By Sam Bush
Last night’s disaster was only the latest in a series of Phillies’ bullpen failures.
It has a 5.42 ERA since May 5.
Former closer Hector Neris lost his job and was demoted to Triple-A. The Phillies have been operating without a closer since.
“Roughly six days ago, the questions that we were addressing were: Are you concerned about this offense?” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “I said very comfortably that I had a lot of confidence in this offense, and the reason I said I had a lot of confidence in this offense is because I know that we have a talented group of individuals, guys that have a track record of success.
“I’m very confident in our bullpen too for the same reason. We have a lot of athletic arms out there, guys that are prepared to play every single night, guys with a track record of success. Seranthony Dominguez [above] has been dominant through the beginning of his career. Tommy Hunter has years of success under his belt. That’s why we went and got him. Do I have confidence in our bullpen? Absolutely. Just like I have confidence in our offense.”
Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez carried a 4-2 lead into the seventh inning when he allowed two batters to reach base with one out. Kapler summoned Hunter from the bullpen. Before the game, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak mentioned that Hunter arguably could be having the best season of his career, possibly referring to Hunter’s career-best 2.34 FIP.
But after Hunter recorded the second out in the seventh, he allowed a double to Matt Carpenter, a single to Tommy Pham and a double to Jose Martinez to score four runs. The Cardinals had a 6-4 lead.
“I mean, it sucks,” Hunter said. “It was a big part of the game, and I didn’t come through.”
Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins hit a two-out double to right-center field in the eighth — he hit a 1-2 fastball from Jordan Hicks that registered 101.3 mph — to score Jesmuel Valentin and Cesar Hernandezto tie the game. But then, Dominguez, who has established himself as Kapler’s most trusted bullpen weapon in a little more than a month, allowed a two-out solo home run to Carpenter in the ninth to make it 7-6.
Dominguez threw Carpenter three consecutive fastballs, the last hitting 98.1 mph.
“I prefer that pitch because when you’re ahead in the count sometimes hitters tend to shorten the swing to protect the zone,” Dominguez said, asked why he preferred his fastball over his slider. “It has worked for me plenty of times, and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”
Carpenter said he expected the fastball.
“Ninety-eight with cut,” he added. “The last time we faced him, he didn’t show a ton of sliders. Everything was firm. It’s something where you have to step in the box and be ready to go. Because it’s coming at you.”