Phillies showing shades of 2012

Posted: April 08, 2013

STOP US IF you've heard of this one before:

Baseball team scores a few runs and gets a solid start from its pitcher. Baseball team's said pitcher hits a wall in the middle of the game and the bullpen is called upon.

Baseball team's relievers can't hold a lead and, instead, turn said game into a blowout.

For the 45,307 paying patrons who arrived at Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies' 2013 home debut, they found themselves duped into watching a rerun from 2012: an early lead from the offense, good-but-not-great starting pitching and disastrous relief pitching.

The Kansas City Royals, a franchise that hasn't been to the playoffs since 1985, 2 years before Domonic Brown was born, overcame an early four-run deficit to embarrass the home team in a 13-4 Phillies defeat.

For the second straight year, the Phils are 1-3 through their first four games of the season.

"The first four innings were good," manager Charlie Manuel said. "The last five got ugly and out of hand. To open the season like that, I don't like it and I don't think anybody likes it. I don't know what you're going to do about it except come out tomorrow and play as hard as you can and try to get better every day we play."

In the sixth and seventh innings, Alex Gordon and Chris Getz, respectively, each hit bases-clearing triples off Phillies relievers to lead the offensive assault.

After an uneven start from Kyle Kendrick, the bullpen trio of Jeremy Horst, Chad Durbin and Raul Valdes gave up eight runs in 3 1/3 innings. A Royals lineup that went scoreless in the game's first four innings combined to go 11-for-19 with a home run, two triples and three doubles and 11 RBI off the relievers.

Durbin, the lone veteran of the group, was summoned into the game with the Phils trailing 5-4 and with the bases loaded and no one out in the seventh. Horst had let each of the first three batters reach base in the inning.

Durbin wasn't much better, giving up a sacrifice fly, a walk and a three-run triple to the first three hitters he faced.

"It comes down to making a pitch," Durbin said. "A sacrifice play or a doubleplay and a punch-out, and it's one run and the momentum shifts back in our favor. You give them that kind of momentum and you saw what happened."

What happened: The Royals scored 13 unanswered runs. The nine-run defeat was the most lopsided home-opener loss for the Phils since a Nick Leyva-managed team dropped an 11-0 game to St. Louis in 1990.

The Phils haven't given up more than 13 runs in a home opener since a 14-5 defeat to the New York Giants at the Baker Bowl.

"This one is kind of a tough one," said Ryan Howard, who had RBI singles in each of his first two at-bats. "I know it's early, but it's tough. You don't want to lose your opener like that."

The Phillies don't want to lose any game the way Friday unfolded, but they had plenty of practice at it since the 2012 season was chock-full of games that went awry when the relievers entered.

Despite bolstering the backend of the bullpen with veteran setup man Mike Adams this winter, the front of the Phils' pen is dominated with youth and inexperience. Unless the starting pitchers begin to earn their paychecks, that youth and inexperience could lead to more games like Friday.

Phillies starters led the major leagues in innings last year, even with Roy Halladay beginning his decline. But as John Lannan takes the ball Saturday to complete the first full turn in the rotation, Cliff Lee has been the only starter to complete six innings.

"There are going to be days when they get hit," Manuel said of the green arms in the pen. "Hopefully, like last year, I think the experience of some of our guys definitely helped them. And I'm sure it did. It's just a matter of getting that consistency and being more consistent and actually doing the job when you put them in."

Horst, the 27-year-old lefthander who was one of the bullpen's few bright spots in 2012, entered in relief of Kendrick in the sixth, after Kendrick found himself in his second bases-loaded jam in as many innings.

Horst's third pitch was an 88 mph fastball that came in above the belt and in Gordon's happy zone. With one swing, Gordon turned a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 Royals lead.

Horst's next 21 pitches weren't much better. Four of the five batters he faced reached base.

Enter Durbin, who didn't get any help from his defense. After Jeff Francoeur walked to load the bases, Getz lined a ball into left; Domonic Brown sprinted in and dived toward the line in an attempt to make a catch.

Instead, the ball got by him and rolled all the way to the wall, allowing all three runners to score.

"It's a play where you can't let the ball get behind you," Manuel said of a hit that gave Kansas City a commanding 9-4 lead. "Once the ball gets behind you, the game is just about over."

The second bases-clearing triple in as many innings was also of the stadium-clearing variety. The fans leaving early didn't miss much: After scoring seven runs in the sixth and seventh innings, the Royals tacked on four more in their last two at-bats. The Phillies, meanwhile, went hitless after the third inning (0-for-20 following Michael Young's one-out single in the third).

"I like our ballclub," Manuel said when asked when he becomes worried about a slow start to a season. "Today is one day. But we have to improve on how we played today, for sure."

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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