Buchanan's solid effort not enough for slump-ridden Phillies

David Buchanan delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh on Saturday, July 5, 2014. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

PITTSBURGH -- These days there is little margin for error for the Phillies pitchers. The Phillies have dropped 12 of their last 15 games following Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

David Buchanan had a solid effort, allowing three runs in six innings.

The problem is that with the way the Phillies offense is going, it obviously wasn’t enough.

Since he doesn’t have overpowering stuff, Buchanan must be precise with location. And he allowed a two-run first inning home run to Andrew McCutchen by throwing a two-seamer right over the heart of the plate.

 “We haven't been able to bounce back with runs on the board to wipe away mistakes,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “Even a first-pitch fastball to McCutchen, whether it was a mistake or not, it was hammered and two runs are on the board."

Buchanan is now 4-5 with a 4.82 ERA. He has stuck out 34 and walked 16 in 55 innings.

“All in all, I think he has given us chances to win,” Sandberg said. “He really has to focus on staying down in the zone, staying down at the knees with all four pitches is  when he has been at his best.”

And since this is his first time in the big leagues, Buchanan is learning on the job.

“He has to get experience, and he does have composure and hangs in there to put zeros on the board to allow himself to go deep into games,” Sandberg said.

Buchanan has gone at least five innings in all nine of his starts, although in four of them he has lasted exactly five innings.

While Buchanan was far from satisfied from his effort against the Pirates, he also was happy that he allowed just one walk, after surrendering a total of nine the previous two outings.

“When I’m throwing strikes, I’ll have quicker innings and go deeper into ballgames,” Buchanan said.  

Against the Pirates, he had some success with one of the oldest rules of pitching.

“I just wanted to establish the fastball early,” he said. “I was trying to get ahead of McCutchen, and he earned it.”

Those are lessons that he will keep learning.