Bullpen sabotages Phillies, Halladay

Phils leftfielder Dominic Brown showed some leather in the fifth inning, when he tracked down a John McDonald drive for a spectacular diving catch. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Phils leftfielder Dominic Brown showed some leather in the fifth inning, when he tracked down a John McDonald drive for a spectacular diving catch. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Posted: April 26, 2013

When a surgeon removed one of Mike Adams' ribs last winter, the pitcher finally felt at ease. His right arm, which could once throw a fastball at an average of 93 m.p.h., was no longer numb. The Phillies paid him $12 million to provide stability in the eighth inning.

Then a 5-3 Phillies loss to Pittsburgh happened Wednesday, and it resembled the nightmares of a season ago for both pitcher and team. Adams could barely top 91 m.p.h. He never looked comfortable during the span of four batters, all of whom reached base. A one-run Phillies lead became a deficit.

"Flat out, I was bad tonight," Adams said. "There's no way of getting around it."

A 9-13 start matches the team's worst since 2006.

Before Wednesday, the Phillies were 6-0 when leading after six innings. Antonio Bastardo began the bullpen implosion by surrendering a solo home run in the seventh. Adams appeared next.

It spoiled the promise of the first six innings. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both homered. Roy Halladay allowed one hit. The offense generated momentum, but still failed to maximize its chances.

"It almost felt like two different games," Halladay said.

"I felt like we were in control of the game," manager Charlie Manuel said, "even after Bastardo gave up the homer."

Adams pitched for the third time in four days. He proclaimed himself healthy in spring training, his bout with thoracic outlet syndrome behind him. The Phillies exalted his lively arm.

With no margin for error, the eighth swiftly unraveled. Jose Tabata drew a six-pitch walk. Starling Marte drilled one to third that Michael Young blocked but could not gather. Travis Snider roped one to right and that tied the game. Andrew McCutchen walked on eight pitches. That prompted Manuel to get the hook.

"I feel fine," Adams said. "My body was out of whack for a few days, but it was one of those things you kind of go through it. I basically came out and wasn't able to locate. That's what it comes down to."

Jeremy Horst inherited a terrible situation - bases loaded with none out - and induced three grounders. One of them escaped a drawn-in infield to score a run. That was the difference.

A day after challenging his players - "We're going to see if they can hit" - Manuel made a change to his lineup. He split the lefties Utley and Howard with Young batting third. It was the first time he did that since the 2011 postseason.

Utley was engrossed in his pregame work and not aware of the change until a reporter informed him around 3:30 p.m.

"Is that what's happening today?" he said. "I could see how that would be beneficial."

In the first inning, Utley cranked a 1-0 fastball to the third row of the second deck in right field. Howard blasted a hanging curveball in the fourth. Incredibly, it was the first 0-2 pitch he hit for a home run since 2008. Both Utley and Howard smashed lefthander Wandy Rodriguez, who had boasted a 0.56 ERA.

Kevin Frandsen delivered a pinch-hit RBI single in the sixth to make it 3-1. There were chances for more. Rodriguez came unglued in the fourth and recovered. The Phillies put runners on first and third with no outs in the fifth inning and with Young, the No. 3 hitter, at the plate. They did not score a run. Young bounced into a rare 5-4-2 double play. Howard lined to first for the third out.

The bullpen's slip made Halladay's night a footnote. Halladay has allowed four runs in his last 21 innings (a 1.71 ERA) with 16 strikeouts and five walks. He corrected first-inning command problems and retired 11 straight Pirates at one point. Yet again, pristine pitching was wasted in a stale April for these Phillies.

Contact Matt Gelb

at mgelb@phillynews.com.

Follow @magelb on Twitter.


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