PHILADELPHIA – Phillies reliever Mike Adams left the mound to lackluster boos Friday night.
The crowd of 31,945 fans couldn’t muster their normal disdain for a poor outing. Their senses have been dulled. Watching the Phillies bullpen is like a viewing a bad movie for the second, third or fourth time.
The Phillies relievers collapsed in the eighth inning as the Washington Nationals scored three runs enroute to a 5-3 win.
“Five consecutive hits is hard to do, but it happened,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.
Philadelphia began the eighth inning with a 3-2 lead. But Adams allowed hits to the only three hitters he faced. Jake Diekman relieved Adams and allowed hits to the first two batters he faced.
The Phillies' bullpen is a primary reason why the Phillies are 13-14 and in last place in the National League East. Philadelphia relievers began Friday with a 4.84 ERA – the worst in the 15-team National League. The Nationals' bullpen threw three shutout innings Friday night.
The Phillies' bullpen wasted a solid performance from starter Cliff Lee, who left after seven innings with a 3-2 lead. Lee allowed four hits and one earned run.
“It was disappointing for Cliff to do his job and get to the eighth inning and not shut them down,” Sandberg said.
The bullpen soured what was also a festive mood at Citizens Bank Park.
The crowd was the Phillies' third largest of the season and there seemed to be an extra buzz. Much of that was because the benches emptied in the top of fifth inning as Lee and Nationals batter Denard Span exchanged words.
Lee threw a fastball inside as Span was asking the home plate umpire for time. The pitch counted. After Span grounded out to second base to drive in a run, he and Lee jawed at each other.
The fans chanted “Let’s go Phillies” as relievers of both teams sprinted in from the center field bullpens to join the scrum. In the end, nothing really happened.
Span got his revenge. He led off the eighth inning with a double, stole third base and scored to tie the game on Anthony Rendon’s single. Three more hits – a Jayson Werth single, an Adam LaRoche single and Ian Desmond double – would produce two more runs to give the Nationals a 5-3 lead.
“I’ve got to do a better job of holding the lead,” Adams said. “I’ve been doing this long enough that I know the adjustments that need to be made.”
The Phillies scored all their runs in the bottom of the first inning on a three-run home run by Marlon Byrd. The line drive into the right-field stands came two pitches after right fielder Werth had dropped a Byrd fly ball in foul territory for an error.
Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg and Washington relievers shutdown the Phillies offense for the last eight innings. Philadelphia got its first two runners on in the bottom of the eighth. But could not score. Ryan Howard popped up on a 2-0 changeup for the first out.
Sandberg lamented that the Phillies couldn’t add to their early lead.
"Even when we get early runs with Cliff on the mound we have to keep adding on," Byrd said.
Friday emphasized the biggest lesson of the Phillies' first 27 games - Philadelphia cannot be thought of as a legitimate playoff contender until the bullpen consistently gets outs in key spots.