Once in a blue moon, the Phillies’ bullpen, stocked with Lehigh Valley arms, will have a game in which things go right.
But the overall numbers don’t lie. The bullpen is in shambles and once Pittsburgh put up a crooked number on John Lannan in the fifth inning Wednesday, the Phils were in trouble.
The Phillies fell behind, 4-1, then cut the deficit to one, but the unproven bullpen gave the runs right back as the Phillies lost to the Pirates, 6-5.
Let’s be honest, not many major-league teams win a ton of games when a starter goes less than six innings. For the Phillies, a Jekyll and Hyde offense and a Triple A bullpen make it nearly impossible.
The Phillies (40-45) did it Tuesday night but are 5-20 this season when a starter fails to go six innings.
Lannan wiggled out of trouble in the second and third frames, but with a 1-0 lead in the fifth, Lannan allowed a run before Pedro Alvarez jumped on a 1-0 pitch and launched a three-run homer to right field. Pittsburgh reeled off six hits in the inning and the Phils’ lefty was finished after five innings, trailing 4-1.
In Lannan’s last five starts, he’s allowed 17 earned runs in 23 2/3 innings (6.46).
The Phillies countered with two runs the next frame, one on an error, but Phillippe Aumont lost the two runs by surrendering a pair of his own in one-third of an inning.
Five of the Phillies’ seven current relief arms have pitched at Triple A Lehigh Valley this season. The only two that haven’t: Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon, guys that normally pitch with leads late in games.
With the Phillies down to their last out, Domonic Brown skied a two-run homer to right field, but it was too little, too late. The long ball was Brown’s 22nd of the season and the RBIs were his 59th and 60th.
The Phillies conclude their 10-game road trip on Thursday. Cole Hamels (2-11, 4.58) opposes the Pirates’ highly-touted 22-year-old righty Gerrit Cole (4-0, 3.70). First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m.
Winning a road series against the team with baseball’s best record would be a major confidence-booster heading into a critical 10-game homestand. After Thursday, the Phils welcome the Braves (49-35), Nationals (42-42) and White Sox (33-48) to Citizens Bank Park.
How the Phillies perform over that stretch could very much determine their buy-or-sell fate.