Hernandez, Phils tripped up by the Pirates

Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd after a called third strikeby umpire C.B Bucknor in the second inning.
Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd after a called third strikeby umpire C.B Bucknor in the second inning. (Getty Images)
Posted: July 06, 2014

PITTSBURGH - Frequently when a team goes bargain hunting in baseball, it gets what it pays for. That has been the case so far with the Phillies and righthander Roberto Hernandez.

In the offseason, he was signed as a free agent to a one-year $4.5-million deal. It shows a few things - $4.5 million doesn't go very far when purchasing starting pitching and even at that less-than-outlandish price, Hernandez, like his team, has been wildly inconsistent.

While he has enjoyed some strong moments this season, Friday certainly wasn't one of them as the Phillies suffered an 8-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

Hernandez's disastrous first inning was a microcosm of the Phillies season. He allowed four runs, threw 45 pitches, and if Jimmy Rollins had not thrown out an ill-advised Starling Marte at home, it could have been worse.

As it was, the Pirates got RBI base hits from Russell Martin and Josh Harrison and a two-run single from Jordy Mercer. Andrew McCutchen's RBI double in the fourth made it 5-0.

"I was throwing the two-seamer down and everything was flat," Hernandez said.

Sort of like the season.

"It set a tough tone for the game," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.

Hernandez has enjoyed one strong month sandwiched between two subpar ones. The good one was May, when his ERA was 1.73 in six appearances, which included four starts.

In April, his ERA was 5.74. It was 5.03 in June.

July isn't starting out much better.

Sandberg didn't give a ringing endorsement when asked if there has been any consideration to taking Hernandez out of the rotation.

"Right now there are not options," said Sandberg, whose team managed just two hits. "For right now, he is in the starting rotation."

Should more have been expected from Hernandez?

Maybe it was hoped that the 33-year-old, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, could turn the clock back to his last effective season. That was in 2010, when he was 13-14 with a 3.77 ERA for the Cleveland Indians.

When a team like the Phillies has a high payroll, it has to make some attempt at looking for potential bargains.

Hernandez's big problem this season has been his inability to go deep into games. Friday was his 16th start, and he has gone seven or more innings just twice. He has gone six or more innings seven times.

The positive about Friday's performance is that he battled, but after walking Marte with two outs in the sixth inning, Hernandez was replaced by Justin De Fratus.

In 52/3 innings, Hernandez allowed the five runs (all earned) on 10 hits. Hernandez threw 117 pitches, 66 for strikes.

"Fortunately he was able to stay in and pitch [almost] six innings, which saved our bullpen," Sandberg said. "It would have been worse."

Again, that's not the highest praise. Yet in this frustrating season in which the Phillies are now 37-49, both praise and wins have been hard to come by.

Pirates starter Gerrit Cole allowed just one hit in five shutout innings. He threw 80 pitches, but was removed due to soreness in his right lat.

Cole gave way to Stolmy Pimentel, who faced four batters, waking three while allowing a Chase Utley RBI single.

The Phillies scored their second run when Marlon Byrd hit into a double play off reliever Jared Hughes. But then the righthander struck out Cody Asche to end the inning.

When Mercer hit a two-run double off De Fratus in the seventh inning, it was too much to overcome.

That dropped Hernandez's record to 3-8 with a 4.48 ERA. At this point at least, he hasn't been the bargain the Phillies were looking for while doing their offseason shopping.


mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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