Phillies fall in 10th after Worley is wobbly

The Mets' Ruben Tejada slides safely into home as Phillies catcher Erik Kratz drops the ball.Ryan Howard responded in the bottom of the first with a grand slam.
The Mets' Ruben Tejada slides safely into home as Phillies catcher Erik Kratz drops the ball.Ryan Howard responded in the bottom of the first with a grand slam. (RON CORTES / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 30, 2012

Charlie Manuel did not chew his gum for very long Tuesday, which means his starting pitcher failed. With one out in the fifth inning of a 9-5 Phillies loss to the New York Mets, Manuel ambled toward the mound, tossed his gum, and yanked Vance Worley.

A Ryan Howard grand slam and a Chase Utley solo blast only temporarily erased Worley's shortcomings in front of the smallest announced crowd this season at Citizens Bank Park. A four-game winning streak was snapped when B.J. Rosenberg, the sixth Phillies pitcher, was shelled for four 10th-inning runs.

Worley's brevity placed a heavy onus on the bullpen, which blew an eighth-inning lead before Rosenberg imploded. Worley hardly quelled overwhelming evidence of something amiss.

He had thrown a mere 60 pitches when Manuel grabbed the ball. Television cameras showed Worley engaged with pitching coach Rich Dubee in a dugout conversation after the short outing. He has failed to complete at least six innings in five of his last seven starts.

"I'm tired of losing," Worley said. "I need to do a better job out there. It all starts with me. If I don't go deep into a game, it makes it that much tougher for the bullpen."

For all the goodwill Worley built a season ago, he is guaranteed nothing in 2013. That factors into the decision to let him pitch even with offseason surgery scheduled; surviving a full season in a major-league rotation would be a benchmark. A Mets hitter reached base to begin four of the five innings Worley took part in. Seven of the nine hits he allowed were singles. The damage mounted in the fourth once Mike Baxter, with one career home run in 192 major-league plate appearances, belted a first-pitch change-up that fluttered across the heart of home plate, cutting the Phillies' lead to 4-3.

In the fifth inning, after two New York hits, David Wright socked a sacrifice fly to deep center and that represented the breaking point for Manuel.

The 24-year-old pitcher's ERA climbed to 4.20. His ERA over a five-start span is 6.75 and 5.80 in his last 11 starts. Whatever way the numbers are twisted, ugliness persists.

Focus has centered on the bone chips floating in Worley's right elbow, but both pitcher and team maintain the injury is not affecting performance."Zero effect," Worley said. Even if he waits until after the season to undergo surgery, he will be fully healed well before spring training.

"He tells me he's fine," Manuel said. "The trainers tell me he's fine. That's all I can go by."

What do Manuel's eyes say?

"I see his command is definitely a problem," Manuel said. "He used to throw quality strikes. I don't see that right now. His fastball velocity and things like that, I can't tell a whole lot of difference. I've seen him better, of course."

Worley's conditioning is a point of consternation. His transformation from middling non-prospect to National League sensation in 2011 was attributed, in part, to improved dedication to his work when not on the mound.

The Phillies recently instructed Worley to do more cardiovascular work between starts. There will be a period of inactivity once he has surgery; thus, the increased workload now.

Most frustrating was Worley's squandering of an early 4-1 lead. He was granted a hefty advantage with Howard's blast. The Phillies loaded the bases in the first inning on 19 Chris Young pitches without putting a ball in play. Howard walloped an 86 m.p.h. fastball on the outside corner for his 11th career grand slam.

Young also suffered the same fate as Worley, lasting a mere 41/3 innings before the door opened to the most ineffective bullpen in baseball. On this night, the Phillies were worse.


Grandstanding

Ryan Howard hit his 11th career grand slam on Tuesday. It was his first since April 29, 2011, which he hit against Mets pitcher Dillon Gee.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.

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