Phillies issue 9 walks in loss to Nationals

Phillies starter Ethan Martin gave up a three-run home run to Wilson Ramos in the second inning and did not make it out of the fifth. He issued five walks.
Phillies starter Ethan Martin gave up a three-run home run to Wilson Ramos in the second inning and did not make it out of the fifth. He issued five walks. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 05, 2013

Two Phillies pitchers fired eight straight balls with the bases loaded, and that represented the nadir of Tuesday night. A rookie wearing No. 67 relieved them in the next inning, committed a balk, and surrendered two more runs. This is what September baseball looks like for the pitching staff with the National League's worst ERA.

Washington permitted four unearned runs to the Phillies and still won, 9-6, because the home team failed at the game's most basic task of throwing strikes. The Phillies have a 4.28 ERA, which would mark their highest in a season since 2007.

Six Phillies pitchers threw 180 pitches. More were balls (92) than strikes (88). They walked nine hitters. Joe Savery and B.J. Rosenberg combined for the only walkless inning - the ninth - although Rosenberg allowed a batter to reach via a strikeout because of a wild pitch.

"It kind of snowballed for every guy that went out there," interim manager Ryne Sandberg said. "They were behind in the count. Then their fastball hitters get fastballs."

Starter Ethan Martin tired at the 60-pitch mark yet again. He walked five Nationals. The last one, a four-pitch free pass to Adam LaRoche, elicited boos at 8:36 p.m. from the 28,826 in attendance. Sandberg emerged from the dugout to cheers. The crowd booed again at 8:41, when Justin De Fratus threw four straight balls to Wilson Ramos. It was a five-minute spell of wretched baseball.

"I felt good," Martin said. "I just couldn't make the final pitch of that inning."

The Phillies are 10-9 under Sandberg. He fielded a lineup Tuesday that included one player from the opening-day batting order: John Mayberry Jr. Six of Tuesday's nine starters spent time at triple-A Lehigh Valley this season.

Five of the six pitchers who appeared were once IronPigs this summer. Phillies relievers entered Tuesday with 188 walks - 12 more than the next closest NL team - and walked four more on this night. It is an organizational problem that must be addressed this winter.

Martin is a promising arm, but not without flaws. He has failed to pitch more than five innings in six of his seven starts. He appears destined for a bullpen role in 2014, although the Phillies have shown reluctance to make that transition before 2013 ends. Tyler Cloyd, who was a starter at triple-A Lehigh Valley, could slide into Martin's spot.

"That's yet to be talked about," Sandberg said. "For a guy like Martin, this is normally the end of the season. Now he has another month of baseball ahead of him. This is new territory for him. The fact that he's getting some innings under his belt, he's able to work on some things."

Washington tried its hardest not to win. Kevin Frandsen batted in the ninth representing the tying run, but he bounced into a game-ending double play, and that was that.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com.

Follow on Twitter @magelb.

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