Phillies Lose a Tough One to Dodgers in Hector Neris' House of Horrors

LOS ANGELES - Welcome back to Hector's House of Horrors.

We're talking about Dodger Stadium.

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For most, it is one of the most beautiful ballparks in all the land. But for Phillies reliever Hector Neris, it is the site of way too much disappointment.

The Phillies suffered a painful 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night when Neris gave up a solo homer to rookie Will Smith with one out in the bottom of the ninth (see observations).

The homer was the first of Smith's big-league career. It came on a full-count splitter after Neris had been up, 2-0, in the count. It left the huge crowd of 53,507 dancing in the aisles and the Phillies needing a win Sunday to avoid a three-game sweep.

Manager Gabe Kapler praised the work of his pitchers. The Phillies employed an opener - Jose Alvarez - for the first time and were able to keep the game close and eventually tie it on Bryce Harper's two-run homer in the top of the eighth.

"This is a really disappointing loss, but we're really proud of the work those guys did," Kapler said of his six pitchers. "They executed the game plan to near perfection. Neris has been a stud and Smith put a good swing on a split at the bottom of the zone and that happens sometimes."

With Neris, it happens a lot at Dodger Stadium.

Over the last three seasons, he has appeared in three games at Dodger Stadium. He has totaled one inning. He has faced 11 hitters. He has been tagged for eight hits and four runs. Four of those eight hits have been homers.

Neris thought he threw Smith a good pitch down in the zone. Smith won the battle.

"I did my job and he did his job, you know?" Neris said afterward. "I used my pitch and he hit it. It was a great pitch and he got it. 

"I have to make my pitch 3-2 and he attacked with his swing. He made great contact and the ball is gone."

Neris shrugged off his struggles at Dodger Stadium.

"It's something that can happen sometimes, but it's in the past," he said. "Tomorrow I will be fighting. I'll get it tomorrow."

With better defense, this was a game the Phillies could have won. A ball dropped in front of centerfielder Scott Kingery in the third inning and eventually became a run. Later, Vince Velasquez threw away a pickoff attempt to second, the runner moved up and scored on a sacrifice fly.

The Phils got a huge defensive play from J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura in nailing a runner at second in the eighth, but those two earlier defensive miscues hurt. Big time.

"Vince, I think him and Segura executed that [pickoff] play well minus an accurate throw," Kapler said. "An accurate throw and it's a pickoff and Vince knows that and Segura did everything in his power to make that play.

"The ball that dropped in front of Kingery, one similar dropped in front of [Dodgers centerfielder] Alex Verdugo. Is it a play that can be made? Yes. Is it a play that should be made? I'm not sure."

Kingery said he thought he had a chance at the ball off the bat. He said he decided to play it safe so it would not get by him.

The Phils used an opener because Zach Eflin is on the injured list and Kapler felt it gave the club the best chance to win. Kapler did not rule out using an opener again down the road, maybe as soon as Sunday's series finale. For now, Nick Pivetta remains the scheduled starter.

Neris has had a strong season, converting 10 of 10 save chances. He made 10 appearances in May and allowed just one earned run. Neris' confidence has been fragile in the past. The Phillies hope that his successes this season will allow him to bounce back quickly. He said he would. And Kapler vowed to use him soon.

"I can't wait to put him back out there in the toughest spot," Kapler said. "He has been nails for us for almost a full calendar year and that's a pretty good track record of success. That splitter didn't bite as much as he wanted it to, but certainly that could have gone in a different fashion. Neris could have rolled through that inning and I would have been happy to send him out for an additional inning. I'm very much looking forward to giving him the ball in a huge situation again."

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