The Phillies opened their final home game of the season in typical fashion, losing for the 16th time in their last 20 games to a team ranked over .500.
They just haven’t been able to match their competition since the All-Star break, racking up the likes of the Nationals, Marlins, Pirates and Reds.
The offense made a spirited effort to come back from two huge deficits of four runs in the fifth inning and five runs in the eighth, but still lost good short in an 18-11 loss to the Blue Jays.
The Brewers helped the Phillies by chipping away at the Mets’ late lead, meaning the Phillies’ lead over the first team out of the playoff race remains at 2 1/2 games.
But it was a rough night for Phils pitching, allowing the Blue Jays to reach base in 27 of 53 plate appearances and score in eight of nine innings.
“You never want to start a household like that,” Bryce Harper said. “The starting pitch just wasn’t there tonight. You’re going to have these lulls, but you’re moving on to tomorrow.”
Kyle Gibson pitched poorly, but his defense also suffered. Bryson Stott threw the ball into the dugout in the first inning for one of his two errors. The Blue Jays scored three in the opening frame after Matt Chapman’s homer.
They scored two more in the second inning, which started with Kyle Schwarber losing a can of corn on fire for a double by Danny Jansen.
Stott made a key error in the sixth when the Phillies needed a break in the inning, grounding the ball after a routine strikeout by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. This led to an undeserved rush.
The Blue Jays had seven doubles, a triple, two homers and 21 hits that night — despite Guerrero and Beau Bichette going a combined 2-for-11. Only twice in the last 78 years have the Phillies allowed that many runs, hits and extra-base hits are a 24-4 loss to the Mets in 2018 and a famous 23-22 victory over the Cubs in 1979.
“It just seemed to be the kind of night that JT and I matched their approach,” Gibson said. “Every pitch I threw in the strike zone was a base hit.”
Amidst all the hard hitting balls from the Phillies pitching staff, they lost center fielder Brandon Marsh, who left the game with a knee injury after running and diving into the wall in left-center following Jansen’s double. He will be re-evaluated Wednesday, but the Phillies don’t think there is ligament damage.
Dalton Guthrie replaced Marsh and hit his first major league home run in the fifth inning. Schwarber hit his 40th three-run homer in the eighth inning. JT Realmuto went 5-for-5 with a double and a solo shot in the ninth inning, his 20th.
This is an extremely important game for the Phillies, who are 80-67 with 15 games to go. They have one more game against the Blue Jays and four against the Braves this week. Both opponents have a lot to play for, with Toronto looking to maintain its spot atop the AL standings to maintain home-field advantage in the first round, while the Braves are a game behind the Mets for the division lead and the first – goodbye.
“We end the night in a playoff spot and I think you’ve got to keep fighting and show up tomorrow and win the ballgame,” Gibson said. “We’re still in the driver’s seat. It’s still about how we do, not how anybody else does.”
The Phils will see a good start throughout the week. On Wednesday, they face Kevin Gausman, who has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the majors. They get a small break by missing out on Atlanta’s Spencer Strider (oblique), but it’s a small respite as they’ll face Max Fried instead.
Zach Wheeler returns Wednesday after missing five starts with forearm inflammation. It’s expected to be a shortened start — two or three innings — before he eventually gives way to Noah Syndergaard.
That needs to turn around quickly for the Phillies to avoid another September meltdown. They have lost five in a row and are 7-9 this month.
“You go through some lulls in the season and it’s not the best place to be,” Harper said. “But at the same time, we know what kind of team we are. We know we can compete with good teams. After scoring 11 runs tonight, you’re not going to do that against teams like the Toronto Blue Jays. lost, but hopefully it’s a stepping stone for tomorrow.”