The phone buzzed in the Phillies bullpen on Thursday afternoon, and Drew Hutchison sprung from the bench. Starter Ben Lively was in trouble, and it was time for the long reliever to get loose. But before Hutchison could even throw a warm-up pitch, Lively’s trouble — and the Phillies’ afternoon — turned ugly.
The Phillies failed to recover from Lively’s rough start, as he recorded just seven outs and allowed seven runs in losing to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 8-2 . He gave up a three-run homer in the third inning, just as Hutchison was starting to shuffle. Lively then walked the opposing pitcher, and manager Gabe Kapler rocketed out of the dugout to lift him.
On his second pitch, Hutchison allowed a two-run homer, but otherwise he pitched fine. But it was too late. The Phillies entered the bottom of the third with an eight-run deficit. A series loss against the team with baseball’s best record was all but sealed.
“We absolutely can measure up,” said Lively, who was nagged by back stiffness. “If I felt a little bit better today and on my ‘A’ game today, it’s a whole different ball game.
“Our team has the most positive feeling in the world,” Lively added. “We’re going to put up runs, and we’re not going to let this set us back. It’s going to be great. We’ll be alright.”
The Phillies entered the series winners of 13 of their last 16. They had won four of their last five series. But most of that success came against bottom-feeders. Three games against the Diamondbacks, which became the first National League team since 1977 to win its first eight series, provided a test. Another looms Friday, when the Phillies open a three-game set with the Braves, who have topped the Phils in four of their six meetings this season.
“Arizona has a great team. They can hit. They can pitch,” first baseman Carlos Santana said. “I know we lost the series, but tomorrow is a new day and a new series. We have to fight into the next series.”
Lively has a 6.85 ERA through five starts. His spot in the rotation will likely be taken by Jerad Eickhoff, who is expected to return from the disabled list in late May. Lively registered just three swinging strikes, as the Diamondbacks attacked his fastball. No. 2 hitter Jarrod Dyson jumped on Lively’s fastball for a two-run homer in the first, and shortstop Nick Ahmed hit the fastball for a three-run homer in the third.
“I couldn’t follow through that well, and that’s what happens when I can’t follow through. Balls come back across the middle, and they get hit pretty hard,” Lively said. “I guarantee they saw that I was missing over the plate with my fastballs, and they were ready for i, and every single one I threw over the plate got hit really hard.”
Aaron Altherr doubled in a run in the fourth and added an RBI with a sixth-inning groundout. It was not enough to overcome Lively’s start, but it was more promise that Altherr is breaking his funk. He has seven hits in his last 18 at-bats, with four extra-base hits and five RBIs in his last five games.
The Phillies loaded the bases in the eighth, but the rally never felt threatening. The deficit, then six runs, was still too large. Altherr, who Kapler called the team’s “hottest hitter,” grounded into a double play.
The game seemed to have been decided right around the time the bullpen phone was buzzing.
“We came into today with a chance to win a series, and against a good team, especially at home, that’s really all you can ask for,” Rhys Hoskins said. “Obviously, it didn’t go the way that we wanted today, but we’ve got a series coming up against the Braves, a divisional series that can get us right back to where we want to be.”