hitters against Hand in the sixth and with his bullpen calls.
The Giants bullpen had huge outs. Scott Alexander rebounded Bryce Harper in a double play to complete the top of the fifth. Jarlin Garcia blew JT Realmuto three pitches to complete the start of the seventh with runners on the corners. Camilo Doval knocked out Matt Vierling with the potential tying point in the third to complete the start of the eighth.
The Phillies ended up leaving eight men on base and were just 3 for 15 with runners in scoring position.
Phillies starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard lasted just 4⅓ innings and allowed four runs. He cost himself a run with a pitching error in the first inning.
In the Phillies’ four losses on this trip, the tee shot went only 3⅔ innings, 4 innings, 1⅔ innings and 4⅓ innings. Not good. The club are missing Zack Wheeler. Bailey Falter, Wheeler’s backup, is the only pitcher to go six innings on the trip. He did it in Wednesday night’s 18-2 win at Arizona.
Ranger Suarez will receive the ball on Sunday against Carlos Rodon. It’s a tough job for the Phils, but they need a win. This month. Wrong.