DENVER - Bryce Harper stood Friday night at second base and waved to the buzzing Phillies dugout after Phil Gosselin, the kid from West Chester, ran all the way from first base to give his hometown team an extra-inning lead. It was Gosselin’s first game with the Phillies, the team he grew up watching at Veterans Stadium. And now he had put the Phillies just three outs away from an emotional, emphatic win over the Rockies.
But those three outs, as they often can be, proved to be a challenge. The Phillies, minutes after they waved back to Harper from the dugout, were trudging slowly off the field after a sudden 4-3 loss.
Juan Nicasio, in his second inning of work, gave up a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the 12th inning after grooving a fastball to Charlie Blackmon.
The energy felt when Harper’s double - his career-high fifth hit - landed in the outfield and Gosselin sprinted around third was sapped as the Phillies gathered quietly in the visiting clubhouse. Dating back to last season, they have lost six in a row at Coors Field.
They didn’t quite deserve to win on Friday after leaving 19 runners on base. But they were still close enough to taste a victory. That is what made it crushing.
“Brutal,” Kapler said. “Just a brutal loss. No way to sugarcoat it. That was a devastating loss. Across the board ... It was a crushing blow. This game was a crushing blow.”
The loss came with an added sting as Scott Kingery could be placed Saturday on the injured list after leaving the game with a strained hamstring. Andrew McCutchen left the game with inflammation in his left knee, but he expects to play on Saturday.
Losing Kingery would be a blow as he was starting to find a groove at the plate as he filled in at shortstop for Jean Segura, who is nursing his own hamstring injury. Kingery was replaced by Gosselin, the Malvern Prep-grad who had two hits. The Phillies planned to use Kingery next week in the outfield once Segura returned, but those plans will be on hold if he hits the injured list. The Phillies will likely have to add a reliever from triple A as the bullpen, which is already a man down, has been taxed.
“Our depth is definitely being tested right now,” Kapler said. “We're going to have to find a way to step up for the guys that are banged up right now. It's going to be a major point of emphasis for us.”
The game would not have been extended to extras if the Phillies could have found a timely hit. They went 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position and loaded the bases without scoring a run in the fourth, sixth, and 11th innings. It was the first time since 1954 that the Phillies had at least 17 hits but finished with three or fewer runs. The 19 runners left on base is a franchise-record for a road game.
“We can be better, myself included,” Harper said. “We get guys on base we have to get those guys in. If we could have gotten a couple of those runs across might have been a different story.”
The finish soured an inspiring start from Vince Velasquez, who turned in his best outing of the season behind a dominant fastball and powerful slider. He allowed two runs, allowed seven hits and his lone walk in 52/3 innings was intentional. He attacked the Rockies with a heavy combination of fastballs and sliders. He used the fastball for all eight of his strikeouts, each of which were swinging strikes.
The Phillies challenged Velasquez this season to stay poised on the mound. That was tested in the first inning when the Rockies placed a runner on third base with two outs. Velasquez buckled down and blew a fastball past Trevor Story to end the inning. The same situation occurred two innings later and Velasquez again whiffed Story with an inning-ending fastball.
“There's more poise coupled with more intensity and more focus,” Kapler said. “He also has a different energy when he's not on the mound. A more confident energy right now. In the dugout, in the clubhouse. Smiling a little bit more. More playful. You can tell when he feels athletic because he takes some liberties on the mound. He changes his delivery up a little bit.”
In the sixth, Velasquez tried again to overpower Story but the Rockies’ clean-up hitter timed his fastball and sent it 459 feet to left field. Velasquez thought he escaped the inning when Aaron Altherr appeared to throw out Ian Desmond from right field. But replays showed that Cesar Hernandez had failed to tag Desmond before he slid into second. The inning continued.
Velasquez, again, thought he escaped the inning when he jammed the next batter with a 97 mph fastball. But Garrett Hampson’s bat snapped when he hit the inside fastball, which allowed the ball to drop into shallow left field for a double. Half of the bat landed near third base and the game was tied thanks to a missed tag and a broken bat. Velasquez’ night was finished, but it was a strong effort. Six innings later, it was spoiled.