By Sam Bush
Yesterday was July 4, a national holiday, but the Phils played like it was business as usual — an 8-2 loss to the Pirates, their 11th in 14 games to fall to 37-49. The Phillies managed just two hits following a grueling 45-pitch first inning from Roberto Hernandez, which cast a pall over the evening.
“Yeah, it’s definitely tough,” Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard (right in photo above with Hernandez) said. “Obviously you don’t want to be down after the first inning. That’s the game of baseball. It’s going to happen, but … the way things have gone this year, yeah, it’s even tougher. It’s even tougher. There’s no dancing around it or anything like that. It’s a tough situation to be in when you’re scratching and clawing and trying to find ways to win games, but like I said, it’s the game of baseball, and they jumped out early.”
Hernandez’s 45-pitch first inning handed the Pirates a 4-0 lead. He allowed five hits, four runs, two walks and three stolen bases, with every run coming after Jimmy Rollins made a fantastic throw to the plate to get Starling Marte for the second out.
“It sets a poor tone for the first inning,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “You have the defense on their heels and the guys who are swinging the bats the rest of the game out there on defense. It sets a tough tone for the rest of the game.”
It has been that kind of season for the Phillies, who seem to be waiting for the inevitable moves to come before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. The struggles were on display again in the second inning. It did not lead to a run, but center fielder Ben Revere and left fielder Tony Gwynn Jr.collided in left-center field as they pursued a fly ball hit by Andrew McCutchen.
Revere got his glove on the ball but could not make the catch as he hit Gwynn. The official scorer ruled it a triple.
“It was one of those deals where the ball is falling in between two fast outfielders,” Revere said, adding that the two players heard each other only just before colliding. “There’s nothing you can do. It happens a lot in the game of baseball.”
The Phillies scored a couple of runs in the sixth inning to make it 5-2 with major help from Pirates right-hander Stolmy Pimentel, who walked three and allowed a hit to the only four batters he faced. Right-hander Jared Hughes replaced Pimentel with the bases loaded, no outs and a run already in. But he got Marlon Byrd to hit into a double play, and he struck out Cody Asche looking on a pitch that was outside the strike zone but that home-plate umpire CB Bucknor nevertheless deemed a strike.
Hernandez threw 117 pitches as he pitched into the sixth inning, trying to save the bullpen as much as he could after the rough start. He has pitched more than six innings just three times in 16 starts this season.
“The first inning there wasn’t any pitch working,” Hernandez said.