By SAMUEL BOTWINICK | Staff Writer
April 10, 2014, 10:15 p.m.
On Thursday night, Cliff Lee had eight strikeouts and Marlon Byrd drove in two, but the rest of the team was able to do little right, resulting in another crushing loss to the Brewers, 6-2, at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies' problems this season have not been their getting leads early on in games. They have had early leads the past couple of games. Rather, the issue is toward the back end of their bullpen, which has cost them those games. Their defense had done them no favors either. Coming into Thursday night's game, they had 10 unearned runs in the past three games, which were all losses.
In the bottom of the second, Byrd ensured that the Phillies would have an early lead, with a solo shot to left off Brewers' starting pitcher, Marco Estrada, to put them ahead 1-0.
Once again, following the Phillies' scoring, they could not keep the opposing team off the board.
Lee has had an inconsistent year so far, but his record wouldn't necessarily indicate that. The left hander was 2-0 coming into Thursday night's ball game, but had an even 6.00 ERA. On Thursday night, he suffered his first loss in a decent pitching performance, where he tossed six innings, surrendered three earned runs on eight hits, and struck out eight.
Lee's counterpart, Estrada, fared better as he notched his first win of the young season, throwing six innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits, while punching out five batters, and walking two.
In the top of the fourth, Lee yielded a single to the hot-hitting Ryan Braun to start the frame. Lee then allowed a double to Aramis Ramirez, which allowed Braun to hustle all the way home from first and tie the game at 1.
It wasn't enough to allow the Brewers to take the lead. The Phillies had to give up the lead as well in the same inning to ensure that they were playing Phillies' baseball.
Ramirez, who was on second, advanced to third on Jonathan Lucroy's ground out, and scored on Khris Davis' single to left to enable the Brewers to grab the 2-1 advantage.
The other common theme in all of the Phillies' losses this year has been their lack of defense. That defense, or lack thereof, was on display in the top of the sixth inning.
With two outs and no men on base, Lucroy hit a double right where Ben Revere, who has struggled mightily this year with tracking down balls, should have been playing. The next batter, Davis, deposited an 0-2 Lee fastball into right-center, driving home Lucroy from second to extend the Brewer's lead to 3-1.
While it looked like nothing could go right for the Phillies initially, they were able to get back one of those runs in the bottom of the sixth.
After consecutive strikeouts of Cesar Hernandez, who came in to relieve Lee of his hitting, and ultimately, pitching duties, and Ben Revere, it looked like it could be another easy 1-2-3 inning for Estrada. Jimmy Rollins had different plans, though. He was patient at the plate, for once, and drew a two-out walk. Chase Utley, who was coming back from his flu, made his presence felt as he hit a single to right, allowing Rollins to run to third. Ryan Howard worked a rare walk to load the bases for the ever intriguing bat of Byrd. Byrd used what was left of his speed from his time with the Phillies to beat out a throw from third to enable Rollins to trot home from third and narrow the score to 3-2 Brewers.
Of course, though, in typical Phillies' manner, it was only a matter of time before the Brewers would regain their two run lead.
The highly-discussed Jeff Manship, who had a stellar Spring Training, earning him a roster spot with the Phillies, did not fare well in his brief stint as a reliever on Thursday night. After he came in to relieve Lee of his outing, things got ugly for him in a hurry.
Manship yielded a single to Rickie Weeks to start the top of the seventh. Pinch-hitter, Logan Schafer, who replaced Estrada, then bunted Weeks over to second. The following batter, Carlos Gomez, lined a single to left-center, which scored Weeks from second.
The trouble, though, was only starting for Manship and the much maligned Phillies' bullpen.
After a trip to the mound, Phillies' pitching coach, Bob McClure replaced Manship with Jake Diekman, hoping for different reusults. To McClure's chagrin, those results remained the same as the first batter whom Diekman faced, Jean Segura, blooped a single to center, scoring Schafer, and enabling Gomez to scamper to third.
The damage was still not complete, though. With Gomez at third, Braun, who couldn't be kept off the bases this series, hit a sacrifice fly to score Gomez from third, and gave the Brewers a commanding 6-2 advantage, which they would not relinquish.
The Phillies will look to avoid a five-game losing streak when they open up a series with the Marlins on Friday night, with the first game set for 7:05. A.J. Burnett will look to get his first victory of the season against the talented young gunslinger, Jose Fernandez.