Phillies sloppy again in loss to Brewers

Phillies centerfielder Ben Revere dives to catch a line drive hit by Milwaukee's Scooter Gennett in the second inning. Revere also went 2 for 4 at the plate.
Phillies centerfielder Ben Revere dives to catch a line drive hit by Milwaukee's Scooter Gennett in the second inning. Revere also went 2 for 4 at the plate. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: April 11, 2014

Antonio Bastardo fired two sliders, both for strikes, at Mark Reynolds to start a tie game's eighth inning Wednesday. Reynolds has struck out more times than any hitter in baseball but one since 2007. He walked five pitches later.

This is when the latest blunder - a 9-4 Phillies loss - brewed. It unfolded precisely the way Ryne Sandberg advised his team how not to perform. The Phillies could not throw strikes. They ignored baserunners. They failed at fundamentals.

"That's possibly early-season stuff that we're still in the process of ironing out," Sandberg said. "We definitely need to tighten that up."

Bastardo did not pay attention to Reynolds, the slow-footed Milwaukee Brewers first baseman, who stole a base for the sixth time in three years. The Phillies infield crept closer once Reynolds reached third, and Ryan Howard could not field a routine bouncer.

Howard covered his mouth with his glove and shouted.

Ryan Braun, who lashed a Bastardo pitch for a two-run triple, provided the lasting image. He stood on third base and waved his hands in celebration. The fans, as they exited Citizens Bank Park, booed their villain.

The Phillies have come undone in recent days. Sandberg's bunch permitted 10 unearned runs in the last three games. That is more than any major-league team has allowed all season.

The first eight games of 2014 yielded a 3-5 record, but more alarming is the fashion in which that record was attained. The bullpen is leaky. The defense is shabby. The hitting is not timely. It is reminiscent of a 73-win season in 2013 that prompted Sandberg's ascension to manager.

Neither Bastardo nor Howard was available for comment afterward. Sandberg, the first-year manager, did not offer many words to describe what he witnessed.

"I don't know what to say about it," he said of his team's defense. "We work on it. We talk about it."

"We just have to bear down," outfielder Domonic Brown said, "and make a couple of plays."

Howard's gaffe was the most egregious. Reynolds dashed from third when Logan Schafer tapped a first-pitch Bastardo slider to Howard. The first baseman approached it backhanded. The ball skipped past him amid a ballpark's collective groan.

Two batters later, Bastardo plunked Jean Segura on the hand. Braun, who struck out in his three previous at-bats, smashed a Bastardo change-up to deep center for two more runs. Braun destroyed the Phillies on Tuesday and is a career .346 hitter against lefties. But Sandberg opted to use Bastardo rather than employ a righthanded arm.

That alternative was Justin De Fratus, who surrendered a two-run homer to Reynolds an inning later. The taut game devolved into a rout.

A sloppy tone was established early; the 35-minute first inning featured a special brand of unseemliness. Milwaukee led, 2-0, just nine minutes after Roberto Hernandez fired his first pitch. One run scored when Jimmy Rollins failed to snare a high chopper; the ball glanced off his glove and skipped into left field. Hernandez threw 29 pitches to record three outs.

Matt Garza was no better. The Milwaukee righthander balked home a run in the bottom of the first. Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett threw a ball intended for second base to left field. The first replay review in Citizens Bank Park history lasted 1 minute, 29 seconds. It erased Ben Revere from second base on a close play. Still, the Phillies jumped ahead on two grounders.

They played, once again, without Chase Utley. He was quarantined with the flu Tuesday but permitted at the ballpark a day later. Sandberg considered Utley an option to pinch-hit, but that never happened. Utley's mere presence will improve the Phillies, but failures like Wednesday's extend beyond one man's power to correct.

mgelb@phillynews.com

@magelb

www.inquirer.com/

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