A strange third inning was the Phillies' undoing Wednesday night in a 5-2 loss to the Brewers.
With the game tied 1-1, Jake Arrieta walked pitcher Gio Gonzalez and Lorenzo Cain to begin the third before Christian Yelich loaded the bases on an infield single to second. Cesar Hernandez misplayed the ball, which should have resulted in an out.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Ryan Braun grounded a ball to Sean Rodriguez at third base. Both Gonzalez (the runner on third) and Rodriguez lost track of the situation. Gonzalez stayed on third base and Rodriguez hesitated before throwing home to get the force at the plate. Had Rodriguez stepped on third, he could have gotten two outs on the play by simply tagging Gonzalez.
Instead, the inning was extended and Arrieta allowed three runs, which effectively put the game away.
"Really unusual situation to have Gonzalez go back to the bag," manager Gabe Kapler said after the game. "If Gio goes back to the base, probably the play there is for Sean to tag him and then deal with (Lorenzo) Cain. Very confusing play, not one you see very often. Looked confusing to Sean as well."
Two innings later, Andrew McCutchen dropped a deep flyball in center field, which resulted in another run.
The Brewers are far too formidable an offense to give extra outs.
The Phillies scattered nine hits and had run-scoring opportunities but had just one knock with runners in scoring position.
The loss makes the Phillies 24-18. The Brewers are 26-19. The series wraps up Thursday afternoon and the schedule doesn't get much easier from here, with the Phillies' next five series coming against the Rockies, Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals and Dodgers - five legit NL contenders.
In a scheduling quirk, beginning Thursday the Phillies will play 12 consecutive games with a different start time than the previous game.
A couple promising ABs for Harper
One positive for the Phillies were Bryce Harper's early at-bats. Harper had the Phillies' two hardest-hit balls of the night, a 385-foot flyout against Gonzalez in the first inning and a well-struck opposite-field double in the third.
The flyout traveled 106 mph off the bat and the double was 109 mph. Cain caught the deep fly a step in front of the wall in left-center field.
"That ball he drove to left-center field was as clean a swing as we've seen him take," Kapler said.
It had to be encouraging for Harper and the Phillies to see him stay on the ball and drive it the opposite way twice against the lefty Gonzalez. Staying back is a good way to recalibrate your timing at the plate. Now, Harper needs to do it against a pitcher with velocity. Gonzalez's heater averaged 89 mph.
Harper also made another sliding grab to save runs, sliding to rob Yasmani Grandal of a hit and an RBI in the seventh inning. That's four games in a row Harper has made a sliding or diving catch - and he's needed to do it each time, it hasn't been false hustle.
Arrieta had a strong start to the season but his last two starts have been poor. He allowed three home runs last week in Kansas City (his most in 123 starts) and struggled with control in this one.
His ERA has quickly risen to 4.02, a tick above last season's mark of 3.96.
His defense did not help him against the Brewers - if Hernandez or Rodriguez make the appropriate decisions on the balls hit to them, perhaps Arrieta gets out of the third inning allowing one or no runs rather than three. But Arrieta also just was not sharp. He walked four and hit a batter.
How they scored
The Phillies' only runs came on Jean Segura's first-inning home run (No. 3) and McCutchen's RBI single in the seventh.
Segura and J.T. Realmuto had multi-hit games. Realmuto has been impressive in every way in his first season as a Phillie except in the power department. He's been sitting on four home runs since April 26. But everything else Realmuto has done - clutch hitting, defense, baserunning, game-calling - has helped the Phils win.
The four-game series ends Thursday at 1:05 p.m. when Zach Eflin (5-3, 2.47) opposes Zach Davies (4-0, 1.54).
Then come the Rockies for three games.
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