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No Port in a Storm: Mariners 10, Phillies 9

Two four-run leads blown, another one-run loss to swallow

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Philadelphia Phillies
T-t-t-tip on the tightrope
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

At some point - and I won’t pretend to know at what point, exactly - the Phillies will have to stop blowing leads. I mean, they will if they want to win more games. It’s just common sense.

Forgoing leads of 4-0 and 9-5 in favor of driving everyone insane, the Phillies eventually flushed this one away and lost to the Mariners, 10-9.

Jerad Eickhoff was his unusual self, leaving before finishing the fourth after allowing five runs on eight hits and walking more (three) than he strike out (two). After being staked to the 4-0 lead following another strong first inning from the offense, Eickhoff allowed a two-out, two-run homer to Robinson Cano (who is very good) in the third and a one-out, three-run homer to Ben Gamel (an Andrew Toles Award winner) in the fourth to fully cough up the lead and let the Mariners creep ahead, 5-4. Eick’s ERA ballooned to 4.76 after Tuesday’s start, and while he never gave off an injured vibe, he sure looked like a guy in need of figuring a thing or two out between now and his next start.

The Phillies’ offense, for its part, was pretty dang good. Past Phillies teams would have called it a night after four first-inning runs, but the bats responded immediately after the first lead was relinquished. The Phils retaliated with five runs, highlighted by a three-run Altherr homer, to restore their four-run lead. So, Phils pitchers had a second crack at protecting a big lead, this time at 9-5. Redemption time!

Yeah, alright. You’ve probably watched a Phils game or two this season, so you know now that absolutely no lead is safe. And the second four-run lead was no different. In need of stretch appearances, Mark Leiter got one out before allowing a single and a walk in the sixth - after a clean fifth - and Joely Rodriguez promptly decided the game should be closer. Two singles sandwiched a Maikel Franco error and, all of a sudden, it was a one-run game, 9-8.

Rodriguez stayed in to pitch the seventh (mostly because of that whole thin bullpen pitching behind a short start thing) and fully forfeited the lead to Ted Williams Reincarnate (that Gamel fellow), and 9-9 was the new reset point.

In the top of the eighth, Carlos Ruiz made his much-anticipated return to the field in Philadelphia. Pinch-hitting in a poorly-pitched game maybe wasn’t home those in attendance thought they’d welcome him back, but he was offered a proper ovation just the same. Pat Neshek got him to fly out, and he trotted back to the dugout to more cheers. He’ll certainly get more when he starts (as expected) tomorrow afternoon.

The Phils had a shot to go back ahead in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded and one out, but an aggressive send of Daniel Nava on a short fly ball to right field (where, you guess it, Ben Gamel was playing) resulted in a flyball double play. You’re not surprised.

In the top of the ninth, Hector Neris allowed a single to Jean Segura (his third hit of the night), retired Gamel (finally) on a grounder that advanced Segura. Taylor Motter and his impressive hairdo stepped up next and delivered a crushing double down the left field line, scoring Segura and putting Seattle ahead once more.

Impressive youngster Edwin Diaz closed the door unceremoniously in the bottom of the ninth, retiring Michael Saunders, Tommy Joseph and Freddy Galvis without much effort.

The Phils are now 6-9 in one-run games and are 2-9 in their last 11 overall, and have an increasingly serious bullpen problem. Pat Neshek has been fine, basically without qualification. Everybody else? There’s reasonable concern across the board, a big part of which involves their usage both situationally and voluminously. Neris appeared for the 17th time in 31 games and allowed the go-ahead run; Rodriguez was used for an extended appearance once again; Jeanmar Gomez was placed on the DL and, as broken as he was, he was more of a sure thing than what Leiter might turn out to be. Rodriguez, too, continues to be the only left-handed relief option available, and lefties have an OBP above .400 against him.

I digress. A loss is a loss, and the Phils lost tonight to drop to 13-18. They continue to struggle tremendously when pitching with two outs, and desperately need better relief pitching as they hope Eickhoff can shake off the rust and return to form next time out.

Tomorrow afternoon, Zach Eflin will look to provide some needed length as he takes on Yovani Gallardo. First pitch is set for 1:05, and the anticipated time of the Phils’ first blown lead of that game is tentatively set for 1:15.