If you’re the kind of person who feels like one series or one game can determine a season, then this weekend the Phillies spent in L.A. wasn’t for you. They dropped all three games against the Dodgers, facing some starting pitching that put theirs to shame, scored only six runs total to the Dodgers’ 18, and left down in a stunned, bewildered state. The Phillies are still the Phillies, a team comprised of a lot of good players but with some decisions to make as the season goes on, but they did just drop three games to the best team in the National League, which told us that, as of now, that’s a status that still eludes them.
Nick Pivetta gave the best pitching performance of the weekend, using rediscovered command to unload his breaking pitch to great affect. He lasted six innings, keeping, again, the best team in the NL to just three hits; no walks, no runs. It was some of the best Pivetta we’ve ever seen, and it came against a team no one expected him to beat after the up and down season he’s had. He put the Phillies in a position to score a few runs off Rich Hill and leave down with a victory.
But, they didn’t. Because Hill, like all the Dodgers starters this weekend, had a pretty good day, too. He went seven innings, giving up three hits and three walks, but the Phillies couldn’t score a run across to save their lives—or even log a base runner really. They went 0-for-4 with RISP and left six men on base. Jean Segura, Rhys Hoskins, and Bryce Harper went a combined 0-for-10 with 2 SO. This team’s got a lot of hitters on it, but when the meat of the lineup shuts down, there’s not a lot anybody can do. Cesar Hernandez hit a double, if you’re looking for scraps. He, uh. Didn’t score. Obviously.
The bullpen is what made this score look a lot worse than it should. The Phillies chase the Dodgers’ for most of the game down 1-0, with Vince Velasquez surrendering the lead after relieving Pivetta in the seventh. Edgar Garcia was the author of the most trouble, getting kicked around for four earned runs in the eighth, and Yacksel Rios couldn’t stop the bleeding as the Dodgers scored three more after he entered the game. Hector Neris has been good this season, but the bullpen is riddled with injuries—this team is begging for stability somewhere at the back of the pen.
So, we move on. The Phillies play the Padres tonight for more late night west coast baseball action, the first of the Bryce Harper/Manny Machado meetings of the year, if that’s something that means anything to you. The Phillies finished their tough stretch of competition with the NL’s best at 10-10, remain in first place, and still have questions moving forward that won’t be answered by the acquisition of Jay Bruce—though we’ll see how the 32-year-old slugger’s presence impacts the Phillies bench depth. Onward.