Phillies' slide continues with loss to Braves
Just two weeks earlier, the Phillies had returned from the All-Star break and they let their bats loose at Citi Field.
The Phils scored 11 runs in the game’s first three innings en route to an easy win over the New York Mets.
It pushed their record above the .500 mark. It moved them 6 ½ games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves and 5 ½ games out of the National League’s second wild card.
That was two weeks ago.
On Friday, the Phillies welcomed back the best players in franchise history, including Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton, and they called up Zach Miner to join the beleaguered bullpen and activated rookie righthander Ethan Martin to make his major league debut against the Braves.
The Phils began the night by celebrating the past and continued it watching the current season spiral further out of control.
Martin served up back-to-back home runs to Brian McCann and Chris Johnson in the fifth inning and was yanked before he could record another out as the Phillies fell 6-4.
The Phils (50-59) have lost 11 of their last 12 games since that Friday night in New York.
In a week that’s saw Cody Asche and Martin arrive to the big leagues for the first time, the pennant race is a distant memory and the youth movement is underway. Just as most have witnessed with the bullpen for the majority of the last two seasons, the growing pains will endure.
Martin, a former first-rounder who arrived last summer in the Shane Victorino trade, showed off a live arm before his premature exit.
His first three major league pitchers – all fastballs – checked in at 95, 97 and 96 MPH. Martin sent Braves leadoff hitter Jason Heyward down on those three pitches, inducing a foul out to the catcher.
Then he used a mix of fastballs and sliders before striking out Justin Upton on a 96-MPH fastball. After giving up a hit, Martin ended the first inning with another strikeout, with another 96-MPH heater, this through McCann’s big swing.
“He came out and he definitely was pumped up and he had a lot of adrenaline going,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “He was trying to control it.”
Although he admitted to butterflies – not only in making his major league debut, but making it against a Braves team he grew up rooting for as a Georgia native – Martin didn’t look flustered in attacking one of baseball’s heaviest hitting lineups.
“It was a challenge,” Martin said, “but I wanted to go out there and prove I could do it.”
The Phils gave the rookie some run support in the second inning, when Darin Ruf hit his third home run since his own recall from Triple-A, a titanic shot to left, and Delmon Young followed with a home run of his own.
Martin took the mound in the fifth inning with a 2-1 lead. But the third time through the order, Martin watched as a Braves team suddenly dialed into his fastball teed off.
Heyward led off the fifth with a double and Upton followed with an RBI single. After Freddie Freeman flew out, McCann untied the game with his 16th home run of the season and Johnson followed with a booming blast to center.
After Martin walked the next batter, Dan Uggla, his night was over.
“They’re going to change their approach every at-bat off of what I did the last time, and I tried to keep up with it, but I didn’t make the pitches when I needed to,” Martin said.
Martin allowed six runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings. Five of those six runs came in the fifth inning.
“For a guy in his first big league game, that was pretty good,” Manuel said. “He had a lot going. He was into it. He was throwing hard. I like what I saw from him. I like everything about him.”
To their credit, the Phils tried to muster a comeback, fueled by Chase Utley’s 15th home run of the season to lead off the sixth. But a trio of Braves relievers sent them quietly into the night in the game’s final three innings.
After a so-so start from Kris Medlen – four runs in six innings – David Carpenter, Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel retired nine straight batters in three perfect innings. Seven of the final nine Phillies batters struck out.
One of those strikeouts came when Delmon Young’s foul tip bounced off the dirt and into McCann’s glove, but home plate umpire Vis Carapazza still called it a strikeout. In the argument that ensued, both Manuel and Jimmy Rollins were ejected from the game.
It was only the second time in Rollins’ career that he’s been ejected. Afterward, Manuel could only chuckle and wonder why Rollins hasn’t got thrown out of games more often.
“That’s a long time, 13 or 14 years – it’s time for him to go a few more times,” Manuel said laughing. “I don’t mean to laugh because losing isn’t anything to laugh about. But it’s kind of the way things are going for us. We’re having a hard time of things going our way. At the same time, we’re not doing a whole lot to make them go our way.”