After taking the first two games against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, the Phillies have dropped 3 games in a row to fall three games under .500 at 3-6. Last night, poor fielding and late pitching gave the team its biggest issue, and they could not capitalize on a tie game going into the eighth. In a season where this team needed to get off to a good start against some not-so-impressive ball clubs, they have not done so. They've had a chance to get the W in just about every one, but have somehow continued to let things slide. Tonight, the final game against the Milwaukee Brewers would give the Phillies an opportunity to stop the Brew Crew from securing their second straight series sweep. Marco Estrada was handed the ball for the visiting squad, while Cliff Lee was set to make his first start at home in 2014.
The Game: Success came early in the game for the Phillies. The first sign of it came in the bottom of the second inning, when Marlon Byrd stepped to the plate with one away. He went first pitch swinging and connected for his second homerun of the season, reaching the seats in left field. Meanwhile, Cliff Lee went the first three full innings allowing just two baserunners and recording five strikeouts. He worked his way out of a tough second inning when Marlon Byrd dropped a fly ball off the bat of Carlos Gomez. Despite Gomez reaching third, Lee escaped the frame untouched. However, the fourth inning gave him some difficulty.
Ryan Braun, the not-so-fan-favorite, notched his second single of the ball game to lead the fourth inning off. Aramis Ramirez then followed up with his second double of the season to bring Braun around to score. Ramirez was able to move from second to third when Johnathan Lucroy grounded a ball over to Chase Utley at second base. Khris Davis came through with a single to bring Ramirez in, and the Brewers would exit the fourth inning with a 2-1 lead.
Both Estrada and Lee continued to pitch well, despite a few hiccups. In the sixth, Cliff looked as though he would cruise through the frame once again, but Lucroy once again had something to say. With two already set down, the Brewers' catcher shot a double between Ben Revere and Marlon Byrd in right center field. Next up was Khris Davis, who, after going down 0-2, sliced his fifth double of the season into right field for the third run of the game for Milwaukee. With 96 pitches thrown, it would be the end of Lee's performance.
In the bottom of that same inning, the Phillies discovered a bit of life. With two set down in order, Jimmy Rollins walked off of Estrada. Chase Utley then followed with a single into right field that allowed J-Roll to move to third base. Now with runners on the corners, Ryan Howard was able to work out a walk of his own. This would load the bases for Marlon Byrd, who already had an RBI. Byrd was able to keep the momentum going with a long bouncing ball to Ramirez, who could not throw to first in time. Each runner was then safe, and Domonic Brown came to the plate with an opportunity to put the Phillies ahead. He could only lift a 2-2 pitch into center field for the final out, but the Phillies were now within one run.
Things were looking decent for the Phillies up until this point in the game. At 3-2, they still had a chance to take win #4 on the year. But, just as most games have gone this season, the team let things go late. Jeff Manship entered to pitch the seventh inning, and found little success. A single, a sacrifice bunt, and another single were what greeted Manship in the frame. Jake Diekman was then called upon to enter the game, and could not stop the bleeding. A single and a sacrifice fly for Ryan Braun brought home the Brewers' sixth run, and Braun's 10th RBI of the series. 6-2 Milwaukee.
Philadelphia made a bit more noise in the eighth inning against Will Smith. Once again, it came with two more outs already made. Chase Utley singled and Ryan Howard walked to put two on, and Marlon Byrd once again had a two out, two on opportunity. This time, he could only strikeout to leave the team scuffling. Francisco Rodriguez came into the ninth inning and shut the door on the Phillies. The Brewers recorded their second series sweep in a row, and left the Phillies with a four game skid.
Impact: Cliff Lee played off of his successful start in Chicago with another quality start. Though he lasted just 96 pitches and six innings, Lee pitched well enough to keep his team in contention. The concern comes with the team's inability to hang on to gifts like these. As was mentioned earlier, the Phillies could have easily won several of the six (now seven) games they have lost, but have repeatedly had controllable issues late in ball games. Should this trend continue, a 75-80 win season will be a long shot.
Up Next: A.J. Burnett will play in Citizens Bank Park for the first time as a member of the home team, as he gets the ball for the Phillies. He will face a daunting task, though, as he will have to face the Miami Marlins and their young ace Jose Fernandez. That game will begin at 7:05.
Andrew Gillen, a Managing Editor and Recap Coordinator for Philliedelphia