Things just keep getting worse for the Phillies. They dropped a Memorial Day game in heartbreaking fashion to the Giants on Monday, as the bullpen blew it yet again. It’s now their fourth straight loss, and they’ve plummeted to 11.5 games behind the Mets in the NL East. This afternoon featured an extra innings loss, as the Phils gave us just enough hope to make the heartbreak devastating.

The game started out well with Nick Castellanos and Rhys Hoskins each blasting solo home runs, and Kyle Gibson blanking the Giants for the first five innings. A Wilmer Flores two-run shot tied the game at two in the sixth, and that score held until the ninth inning. Joe Girardi brought in closer Corey Knebel to safeguard the tie, and he surrendered a solo shot to Evan Longoria with two outs. All hope seemed lost until Kyle Schwarber led off the bottom of the ninth with a dinger of his own to knot things back up at three. At this point it looked like the Phillies might rally to take this one. Then, the other shoe dropped when Curt Casali put the Giants back on top with a two-run blast in the top of the tenth. That was the knockout blow for the Phillies, as they scored the ghost runner in their half of the frame, but couldn’t get the tying run across. As we’ve seen happen far too often this year, the Phillies bullpen blew it.

Corey Knebel looked lights out for most of April, but he’s been brutal of late. He single-handedly cost the Phils the game on Sunday night, as he let Mets rookie Nick Plummer tie things up in the bottom of the ninth with his first career home run, and then surrendered a walk-off double to Eduardo Escobar an inning later. It wasn’t any better today, as Knebel allowed Longoria to give the Giants the lead with one swing of the bat. It looked like the offense might have been able to bail him out, but it wasn’t meant to be. The point is, the Phillies shouldn’t need to bail their closer out. The closer is there to shut the door on the opposing team, not open up the floodgates. 

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Some of the blame for this loss rests on Joe Girardi, as it almost always does. He can’t be faulted for bringing Knebel into a tie game in the ninth, but he certainly erred the next inning when he brought Andrew Bellatti on in a high-leverage situation. Bellatti has been good this year, but he doesn’t have much of a track record as a late inning guy. Seranthony Domínguez, on the other hand, has proven himself as an effective option in crunch time. Yet, Girardi has a hard and fast rule that no pitcher will throw three days in a row. Nevermind the fact that Domínguez only threw one pitch on Saturday and 11 on Sunday. He pitched the past two days so he was not going throw today no matter what. 

These are the kinds of decisions that make Girardi’s continued employment so baffling. He clearly has no ability to manage a bullpen and no flexibility in his approach. He’s an old-school baseball man who makes up his mind and sticks to his guns come hell or high water. The game has clearly passed him by and the Phillies should too. This team will find it difficult to win with a sieve-like bullpen, but it’ll be nearly impossible to win with Joe Girardi steering the ship.

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