Phillies begin their least favorite month with another flusher out West originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
SAN FRANCISCO -- The day began with the news that top starting pitcher Zack Wheeler would require more time than expected on the injured list and only got worse from there.
The Phillies opened the month of September with an eye sore of a performance against Gabe Kapler's San Francisco Giants on Friday night. The Phils didn't hit, they didn't play particularly good defense, and they sure didn't pitch in a demoralizing 13-1 loss at 24 Willie Mays Plaza.
The defeat was the Phillies' fourth in the last five games and third in four games on this trip out West. They have given up double-digit runs in all three of the losses while being outscored 38-11 in those games, and starting pitching has been an issue each time.
In this one, Kyle Gibson failed to get out of the second inning while being tagged for seven runs. He gave up five hits, including a splash-down, three-run homer to Joc Pederson. He also walked four batters.
Sam Coonrod and Cristopher Sanchez were the first two relievers out of the gate and they also struggled. Coonrod faced seven batters, hit one of them and walked two of them, one with the bases loaded. He also gave up two hits on his way to being charged with four runs. Sanchez picked up Coonrod in the third and walked two with the bases loaded.
In all, Phillies pitchers walked 10 batters, eight in the first three innings. That will lead to a lot of losses and this one came against a Giants team that was ripe for taking after losing seven straight and 11 of 13.
The loss dinged the Phillies in the National League wild-card race as they slipped behind San Diego and into the third spot with 30 games to play. The Padres beat the Dodgers on Friday night for their sixth win in seven games. The Phils' lead over Milwaukee, the first team off the playoff grid, is 3½. The Phillies do hold a tiebreaker over both San Diego and Milwaukee.
September has not been kind to the Phillies in recent seasons. They have not had a winning record in the final month of the season since 2017 under Pete Mackanin. They went 8-20 and 12-16 under Kapler in 2018 and 2019 and 13-17 and 14-16 under Joe Girardi in 2020 and 2021.
Can the trend be reversed under Rob Thomson?
"Yeah," Bryce Harper said after Friday night's loss. "It's a different team, different group of guys, different manager, everything. We've got a long way to go. We've got to keep playing our game, doing our thing. Not every night is going to be like this. We need to come in tomorrow and be ready to go."
The Phils need their starting pitching to keep them in games. It hasn't happened in the three losses on this trip. Ranger Suarez lost his command in the middle innings as the Phils blew a 7-0 lead to open the trip in Arizona and Aaron Nola gave up eight runs the next night. The only good start on the trip belongs to Bailey Falter, who will get another one Wednesday night in place of the ailing Wheeler. Noah Syndergaard, who gave up five runs in 5⅔ innings against Pittsburgh in his last start, will get the ball Saturday afternoon.
Thomson was asked about the recent bout of poor starting pitching. Is fatigue the problem?
"Could be," he said. "But these guys are well trained and they work hard. Maybe it's just a little rut they're in. They'll bounce out of it. They're too good to continue this."
Gibson pitched seven shutout innings against Pittsburgh in his previous start and before that had delivered a quality start in six of eight.
The right-hander struggled from the get-go in this one. After retiring the first batter in the bottom of the first inning, he gave up two doubles, two singles and a walk to the next five batters -- there was also a wild pitch in there -- and found himself down 4-0. He threw 40 pitches in the first inning. The Giants scored three more runs in the second and four more in the third. Starter Alex Cobb made it all stand up with seven shutout innings. He allowed just three hits.
"I think it's part of the game, guys going through stretches," Harper said of the Phillies' recent pitching woes. "Tonight, it kind of just snowballed. The first inning was tough, the second inning was tough, and it snowballed from there."
Harper went on to use a word Thomson used after the team blew that 7-0 lead and lost, 13-7, in Arizona on Monday night.
"We have to flush this one and get ready for tomorrow," he said. "Flush it as quickly as possible. We have two more here."