Bullpen's growing pains evident in first series

In second straight game, Phillies surrender ninth-inning lead

Bullpen's growing pains evident in first series

CINCINNATI -- Pete Mackanin is not ready to pull out his hair, but a few more games like this and maybe he will be.

The Phillies have played two games this season and twice they carried 2-1 leads into the eighth inning. David Hernandez blew the lead in the eighth inning Monday in a loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Dalier Hinojosa blew the lead in the ninth inning Wednesday in a 3-2 loss.

"Boy, these close ones are killing me already," Mackanin said. "It's a shame because we wasted two good starting pitching performances and couldn't close it out. We need to score more runs, make it a little easier."

True, the Phillies have scored just four runs in two games. But a lead is a lead and the Phillies need to hold them.

"It's going to take time," Mackanin said. "We knew going in we might lose some games not having that guy to close it out at the end. I'm convinced we're going to find the guy, or a couple of guys on this team that are capable. But as of right now, we don't have that guy."

Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola allowed one run in seven innings as Hernandez redeemed himself with a perfect eighth. Hinojosa then tried to convert the first save of his career, but nothing went right for him. He allowed a leadoff single to Eugenio Suarez. Devin Mesoraco then hit a slow roller up the third-base line. Hinojosa fielded the ball, but he had no throw.

Jay Bruce singled to left to load the bases with one out and Scott Schebler ripped a 2-2 fastball to left-center field to score Suarez and pinch-runner Tyler Holt to end the game. Hinojosa struggled in two ninth-inning appearances late in Spring Training so this could be considered his third consecutive time struggling in the ninth.

"I am very confident in my abilities to close the game," Hinojosa said through the Phillies' translator. "I know I can do the job. These things happen. I just have to make the right adjustments to make sure it doesn't happen again."

But Mackanin would not commit to Hinojosa pitching the ninth inning should they find themselves in another save situation Thursday afternoon.

"We'll talk about it," Mackanin said.

Hernandez could get a look. After his fastball sat in the 91- to 92-mph range Monday, it sat in the 94- to 95-mph range Wednesday. He credited a slight change in his mechanics for the boost in velocity. He probably would have been the closer entering the season except he was slowed earlier this spring because of a sore right elbow.

"I wanted to get out there as soon as possible," Hernandez said. "It's unfortunate that we let one get away again. Over the course of the season, it will even out. We definitely have the arms in the bullpen to get guys out. It's just early. We'll bounce back and be all right. If starting pitching keeps going like that, we'll be just fine."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.