The Philadelphia Phillies had won four of five games coming into Saturday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at beautiful PNC Park, but they sure didn’t play like it. Pitcher Aaron Nola struggled, and they were unable to take advantage of nine walks and a hit batter by Pirates’ pitchers as they lost 7-6. At the end of the day, they were in the second National League Wild Card spot, a half-game behind the San Francisco Giants.
In the third inning, Nola hung a breaking ball to Liover Peguero, the Bucs’ nine-hole hitter, who banged it into the seats in left field.
The Phillies bats picked their starter up in the next half inning. Thanks to a double and a pair of walks they had the bases loaded with one out. Trea Turner, hitting seventh, struck out, but Brandon Marsh was able to clear the bases with a double to right-center on the first pitch of his at-bat. He scored on a double by Jake Cave.
Nola couldn’t make it stand up. The Pirates came back with two in their half of the fourth on a pair of doubles to right field and an RBI single by Peguero. They regained the lead in the fifth. The first two batters reached on a hit and a walk, then with one out. Bryce Harper was unable to cleanly field a hard-hit ball between first and second base, then he couldn’t pick it up, and everybody was safe.
Endy Rodriguez hit a sinking liner to center that Marsh tried to catch. The ball hit just in front of him and bounded past for a triple. Alika Williams would cap the four-run barrage and end Nola’s night with a single to center. For Williams, it was his first Major League hit and RBI while Nola went to the bench having surrendered seven runs, five earned, on nine hits and three walks with six strikeouts in four-and-two-thirds innings.
The Phils had a chance to get right back in it in the sixth. They loaded the bases with no outs. Analytics tells us a team would expect to score 2.3 runs in that situation. Although the most common outcome is a team scoring one run and that’s exactly what the Phils got. The Pirates played their corner infielders in. Marsh hit one to first baseman Ji-Man Choi, who threw home to force Bryson Stott. Pinch hitter Johan Rojas then struck out, and Kyle Schwarber walked to score the only run of the frame.
With two on and one out in the eighth, Rojas, who made a few nice catches in center field, came through with an RBI single off Pirates closer David Bednar, who would punch out Schwarber and Nick Castellanos to end the threat.
The Phillies bullpen had shut the Pirates down, allowing only two harmless singles from the 12 batters they faced. It gave the Phils a chance to tie things up in the ninth. With one out, a walk and a single gave them first and third, but J.T. Realmuto hit into an around-the-horn double play to end the game.
Aaron Nola struggled, and the Phillies were unable to take advantage of nine walks and a hit batter by Pirates’ pitchers as they lost 7-6.
Quotes from the Phillies
“We didn’t help him out very much,” said Phillies manager Rob Thomson referring to Nola, “I thought we could’ve caught a couple of balls in the outfield. The Harper error, he just rushed on it, and he still had a play at first base. It’s a body clock thing he’s got to get used to.
Nola made a couple of mistakes; the walks were really the key. Three walks are little more than he usually gives up.”
“You have 18 baserunners,” said Thomson, “we had some opportunities and didn’t come through.”
“It was one of those balls that was straight over my head,” said Castellanos about a ball Rodriguez hit in the fourth, “to me, those are the hardest plays to make. That being said, if it touches my glove, I should catch it.”
“Teams are not wanting to throw me strikes because I’m anxious,” said Castellanos, who was o-for-5 with three strikeouts and he grounded into a double play, “and I want to hit so bad, I’m not letting myself get anything to hit.”
“The guys gave me the runs,” said Nola, “and I didn’t produce. A couple of innings really got away from me. I just didn’t have it.”
Rock Hoffman has been covering sports in the Philadelphia region for over 30 years. He’s been the co-host of a radio show – SportsPage – on the Delaware Valley Radio Network (WRDV.org) in the time. He’s reported on games involving all the Philadelphia teams at the profession and collegiate levels. During his career he’s provided coverage for a Super Bowl, an All-Star Game, NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games as well NFL, MLB and NHL playoff games. Additionally, he’s the College Football Editor for Football Stories Magazine (FootballStories.com).