The Phillies’ recent struggles continued on Wednesday afternoon, as the Dodgers completed a three-game sweep in utterly humiliating fashion. The Phillies had this game well in hand, jumping out to an early 5-0 lead before watching it evaporate once again. The disappointment was capped off by a walk-off grand slam as the Phils lost 10-6.
Looking to complete the sweep, the Dodgers turned to 24-year-old right-hander Gavin Stone to start the afternoon affair. The well-regarded prospect was making his major league debut, but the Phillies ruined his moment, rocking him for eight hits and five runs (four earned) in only 4.0 innings of work.
The struggling Trea Turner got things started with a one-out double in the top of the first, and came around to score on a Bryson Stott sacrifice fly three batters later. The Phils were back at it in the top of the third, with Bryce Harper smoking a one-out double of his own. Nick Castellanos traded places with Harper after his own double, and the Phils were up 2-0. Alec Bohm then singled to drive in Castellanos, and a two-out knock from Brandon Marsh put two on. Edmundo Sosa grounded one up the middle to score two more, and Garrett Stubbs laid a perfect bunt down the third base line to score the fourth run of the inning. The frame ended only when Kyle Schwarber smoked a line drive right at Dodgers First Baseman Freddie Freeman, which likely would’ve scored two more had it not been caught.
With the offense humming to start the game it was easy for Phillies fans to think they’d run away with this one, but the Dodgers immediately started chipping away against Aaron Nola. Mookie Betts drove in a run with an RBI single in the bottom of the third, and Miguel Vargas cut the lead in half with a two-run blast to center one inning later. Nola was pulled with one out in the seventh and a man on, who Seranthony Domínguez allowed to score on a sacrifice fly to make it a 5-4 game.
The wheels came completely off in the eighth, when José Alvarado had a rare off day, putting runners on second and third with one away. With the infield in, Miguel Vargas grounded a ball sharply to Trea Turner at shortstop, who fired home to cut down Miguel Rojas and preserve the one-run lead.
With two on and two outs the Dodgers sent weak-hitting backup catcher Austin Barnes to the plate. During Barnes’ at bat the Phillies inexplicably allowed Vargas to steal second base uncontested, moving the go-ahead run into scoring position. That would come back to haunt them, as Barnes lined a 1-2 sinker right at Edmundo Sosa. Sosa, who has a reputation as a sure-handed infielder, made another devastating misplay, allowing the ball to go right over his glove and into left field for a two-run single. In a clear display of hometown bias, the play was scored a base hit, but in reality it was one of the more egregious errors the Phillies have committed all year.
The Phils weren’t quite done toying with us, though, as Bryce Harper lit a spark with a two-out single in the ninth. Nick Castellanos worked a walk in an incredible plate appearance against fireballer Brusdar Graterol, and Bryson Stott dunked a two-strike single just past the infield into left field to knot things up at six.
With the game tied, Craig Kimbrel took the mound looking to send it to extras. He immediately ran into trouble with a leadoff single from Chris Taylor, and a stolen base allowed the winning run to move into scoring position. Kimbrel froze Mookie Betts with a fantastic backdoor fastball to record the first out, and then intentionally walked Freeman to set up the double play. Kimbrel continued his ineffectiveness with another walk to Will Smith to load the bases, before Max Muncy lined the first pitch into the right field seats for a truly humiliating walk-off grand slam.
This may have been the worst loss we’ve seen from the Phillies all season. They’ve been blown out plenty of times, dropped a few heartbreakers, and just gotten plain beat in others. As has happened too many times before, this team let a game they had well in hand slip away. There are plenty of places to point fingers. Sosa’s brutal miscue all but lost the game for them, but that’s not all that went wrong. Kimbrel continued his inconsistency to start the season, looking much more like a washed up former closer, than the effective late-inning arm he has been the past two weeks. The entire offense went silent after the third inning before miraculously scratching across a two-out run in the final frame. Rob Thomson for some reason moved Kyle Schwarber, who is hitting below the Mendoza line, into the leadoff spot again, and watched the big man go 0-5 on the day.
This team has been a rollercoaster over the season’s first month, and unfortunately that inconsistency looks to have spilled over into May. They’re not out of contention by any means, but they need to find a groove in short order if they want to seriously compete for the division crown. We all know how the 2022 Phillies fared after an even more brutal start to their season, but we shouldn’t be banking on similar heroics to save the day once more.