Kid Phillies fall to Nationals

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Ethan Martin tosses dirt after giving up a three-run homer to the Nationals' Wilson Ramos.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Ethan Martin tosses dirt after giving up a three-run homer to the Nationals' Wilson Ramos.
Posted: September 05, 2013

CESAR HERNANDEZ led off and Freddy Galvis batted second.

Darin Ruf and Cody Asche hit in the middle of the lineup and Michael Martinez started in centerfield. Ethan Martin threw the game's first pitch.

Former Lehigh Valley manager Ryne Sandberg was not trying to stage a recreation of some long-lost IronPigs game last night at Citizens Bank Park. He was actually trying to win a major league game.

It's fair to say when general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. sits down and figures out how to rate Sandberg's job as a major league manager, he'll be grading on a curve. After all, the general manager put together a roster that's currently chock full of Triple A talent.

Not surprisingly, the Phillies fell to the Washington Nationals, 9-6.

Martin pitched less than five innings for his third straight start and the guys hitting at the top of the lineup and playing in place of Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins were a combined 1-for-9. The Phillies took advantage of three Nationals errors but couldn't recover from the nine walks issued by their own pitchers.

Welcome to September baseball in South Philly.

"Frustrating" was the word both Sandberg and Martin used to describe the game. Some of the folks who paid to watch the game may have used more colorful terminology.

"It was a frustrating game on the pitching side, a lot of pitches thrown, bases on balls," Sandberg said. "Every guy was getting behind in the count. And then you're talking fastball hitters getting fastballs."

The Nationals complemented nine walks by pounding out 11 hits in winning for the 10th time in their last 14 games.

An announced crowd of 28,826 - the lowest draw since April 3, 2008 - watched a forgettable Phillies season careen closer to the end. The Phils (63-76) have lost three of their last four games and are inching closer to clinching their first losing season since 2002.

There are 23 games remaining. There's a fair chance more than a couple of those will play out like last night, when a fading Phillies team let the kids have a go. The team is out of contention, so it's easy to understand why management would want to see what the likes of Hernandez and Galvis can do, while not taxing the workloads of the likes of Utley and Rollins.

Whether it's conducive to winning games is another story.

Martin, making his seventh major league start, looked very much like the 24-year-old kid long on velocity but short on stamina. He punched out two of the first three batters he faced, but he also served up a three-run home run to Wilson Ramos in the second inning and couldn't pitch his way out of the fifth.

Martin walked three of the final four batters he faced, the last coming with the bases loaded. His final pitching line had more earned runs and walks (five each) than innings pitched (4 2/3).

"I didn't make that final pitch to get out of the inning," Martin said. "It's kind of been that way in the majority of my starts up here."

Martin has pitched beyond the fifth inning in just one of his seven starts.

"That's one thing I try to do, go as deep as I can," said Martin, who totaled 86 pitches last night. "When I can't do that, it's frustrating."

The five pitchers who followed Martin, also recent grads of the Lehigh Valley School of Pitching, weren't much better. Justin De Fratus, the first out of the 'pen, threw four straight balls to the first batter he faced to bring home Washington's second straight run on a walk.

The Nationals upped their lead to 7-2 an inning later, when Mauricio Robles' major league debut included a walk, a balk, and back-to-back, two-out, run-scoring singles.

The six pitchers who took the mound for the Phillies in the longest nine-inning game of the year (3 hours, 38 minutes) threw just 88 of their 180 pitches (48.9 percent) for strikes.

"Bases on balls hurt us . . . Sometimes it gets contagious," Sandberg said. "It kind of snowballed."

On a night when the sea of blue seats was blinding, perhaps as empty as the 10-year-old ballpark has ever been in September, at least one of the Baby Phils provided the fans who stuck through the game's entirety with a few highlights.

Cody Asche went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI. Asche, who had a nine-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday in Chicago, is hitting .312 with 10 extra-base hits, including three home runs, and 16 RBI in his last 22 games.

Ashe's first two hits, including a two-run single that cut Washington's lead to 3-2 in the fourth, came off Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez. Asche, who has sat out against lefties more than a couple times since his arrival to the big leagues, is 5-for-13 (.385) against lefthanders in his first 6 weeks with the Phillies.

"I thought he had great at-bats," Sandberg said. "It goes a long way with his ability. I think he can hit righties or lefties. He has the ability. He should get a big boost from his game tonight."

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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