Despair is a doubleheader that begins with a 12-run surrender and continues with a 25-minute, 46-pitch first inning in the second game. This Phillies season is full of despair. Some of it is despair by design. But then there is this, a doubleheader of bad baseball that warranted the “E-A-G-L-E-S” chants that permeated the ballpark.
“A tough day for the Phillies,” Pete Mackanin, the manager, said.
His team played almost seven hours of baseball Tuesday at a half-empty Citizens Bank Park and clubbed eight home runs. But they permitted 27 hits to Miami. The team’s best pitcher, Aaron Nola, allowed seven runs in a 12-8 afternoon loss. Their headstrong rookie, Nick Pivetta, recorded all of four outs in the 7-4 nightcap defeat.
Phillies officials, again and again, have said their plans revolve around building a base of pitching. But, with every start, there is less confidence in what is here. Nola is a piece, his two bad starts aside. That much is certain.
“He wasn’t the same,” Mackanin said between games. “He made more mistakes than he usually does.”
Pivetta, added to the roster Tuesday as the permitted 26th man, has a 6.73 ERA. That is the highest ERA for a Phillies pitcher in his first 19 career starts since Hal Elliot’s 7.45 mark in 1929-30. He, too often, has resembled a thrower and not a pitcher. Pivetta does not lack confidence. The Phillies have to hope the constant beatings provide some sort of lesson.
“It’s difficult,” Pivetta said. “I failed the team today, failed myself. I’ll go back to triple A, work hard, and get back up here eventually.”
The Marlins, one of the hottest teams in baseball, have rekindled their faint postseason hopes. They looked formidable. Consider this: The Phillies used eight pitchers in the two games Tuesday, and seven of them have spent time this season at triple-A Lehigh Valley. This is a proving ground.
Nola was the lone arm who has spent the entire season in the majors. He allowed 13 runs in a 10-start span from June 22 to Aug. 12. He has surrendered 12 runs in his last two starts. His ERA went from 3.02 to 3.58. All is not lost. But Nola has adjustments to make before his next start, slated for Sunday against the Chicago Cubs, the defending champions.
“Getting balls up,” Nola said, after allowing a season-high six runs. “Getting behind in the count. Leadoff walks. Not getting the leadoff guy out every inning. I think that’s hurt me.”
Nola permitted two leadoff walks in the span of three innings. Each time, that runner scored. Ichiro Suzuki launched what Mackanin dubbed a “cookie” for a three-run homer in the seventh inning of the first game. Giancarlo Stanton followed with his 46th of the season. Nola was done.
Pivetta did not linger even close to that long. Marcell Ozuna, the fourth batter to face him, cracked a hanging slider to deep center for a two-run homer. Christian Yelich drilled a fastball to center in the next inning for a three-run shot. And that was the end for Pivetta.
“Pivetta just didn’t have it,” Mackanin said. “There’s not a lot you can say about it.”
Pivetta was returned, by rule, to Lehigh Valley. It is unclear where he will make his next start.
There were oddities, because this is baseball and doubleheaders breed strangeness. Andres Blanco, the little-used veteran infielder who had one homer before Tuesday, hit one in both games. He did it in the second game on the 14th pitch of his at-bat, an at-bat that included nine foul balls and a flying bat into the camera well. It was… something.
Tommy Joseph was hitless in 18 straight at-bats, and he homered in both games. He had not homered since July 28. Nick Williams homered in the second game and should have had another, if not for Yelich robbing him with a leap at the wall. Rhys Hoskins slammed his sixth homer in his last eight games, the first Phillies rookie to ever do that.
The two teams combined to slug nine homers in the first game. Nola struck out seven in his 6 1/3 innings, but the Marlins hit him hard even when the ball did not leave the playing field. They battered Jesen Therrien and Ricardo Pinto, the two relievers who followed. Then, they played another game.