PHOENIX – Why do you need to close out those two-run leads in the ninth inning when you get eight shutout innings from your starting pitcher?
He is the reason.
The Phillies were manhandled by the left-hander in a 6-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday afternoon (see first take).
The Phils ended up dropping two of three in the series, and while that’s not anything to be embarrassed about — the D-backs are a good club that entered the series tied for first place in the NL West — things would have been much different if Seranthony Dominguez had been able to close out Jake Arrieta’s gem in the first game of the series Monday night. Dominguez blew a 2-0 lead in the ninth inning and the Phils lost in 14 innings. Protect that lead Monday night and come back and win Tuesday night — as the Phils did — and taking one on the chin from a pitcher as good as Corbin becomes a lot easier to swallow because you still get out of town with a series win.
Instead, the Phillies head into an off day Thursday on a down note before opening a three-game series in San Diego on Friday. A good showing against the lowly Padres is imperative after a tough trip through the desert that left the Phils at 64-50. They entered Wednesday 1½ games ahead of Atlanta in the NL East.
“This is very similar to what we always do,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We know how to turn the page. We don’t let losses linger. You’re going to go into a city like Phoenix against a very good team and sometimes you’re going to win the series and there are going to be times where they just play better. Over the course of this series, they played better than us. It’s part of baseball. But we will not carry that into San Diego. We will bring strength and enthusiasm and our brand of baseball to San Diego. I’m very confident we’re going to perform well there.”
Starting pitching had been a huge strength for the Phillies recently. Their starters’ ERA was a glistening 1.46 in the previous eight games entering Wednesday. Vince Velasquez had been a big part of that success with 6 1/3 shutout innings against Miami on Friday. Velasquez’s success had extended farther back than that. Over a span of seven outings and 33 1/3 innings, he’d given up just five runs and held opposing hitters to a .168 batting average.
But it wasn’t there for Velasquez in this one. He allowed six hits, two walks and four runs over four innings. Two of the hits, a double and a two-run triple, came on sliders when he was ahead in the count and fueled a three-run third for Arizona. David Peralta, who homered twice to kill the Phillies on Monday, had the triple and four hits on the day.
“I’m kind of kicking myself in the butt because I know I can execute those pitches,” Velasquez said of the two sliders that hurt him in the third inning. “The secondary stuff wasn’t really working as much as I wanted it to. Just a terrible display of executing my secondary pitches today.”
The velocity on Velasquez’s fastball was down a little. He averaged 93, down a tick from his usual average of 94. Kapler attributed that to Velasquez throwing more two-seam fastballs.
Velasquez said he was fine physically.
“I felt great all the way through,” Velasquez said. “I wanted to go deeper, but Kap made a decision about what’s best for the team and took me out. But other than that I felt strong the whole way through.”
With just a few runs, the Phillies might have been able to get Velasquez off the hook, but didn’t happen. The Phils were out-hit, 13-4. They struck out 10 times and walked just once. Corbin gave up three singles and a double over 7 1/3 shutout innings. He walked none and struck out nine.
“He pitched tremendously,” Kapler said.
The Phillies will look to remedy an inconsistent offense by pursuing free agent Manny Machado in the offseason. But Corbin, who ranks ninth in the NL in ERA (3.15), seventh in opponents’ batting average (.214) and fourth in WHIP (1.04), will also be a highly coveted free agent this winter and he’s an East Coast guy from upstate New York.
Maybe he’s worth a phone call, too.