AFTER PAPELBON, THERE IS NO RELIEF

By Matt Lombardi, NJ.com

Here’s what we learned from the Phillies’ 9-6 loss to the Braves on Monday night:

1. Where was Jonathan Papelbon? The Phillies closer, who has silenced his critics with three straight saves, wasn’t used because he had pitched in three consecutive games. And without him, the tired bullpen was humiliated. Rosenberg gave up the homers that put the Braves ahead, 5-1. And then, after Domonic Brown’s three-run homer capped a five-run eighth that gave the Phillies a 6-5 lead, the bullpen failed again when Jake Diekman, trying to close in place of Papelbon, surrendered Uggla’s ninth-inning grand slam — on an 0-2 pitch.
Phillies starters have failed to pitch more than six innings in 11 of the team’s first 13 games.”Well, we’d like that to change just to help our bullpen out,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “We have been using the bullpen for quite a bit of innings. They have thrown a number of pitches.”And now those pitches are ending up in the stands.

2. Can Marlon Byrd pitch, too? The 36-year-old outfielder, signed as a free agent over the winter, is batting .278 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. He smacked a two-run single to help spark the Phillies’ five-run rally in the eighth and then scored on Domonic Brown’s three-run homer. It’s early, but Byrd is proving to be the right-handed bat the Phillies have needed since Jayson Werth left as a free agent.

3. Roberto Hernandez has been a bargain: At $4.5 million, the 33-year-old right-hander is exceeding expectations. He scattered three hits before running into trouble in the sixth inning, when he surrendered a two-run homer to Evan Gattis. But Hernandez, 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA, kept the Phillies in the game and has struck out 17 in 16.1 innings. Still, Hernandez didn’t help the bullpen by tiring in the sixth.

4. For $14 million, the Phils could’ve had Ervin Santana: The Braves’ starter tied a career high with 11 strikeouts, and allowed one run on four hits in six innings. In fact, Ryan Howard’s home run is the only run allowed by the righty this season. Santana, 31, signed for $14 million on March 12 and sports a 0.64 ERA.

5. Tony Gwynn Jr. makes fourth straight start: This was the first game in the stretch that Gwynn started when Ben Revere was healthy. “He’s doing a nice job at the top of the order,” Sandberg said before the game. “I really like what he’s doing.” Gwynn went 0-for-1 with a walk and is batting .353 in nine games. Revere could be back in the lineup Tuesday.

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