And wasted by: Jonathan Papelbon.
A sound game from the Phillies went for naught when the enigmatic closer entered the ninth inning with a 3-1 lead and promptly permitted this:
Single, strikeout, double, single, single, walk, walk.
A colossal collapse by Papelbon handed the Rangers (2-1) a come-from-behind 4-3 win and series victory over the Phils (1-2) in Arlington, Texas.
Prior to the ninth, all was well. Two massive cogs to the Phillies’ 2014 hopes set things up nicely.
After overcoming a rocky first frame, Kyle Kendrick finished with seven innings of one-run ball, while Ryan Howard popped his first home run of the season.
Ryne Sandberg threw Mario Hollands right back into the fire and the rookie responded. Hollands confidently hurled a 1-2-3 eighth inning against the same portion of the Texas order in which he failed against the night before: Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and Prince Fielder.
Again, so much wasted.
What we liked
• Kendrick shook off first-inning trouble and settled into a groove. The Rangers had men on second and third with no outs and Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios coming to the plate. Kendrick admirably saw his way through it unscathed.
• Carlos Ruiz is a nice fit in the Phils’ two-hole. Typically the team’s top on-base man, Ruiz walks, puts the ball in play and doesn’t strike out at a high clip. On Wednesday night, Ruiz went 2 for 4 with a double, single, walk and two runs scored.
• Howard walloped his first homer of the season off Texas starter lefty Robbie Ross. It was a two-out, two-run shot in the third inning estimated at 411 feet. That’s three two-out RBIs versus left-handed pitching over the last two games for Howard.
What we disliked
• Umm … Papelbon. Two consecutive nights of outstanding starting pitching go for two losses.
• The Phillies were a bit slipshod in the field, committing three errors that fortunately did no harm. Jayson Nix made an error at shortstop on a redirected ball, but also turned a nice double play with Chase Utley. For the most part thus far, Nix looks pretty capable at third base and shortstop.
• Not a whole lot to dislike aside from the meltdown by the closer.
The Phils head to Chicago for three 2:20 p.m. games against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Here are the probable pitching matchups:
Friday — RHP Roberto Hernandez (first start) vs. LHP Travis Wood (first start)
Saturday — LHP Cliff Lee (1-0, 14.40) vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija (0-0, 0.00)
Sunday — RHP A.J. Burnett (0-0, 1.50) vs. RHP Carlos Villanueva (0-0, INF)