When Gabe Kapler went striding to the mound with one out in the top of the sixth inning Saturday, the Phillies were leading by one run. By the time the manager lifted reliever Adam Morgan in the top of the seventh, they were trailing by seven.
And it took only 35 pitches.
Between them, Jake Arrieta, Luis Garcia and Morgan combined to allow eight runs in a span of nine batters against the Milwaukee Brewers. As Anchorman Ron Burgundy might have said, "That escalated quickly," just like the Phillies' slide in the National League East.
A 12-3 pounding by the Brewers represented the Phillies' fourth consecutive loss. They have dropped seven of the last eight games and 10 of 13. And in two weeks they have gone from leading the division by one game on May 26 to third place and four games off the Washington Nationals' pace.
"There's no concern from me or our clubhouse," Kapler said. "I understand that there's outside concern. But that's what our job is, to stay the course. It's just part of the season. I think you could probably look at most of the good clubs so far this year and you could find a 15-game stretch that just really looked ugly."
Arrieta can recall a few with the Chicago Cubs. In the midst of a 103-win season in 2016, the Cubs dropped nine of 10 games in early July. Last year, they lost seven of nine at one point in May and still won the NL Central.
But those Cubs teams were filled with veterans who were well-schooled in winning. The Phillies are the youngest team in the majors. They haven't learned how to win yet, at least not consistently. And one offshoot of their pre-Memorial Day success was that it raised the possibility that they were ready to contend sooner than most outsiders thought they could.
"We're in a rut," Arrieta said. "I've been part of teams, championship-caliber teams that have lost nine of 10, 10 of 12 going into an all-star break and come back out winning 12 of 14. You're going to go through periods like that. This is just one for us that we have to battle through."
For five innings, Arrieta battled through not being his sharpest against the Brewers. He gave up a two-run homer to Jesus Aguilar in the first inning and didn't have a feel for his curveball.
But Rhys Hoskins' three-run homer in the third inning gave the Phillies a lead. And when Kapler came to the mound in the sixth, Arrieta said he had enough left to get out Erik Kratz despite having thrown 104 pitches. Two pitches later, Arrieta hit Kratz to load the bases.
"I trusted him," Kapler said. "And I will continue to trust him."
With runners on base, Kapler trusts Garcia, who stranded 18 of the first 19 he inherited this season. But after striking out Oswaldo Arcia on three pitches and throwing two quick strikes to pinch-hitting Ji-Man Choi, Garcia fell into a full count. Choi skied the next pitch inside the left-field foul pole for a grand slam that gave the Brewers a 6-3 lead.
"I'll wear that one," Arrieta said. "That one's on me. I expect to get out of that inning unscathed and be able to maintain the lead, and I just wasn't able to do that today."
Morgan, who allowed a walkoff grand slam earlier this week in Chicago, faced five batters in the seventh inning and gave up two singles, a double and a two-run homer to Jonathan Villar.
Thirty-five pitches from the Phillies, eight runs for the Brewers.
The rout was on — again. The Phillies have been outscored 24-7 in two games against the Brewers, marking the first time they have given up more than 10 runs in consecutive games since May 31 and June 2 of last season.
"Teams go through bad ruts, man. It happens," Hoskins said. "Good teams do the same thing. But I think we're learning a lot about ourselves as a team. We're going to respond. Four [games] out isn't too far. Plenty of time to make up four games."
Kapler drew a distinction between the Phillies' frustration over the past two weeks and their lack of concern. Still, losing five games in the standings in 15 days can't be overestimated, especially when the next 20 games are against five of the best teams in baseball (Brewers, Rockies, Cardinals, Yankees, Nationals).