Sweep leaves many questions as Phillies fall deeper in NL East

Phillies fall again to Orioles
For the third consecutive game, the Phillies squandered a lead on Thursday against an Orioles club that lost 108 games last season. Compounding matters is the continued ineptness of the bullpen that surrendered seven runs in an 11-4 loss at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies are now 5-9 on the season and have the second-worst winning percentage in the National League, ahead of only the Pirates.

"You have to be able to pitch to win games in this league, and quite frankly we just haven't thrown the ball well," catcher J.T. Realmuto said. "We haven't done well late in games, in particular, when we've needed it. To win a division and to get to the playoffs, you need a really good bullpen. That's an area where we haven't done that well so far. We've got the guys to do it, we've just got to get better."

Jake Arrieta was cruising early, retiring 11 of the first 13 batters he faced. He ran into trouble though in the fifth, surrendering four runs allowing the Orioles to erase a two-run deficit. Through three starts he's posted a 4.02 ERA to go along with 14 strikeouts and two walks over 15 2/3 innings of work.

“We obviously haven’t performed up to our standards; that’s for sure,” Arrieta said. “But there’s really no time to worry about that. We just have to play better. That’s basically the bottom line. If we don’t start to play better, we’re going to be in a tough spot. We already have to catch up quite a bit. We know it’s going to be a tough road ahead.”

Vince Velasquez came out of the bullpen for the first time this season, surrendering two runs on two hits and a walk. He'll remain in the rotation for now as the Phils have a doubleheader next week with Toronto, but it appears prospect Spencer Howard is now the de facto No. 5 starter in the Phils' rotation.

Realmuto hit a pair of homers in the loss, giving him seven homers and 17 RBIs on the season. Bryce Harper also had a solid day at the dish, collecting a double and a triple to improve his batting average to .356. He also leads the Majors with a 1.202 OPS.

Those two alone, however, can't fix all the issues now bubbling to the surface for the Phillies. The inconsistency at the plate, the porous bullpen, and the mental miscues are putting the club in a position where reaching the postseason may not be a reality.

"It's concerning," Realmuto said. "With this shortened season, we've got to get it going quicker. It's definitely being talked about in the clubhouse. We're trying to pick each other up and stay positive. If you have one good week, you're back in it. Especially in our division, nobody is really running away with it yet."

The Phils will entertain the Mets for a weekend series at Citizens Bank Park beginning Friday.

“It’s not going to get any easier,” manager Joe Girardi said. "We have [Jacob] deGrom tomorrow."
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BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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