BRADENTON, Fla. – Ryan Howard hit his first home run of the spring and Chase Utley had a single and two RBIs for the Philadelphia Phillies, who could not hold onto a two-run lead and ultimately lost to the host Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 Friday in a spring training game at McKechnie Field.
Reliever B.J. Rosenberg gave up four runs on four hits in the eighth inning as the Pirates rallied from a 4-2 deficit to take a 6-4 lead.
Philadelphia would load the bases with no outs in the top of the ninth, but after a one-out walk by Cesar Hernandez pulled the Phillies within a run, Will Nieves grounded into a game-ending double play.
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for the Phillies, who are now 4-11-2 this spring.
Howard, who has talked this spring about trying to hit the ball to all fields instead of just pulling it, blasted a pitch from Pittsburgh’s Jay Jackson over the left-field fence. The opposite-field home run came on his 33rd at-bat of the spring.
Utley, meanwhile, drove in the Phillies first run with a ground ball to first. That scored Tony Gwynn Jr., who had reached first on an error, stole second and moved to third on a Jimmy Rollins ground out to second. Rollins was 0-for-4 on the afternoon.
Utley also delivered an RBI single in the fifth inning, scoring Cody Asche, who had led off with a single. It was only Asche’s fourth hit of the spring. He is now batting .148.
Darin Ruf, meanwhile, had two hits including an RBI double in the fourth to score Utley.
Philadelphia starter Jeff Manship went four innings, allowing two runs on six hits – including a solo home run by Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen. He struck out three and did not walk a batter.
Justin De Fratus and Jake Diekman each worked a scoreless inning of relief before turning the ball over to Rosenberg. After getting through the seventh, Rosenberg gave up three consecutive hits to start the eighth inning. A walk, a sacrifice fly and a two-run single followed and the Pirates had a 6-4 lead.
Mario Hollands came on to close the inning for the Phillies, who had a chance in the ninth, but couldn’t get the big hit that would have turned the game around.
The Phillies will visit the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers on Saturday. Cliff Lee is scheduled to pitch for Philadelphia while John Lester is slated to throw for Boston.