2020 Phillies on death’s doorstep after losing a game they led for 21st time
The 2020 Phillies are on death’s doorstep.
They blew another lead in losing to the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3, on Saturday night.
The loss meant the Phillies could be eliminated from the playoff race in a matter of hours, depending on the result of the San Francisco-San Diego game out West.
A Giants win would eliminate the Phillies.
A Giants loss would give the Phillies life heading into the final day of the season Sunday. If the Giants lose, the Phillies can sneak into the playoffs with a win Sunday and losses by the Giants and Brewers. The Giants were trailing 3-0 in the seventh inning Saturday night.
If your confidence level in the Phillies is low, it’s understandable. They have lost six of their last seven games to fall three games under .500. The best they can finish is two games under .500. They have not had a winning season since 2011, the last year they made the playoffs.
If they were to somehow make the playoffs this season, they would be the first team ever to do so with a losing record. An eight-team playoff field has made that possible.
The Phillies lost for the 21st time after holding a lead at one point in the game. That’s the most in the majors.
They have led in 49 of their 59 games.
Zack Wheeler pitched into the eighth, gave up four runs and struck out eight. He threw 118 pitches, the most by a Phillies starter since Cole Hamels’ no-hitter against the Cubs in July 2015.
Wheeler exited with the Phillies trailing by a run.
Andrew McCutchen’s solo homer in the top of the fifth inning gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead.
Wheeler gave the lead back in the bottom of the inning when he allowed three two-out runs.
Rays catcher Mike Zunino, hitting .125, tied the game with a single that scored Manuel Margot, who had doubled with one out.
Wheeler kept the inning alive by hitting the next batter with a pitch and he paid for it when Brandon Lowe stroked an RBI single the other way through a Phillies shift. If shortstop Didi Gregorius was not in a shift, Wheeler would have been out of the inning with the game tied. Instead, Lowe’s hit scored a run and the Rays added another on a hit by Willy Adames to go up 4-2.
The Phils pulled to within a run on singles by McCutchen, Alec Bohm and Bryce Harper in the seventh. They could have gotten more in the inning, but J.T. Realmuto grounded into a double play and Jean Segura struck out with a man on third.
Hard to believe
The Phillies have lost each of Wheeler’s last three starts.
This was the first time in 11 starts for the Phils this season that he gave up more than three runs.
McCutchen, who had a big night, led off the third inning with what looked like a triple. After a review, he was told to retreat to second because the ball lodged under the outfield padding.
If the triple had stood, McCutchen would have scored on Realmuto’s two-out single to center. Instead, he was thrown out at the plate by Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay’s Gold Glove center fielder. That proved to be a huge run.
Aaron Nola (5-4, 3.06) is scheduled to make what could be the most important start of his career in the regular-season finale Sunday afternoon. First pitch is 3:05 p.m. The Rays have not announced a starter.
The Phillies have lost Nola’s last two starts. The right-hander has allowed eight earned runs in 11⅓ innings in those two outings.