PHILADELPHIA — On a steamy Father’s Day afternoon, Phillies rookie Ben Lively threw an 83 mph slider to Paul Goldschmidt in the first inning Sunday.
The Arizona Diamondbacks star belted it 377 feet into the left-field stands for a two-run home run.
Seven pitches later, Chris Owings lined another Lively slider 421 feet into the center-field stands for a solo home run.
“I just blew it off and started over,” Lively said.
He got the restart he was looking for.
Lively pitched five more innings and did not allow another run. His gritty effort was one of the lone bright spots for the Phillies in what was another in a seemingly endless string of frustrating days.
Philadelphia blew a ninth-inning lead and lost to Arizona 5-4 in 10 innings before 31,131 fans at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies (22-46) have baseball’s worst record and have lost three in a row and 11 of their last 12 games.
“That,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said, “was a tough loss.”
But Lively’s gritty performance offered Philadelphia fans some encouragement.
He has made four straight quality starts (three runs or less allowed in at least six innings pitched) since being promoted from the triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs earlier this month. He joined Brandon Duckworth (2001), Bruce Ruffin (1986), Jack Kraus (1943) and Euel Moore (1934) as the only Phillies pitchers since at least 1913 with four quality starts through four career starts.
Lively could have crumbled after he threw 33 pitches in Sunday’s first inning. But he settled down and threw 107 pitches in six innings, allowing eight hits. Lively struck out six and walked one.
“It’s good to see the way he battles,” Mackanin said. “He’s a tough guy.”
Lively also got out of a jam in the fourth inning when Arizona had runners on first and third with no outs. Lively got the next three hitters on a strikeout and two groundouts.
“I see those guys on base,” he said, “but I’m like ‘Alright let’s go.’ I’m going to make you earn it. I’m going to keep the same game plan, keep attacking.”
Lively appeared headed for a win. The Phillies entered the ninth inning with a 4-3 lead. But closer Hector Neris walked the leadoff batter, who eventually scored to tie the game and force extra innings.
Diamondbacks reserve outfielder Reymond Fuentes then lined his first career home run over the center field fence off Phillies reliever Jeanmar Gomez in the top of the 10th to give Arizona the win.
Rather than think about the loss, it’s better for Phillies fans to think about Lively. Philadelphia acquired him in a December 2014 trade with the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Marlon Byrd. Lively is now 1-1 with a 3.33 ERA in his four starts.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good,” Lively said. “I’ve been throwing strikes and getting big outs when I need to.”
Lively is not a power pitcher. He has struck out just 11 in 27 innings. His fastball averaged 91 mph Sunday.
Lively’s low strikeout total will probably keep him from being an ace or a top of the rotation starter.
But right now the Phillies will take his competiveness.
When you’re on pace to lose 110 games — which would be Philadelphia’s most losses since 111 defeats in 1941 — you find hope wherever you can.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Mackanin said. “But we’ve played a lot of these teams tough. We just fall short. There’s a little something missing.”