It was another bad night for the Phillies' bullpen Tuesday. Three more runs allowed, another blown lead, another home run. For the month of June, Phillies relievers have a 6.17 ERA and they have given up 64 hits, including a majors-high 13 home runs, in 54 innings.
Things have turned so badly for the bullpen that now even dashing debutant Seranthony Dominguez is giving up killer hits.
The hard-throwing rookie right-hander surrendered a tie-breaking, solo home run to St. Louis Cardinals leadoff man Matt Carpenter in the top of the ninth inning as the Phillies blew a late two-run lead in what ended up a 7-6 loss (see first take).
Dominguez, brought in after Rhys Hoskins tied the game with a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth, struck out the first two batters in the ninth before Carpenter, looking like a man who knew what was coming, unloaded on an 0-2 fastball and sent it over the wall in right. Dominguez didn't want to climb the ladder on Carpenter. He didn't want to throw his slider. He wanted to get him out with a fastball on the inside part of the plate. He missed his spot and allowed his first homer in 22 1/3 innings as a big-leaguer.
Dominguez might have been guilty of being a little too proud of his fastball, thinking he could get it by Carpenter.
"I don't think it was a rookie mistake at all," manager Gabe Kapler said of the 0-2 fastball. "I think it was not a perfectly located pitch. But you can find those from veterans and you can find them from rookies. It's just imperfect. If you can rewind time, maybe you throw that pitch a little more in off the plate and maybe then it's foul. This is a game of inches and we've seen that over the last couple of days."
Indeed, the Phillies won Monday night's game in extra innings when Aaron Altherr's go-ahead double fell just in front of a diving Marcell Ozuna in left.
Earlier Tuesday night, Carpenter tagged a 1-0 curveball from Tommy Hunter for a game-tying, two-run double with two outs in the seventh. That hit was the first of three straight against Hunter as the Cards rallied for four runs in the seventh to take a 6-4 lead.
Hunter, in the first year of a two-year, $18 million contract, picked up Vince Velasquez in the inning after Velasquez had given up a single and hit a batter. Hunter got the first out before giving up a pair of two-run doubles, including Carpenter's.
"I had a lot of confidence in Tommy to get us out of that jam and their hitters did a really good job tonight," Kapler said. "We just got beat by some good hitters tonight."
It seems every night brings a new bullpen drama for this team. But management remains confident in the group. General manager Matt Klentak said so before the game (see story). He even singled out Hunter, who entered with a 4.05 ERA in 24 games, as possibly having the best year of his career. Even after the game, Kapler remained steadfastly confident in the bullpen. In recent days, he has been asked about possible upgrades. He believes the Phillies can solve their problems with the relievers that are currently here.
"Roughly six days ago, the questions that we were addressing were: Are you concerned about this offense and I said very comfortably that I had a lot of confidence in this offense and the reason I said I had a lot of confidence in this offense is because I know that we have a talented group of individuals, guys that have a track record of success," Kapler said. "I'm very confident in our bullpen, too, for the same reason. We have a lot of athletic arms out there, guys that are prepared to play every single night, guys with a track record of success. Seranthony has been dominant through the beginning of his career. Tommy Hunter has years of success under his belt. That's why we went out and got him. Do I have confidence in our bullpen? Absolutely. Just like I have confidence in our offense."
Odubel Herrera and Carlos Santana homered to help the Phils build a 4-2 lead for Velasquez. He allowed those two base runners with one out in the seventh to make Hunter's job a little more difficult.
"Vince threw his tail off," Hunter said. "But you know, it's just unfortunate that I wasn't able to get that done right there. It was a big part of the game, and I didn't come through. That's pretty much the whole gist of it."
The loss left the Phillies at 38-33 and the bullpen licking its wounds.
The Phils also lost J.P. Crawford to a broken left hand (see story).
"Frustrating game to lose, obviously," Kapler said.