Spencer Howard walked four and struck five in three innings of his first 2021 start.

By Sam Bush

The season started 49 days ago with high expectations for the Phillies:

Better defense than 2020.

Better bullpen, which could not have been easier.

More focused because the season won’t be shortened to 60 games because of the pandemic.

So much for high expectations.

Xander Bogaerts and Danny Santana hit consecutive home runs in the sixth inning, Matt Barnes retired Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins to strand the potential tying run in the ninth, and the Boston Red Sox beat the Phillies 4-3 for their fourth straight win.

The Phillies have lost four in a row and six of seven, dropping two games under .500 for the first time this year at 22-24.

They went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position, left 10 runners on base and struck out 13 times — the 14th time in May reaching double digits and 29th time in 46 games this season.

“It’s hard to score runs when you strike out a lot,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “You can hit a ton of home runs and score a lot of runs and strike out, but we’re not doing that. We’ll continue to talk about approaches. We have some guys who have gotten off to slow starts and guys in some slumps. But I think we’re capable of doing better.”

Ronald Torreyes singled leading off the ninth and Jean Segura walked with one out. Harper grounded to first baseman Bobby Dalbec, whose off-line throw to second was reeled in by Bogarts as the shortstop managed to keep a foot on the base, with Segura waving an arm and possibly obstructing his view.

Barnes then struck out Hoskins on four knuckle-curves, the last in the dirt, for his 11th save in 12 chances.

Harper struck out three times in an 0-for-5 night and is in a 2-for-25 slide with 13 strikeouts. Bothered by a shoulder injury that forced him from a game against Toronto last week, he is hitless in his last 16 at-bats.

“I’ll go in and think about it before making a decision on tomorrow’s lineup,” Girardi said.

Boston took a 2-0 lead in the third off Spencer Howard (0-1), who made his first start this season after three relief appearances.

Eovaldi and walked Kiké Hernández, and Rafael Devers followed with a double for the only hit Howard allowed in three innings. Bogaerts added a sacrifice fly.

“I kind of didn’t give myself enough time to regroup after running to first (in the second inning),” Howard said. “I had more and more trust in my stuff and got aggressive. It wasn’t a total loss today and there were a few positives.”

Odubel Herrera cut the gap to 2-1 with a sacrifice fly in the fourth, and Bogaerts and Santana homered in a three-pitch span from Sam Coonrod starting the sixth. Bogaert has 10 homers this season, and Santana hit his second in as many nights since his contract was selected Friday from Triple-A Worcester.

Hoskins hit a solo homer inside the left-field foul pole in the bottom half, reaching 100 home runs in 450 games. He is the third-fastest among Phillies to start their career behind Ryan Howard (325) and Chuck Klein (390).

Santana was hit by a Howard pitch in the second inning, Segura was hit by Phillips Valdez in the seventh and Hoskins was plunked in the ribs by Darwinzon Hernández with the bases loaded later in the seventh.

Hernández struck out Brad Miller with a fastball to strand the bases full.

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One thought on “PHILLIES SLIDE 2 UNDER .500, AND IT’S ONLY MAY 23!

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