What happened to the Late Show?

The Phillies have scored three runs in their last 35 innings against opposing bullpens. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

Forget about Josh Johnson. Let's talk about Mike Dunn and Leo Nunez. Last night, the Marlins' set-up/closer combo shut down the eighth and ninth inning to finish off the Phillies' 2-1 loss. On the surface, that shouldn't make you spit up your Cheerios. After all, Dunn and Nunez did what set-up men and closer are supposed to do: they set up a victory, and the closed it out. Problem is, opposing relievers have been succeeding at their jobs against the Phillies at an amazing rate.

Including last night's victory, the Phillies have scored just three runs in their last 35 innings against opposing bullpens. That is not a typo (although there may be others in this post). Three runs. 35 innings. The Phillies have put runners on base during that stretch -- 36, to be exact -- but they have struck out 33 times and have rarely managed to come up with a big hit.

The numbers for the entire season aren't nearly as ugly. In 112 innings against opposing bullpens, the Phillies have scored 44 runs, an average of 3.54 per-nine-innings. But their recent struggles -- again, three runs in their last 35 innings -- do call to mind last year's National League Championship Series, when they managed just six runs while striking out 22 times in 20 1/3 innings against the Giants' bullpen.

Think back to the 2008 World Series, when they scored 10 runs in 16 1/3 innings against the Rays' bullpen. Or that year's NLCS, when they scored 14 runs in 21 innings against the Dodgers' bullpen. One of the chief characteristics of this Phillies team over the last four years has been its ability to stage late-game rallies.

In 2008, they scored 156 runs in the eighth inning or later at a rate of about 4.53 runs-per-nine-innings. In 2009, they scored 144 at a rate of 4.14 per-nine. Last season, they scored 145 at a rate of about 4.16-per-nine.

This year, though, the Phils have scored 23 runs in 68 innings in the eighth or later. That's an average of 3.04 per-nine, more than a run lower than their rate over the previous three seasons.

A quick run down of possible explanations?

1. The struggles of the bottom half of the Phillies order have made made it easier for opposing relievers to tread carefully.

2. Bullpens around the NL have improved. That's certainly true for the Marlins.

3. The drop off simply reflects the struggles of the offense as a whole. The last three years, Chase Utley and Jayson Werth were in the line-up. Now, they aren't.

4. Power plays late, and the Phils have struggled to hit home runs this season.

5. It's sheer luck.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to come up with the correct answer, although it probably involves some combination of the five. I just found it interesting. Three runs. 35 innings.

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