The Phillies are Lucy with the football and we are Charlie Brown.
After their 13-6 drubbing of the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night, the Phillies had won four games in a row, evened their record at 9-9 and scored 31 runs in those four contests. After getting swept by the Baltimore Orioles at home, they had swept their division rival New York Mets and went into Fenway Park swinging the bats beautifully. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler were dealing and everyone up and down the lineup was hitting.
For the first time in the 2020 season, the Phillies looked like a legitimately good team.
It was fun while it lasted.
The Phils’ bats went to sleep in a 6-3 loss to Boston in the series finale on Wednesday. Hey, that happens. But Thursday’s brutal doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Blue Jays in Buffalo was a flat-out embarrassment. The bullpen once again blew a late lead as Tommy Hunter (5.63 ERA) gave up a run in the 6th inning to tie the game at 2-2, followed by the ubiquitous Deolis Guerra (9.45 ERA) allowing a run in the bottom of the 7th that gave the Jays a walk-off 3-2 win.
The second game paper bag-on-your-head embarrassing. After jumping out to a seemingly insurmountable 7-0 lead in the 1st inning, the Phils pitching staff and infield defense proved all leads against them are mountable. Vince Velasquez (7.62 ERA) gave two of those runs right back in the bottom of the 1st, then he, Connor Brogdon (16.88 ERA), and Hector Neris (6.75 ERA) allowed a staggering seven runs in the bottom of the 6th to turn a 7-2 lead into a 9-7 deficit.
The pitching staff was “helped” by two horrific errors from two usually dependable defenders. Scott Kingery and Didi Gregorius both botched easy grounders in that seven-run fiasco. Even as bad as the Blue Jays are, giving them five outs to play with is questionable strategy.
And in case you were wondering, it’s been half a century since a Phillies team lost a baseball game after scoring a touchdown in the opening frame.
If it seems as if this team is incapable of sustained success, you’re not dreaming. Once again, the Phillies failed to win five games in a row. In fact, the last time the Phillies won five in a row was two years ago, July 31-August 5, when they beat the Red Sox in Boston and then swept a four game series against the Marlins. This week marked the 5th time dating back to last season that the Phils had won four in a row and failed to reach that unreachable fifth straight victory.
It seems inconceivable that a team with Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura, Scott Kingery, Andrew McCutchen, Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta wouldn’t be able to somehow luck their way into five wins in a row at some point in the last two years, and yet, here we are.
Clearly, the bullpen is a lead weight around the Phillies’ necks and, even if they somehow win enough games to be one of the National League’s eight playoff teams, it’s hard to see how they go anywhere in the postseason with this group of relievers. Matt Klentak came into the season depending on oft-injured youngsters Seranthony Dominguez and Victor Arano to be major contributors, and hoped to get lucky on some waiver claims. It was a foolish plan, almost as if drawn on the back of a napkin at the last moment.
And while there are positives about this team, the offense’s seeming appearing/disappearing act, the inconsistency of Jake Arrieta and Velasquez, combined with an unforgivably bad ‘pen, has this team back to 9-12 and searching for answers.
You just can’t trust these Phillies. Every time you start to feel good about them, that better days are ahead, they come up small. This roster, built by Klentak, has some fatal flaws that the offense and two stud pitchers have been unable to overcome.
Maybe it’s time we stop trying to kick Lucy’s football until she proves she’s not going to yank it out of the way.