Missed chances haunt Phillies, Lee in loss

Missed chances haunt Phillies, Lee in loss

Missed chances haunt Phillies, Lee in loss
BALTIMORE -- This loss seemed to encapsulate everything that has gone wrong for the Phillies this season:

The runners left on base.

An ace giving up the lead.

An error at a critical time.

Another walk-off loss as the team's best reliever watches from the bullpen.

The Phillies lost to the Orioles, 5-4, in 10 innings Sunday at Camden Yards to fall eight games behind the first-place Nationals in the National League East. It is the first time since June 4, 2007, the Phillies have been eight games out of first place.

The Phillies have lost eight of their last nine to fall to 29-33, the first time they have been four games under .500 since May 12 when they were 15-19.

  • 142 wins
  • 110 wins
"It's just a little thing here, a little thing there, a ball finds a hole -- it's small things," Phillies right fielder Hunter Pence said. "There's a big dynamic to the game."

Pence nailed it: lots of little things are adding up in a losing season for the Phillies.

The Orioles enjoyed their second walk-off win in as many days when Ty Wigginton booted a ball with one out in the 10th inning to put Adam Jones on first base. Matt Wieters followed and hit a ball off the wall in right field to score him.

It was Wigginton's fourth error in four games at third base.

"You make an error and the guy ends up coming around to score," he said. "It stinks. It's a terrible feeling."

Go back a few innings and the Phillies had spotted Cliff Lee a 4-1 lead. He entered the afternoon 0-3 with a 2.92 ERA, becoming the first Phillies pitcher to be winless with an ERA under 3.00 after nine starts since the NL started tracking earned runs in 1912. The Phillies had scored just 16 runs while Lee was pitching in those first nine starts, clear evidence the offense had not offered him much of any help this season.

That wasn't an excuse Sunday.

"I'll take four runs every time," Lee said.

The Phillies had the bases loaded with two outs in the second, when Pence singled up the middle to score Hector Luna and Jimmy Rollins. Jim Thome followed with a single to left to score Juan Pierre to make it 3-1.

The Phillies scored another run in the fourth, when Pierre scored on a wild pitch.

The Phillies could have had more, which haunted them as Wieters' ball hit the wall in the 10th. They had the bases loaded with one out in the first, but Shane Victorino popped out in foul territory and Carlos Ruiz struck out swinging. Ruiz grounded out with the bases loaded and two outs in the second, and struck out with runners at the corners with two outs in the fourth.

Lee issued a two-out walk to Mark Reynolds and allowed a double to Steve Pearce in the fourth. Steve Tolleson then hit a 1-2 cutter to left field for a three-run home run to tie the game.

Comfortable lead? Gone.

"Again, they got the big hit and they made the big play," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We couldn't put them away. We had a chance to score some runs early. We couldn't get a two-out hit in the first four innings. If we would have gotten another hit, we would have scored some runs. We scored four, but it didn't hold up. We just didn't get it done."

The Phillies got three scoreless innings from Michael Schwimer, when they turned to left-hander Joe Savery to face the heart of the Orioles' lineup (and a string of right-handed hitters) in the 10th. It is baseball protocol to keep a team's closer in the bullpen when playing in a tie game on the road, and Manuel had no plans to use Jonathan Papelbon in this situation, even though the matchups heavily favored the Orioles.

"He wasn't coming in," Manuel said. "You don't do that. I've never done that. There's a lot of managers who have never done that, I'd imagine."

It is difficult to find a manager that would do that, but it is worth noting the Phillies have suffered seven walk-off losses this season and Papelbon, who signed a $50 million contract in the offseason, has not appeared in any of them.

That might not be an issue of strategy as it is a comment on the makeup of the rest of the bullpen.

But this game was lost elsewhere: not taking advantage of big offensive opportunities early, Lee blowing a lead, Wigginton's error.

"Yeah, that's kind of hard for me to watch," Manuel said of another walk-off loss.

In Baltimore, all the pieces mattered.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.