The Phillies used six pitchers with a combined 140 games of big league experience in a 9-6 loss to the Nationals on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park. Their inexperience seemed to show as they threw 180 pitches, with 92 of them (51.1 percent) out of the strike zone, turning the loss into the Phillies' longest nine-inning game of the season at a glacial 3 hours and 38 minutes.
The Nationals didn't help matters with three errors in a terribly sloppy game by both teams.
"It was an ugly game, that's all I can tell you," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "It's one of the ugliest ones I've seen."
The Phillies walked nine batters, hit another and threw a wild pitch for good measure. They have not walked 10 batters in a nine-inning game since June 13, 2009, against Boston.
"I think this was a one-game thing with the way we've been going the past couple of weeks," Sandberg said. "Sometime it gets contagious. The whole staff, aside from [B.J.] Rosenberg, who did a nice job in the ninth, it kind of snowballed. Every guy was behind in the count. And then you're talking fastball hitters getting fastballs."
Rookie right-hander Ethan Martin made the seventh start of his big league career, and he continued to show the lively arm that many think ultimately will have him pitching in the back end of the bullpen.
But he is a starter for now, despite throwing five or fewer innings in six of his starts. He drilled Jayson Werth with a pitch on his left forearm to start a three-run rally in the second inning. He then walked Adam LaRoche with one out to put runners on first and second and allowed a three-run homer to Wilson Ramos to right-center field to make it 3-0.
Martin's struggles after the first time through the lineup are well documented, so things figured to get worse, and they did. He allowed a double to Denard Span in the fifth, and the inning fell apart from there. He walked Bryce Harper with one out, but after getting Werth to pop out in foul territory for the second out, he walked Ian Desmond to load the bases and walked LaRoche on four pitches to score Span to make it 4-2.
"It's frustrating," Martin said. "That's one thing I try to do is go as deep as I can, and when I can't do that, it is frustrating. I'll just keep grinding it out, I guess."
Sandberg replaced Martin with Justin De Fratus, but he followed suit and walked Ramos on four pitches to score Harper to make it 5-2.
Martin allowed four hits, five runs, five walks, one home run and struck out two in 4 2/3 innings. He fell to 2-4 with a 6.90 ERA in seven starts.
Left-hander Mauricio Robles made his big league debut in the sixth, but allowed two hits, two unearned runs, one walk and struck out one.
The Phillies' offense made a comeback attempt, but the bats could not overcome the pitching. Cody Asche hit a two-run single to center in the fourth inning against Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez to make it 3-2. They scored three runs in the sixth to make it 7-5, and Asche hit a solo homer to right in the eighth to make it 8-6.
It was Asche's third homer of the season.
Asche has hit in 10 of his last 11 games. He is hitting .375 (15-for-40) with three doubles, one triple, one home run and nine RBIs in that stretch. He is hitting .312 (24-for-77) in 22 games since beginning his big league career with one hit in his first 17 at-bats.
"I thought he had great at-bats," Sandberg said. "It goes a long way with his ability. I think he can hit righties or lefties. He has the ability. He should get a big boost from his game tonight."