MLB Wild Card: Phillies lose to Giants on Wilmer Flores’ walk-off home run

SAN FRANCISCO — Kyle Schwarber walked through the quiet postgame clubhouse and made eye contact with a reporter.

“It’ll be all right,” he said, clapping his hands together softly. “We’ll be OK.”

Not if the boys on the bump don’t stop walking people.

Phillies pitchers walked five more batters Sunday and three of them ended up crossing home plate. One of those batters was Bryce Johnson, a San Francisco Giants rookie with precisely one big-league hit. David Robertson walked Johnson in a tie game to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning.

Robertson was in his second inning of work after pitching over a defensive miscue in the bottom of the eighth and striking out dangerous Evan Longoria with the bases loaded to end that inning. He came back and struck out two more after walking Johnson to open the bottom of the ninth.

Robertson needed one more out to get the Phillies to extra innings …

Boom.

Wilmer Flores hit a first-pitch slider over the wall in left for a two-run homer and the Phillies walked off the field at the end of a horrible trip to Arizona and San Francisco with a demoralizing 5-3 loss.

The Phils had played poorly in all phases of the game throughout the trip, but they had a chance to end it on a high note after JT Realmuto slugged a game-tying three-run homer in the eighth. A short while later, the Giants, who had entered the series having lost seven straight and 11 of 13, were dancing off the field, their three-game sweep of the Phillies complete.

The Phillies went 1-5 on the trip. They have lost six of their last seven. They’ve fallen from second to third in the NL wild-card race, leading Milwaukee, the first team out, by 2½ games with 28 to play.

“It’s been a frustrating week, but it’s just one week,” manager Rob Thomson said. “We start a new week on Tuesday. We’ve got (Aaron) Nola going. We’ve got to get back to our winning ways.

“Off days are funny. Sometimes they come at a bad time. Sometimes they come at a good time. It’s probably a good time for one.”

After Monday’s off day, the Phils host Miami and Washington, two teams well under .500, for six straight. The Phils are 8-5 against Miami and 10-2 against Washington.

Monday’s off day will not prevent some from wondering if maybe the Phillies, despite Schwarber’s upbeat tone, won’t be OK. By now, you’ve heard that the club hasn’t had a winning record in September since 2017. That’s three managers ago.

“This is a completely different club than we’ve had in years past,” Realmuto said. “Obviously, this trip went nothing like we wanted it to. But we still have a nice lead in the wild-card spot. We just have to play better baseball.

“We have to rely on the good players in this clubhouse. It’s obviously a bad time for a bad six or seven games, but we’re not going to look too much into it. We’ve bounced back before. But we do have to do a better job offensively with runners in scoring position. We’re putting too much pressure on our pitching staff.”

The Phils squandered a bunch of good scoring chances in losing close games to the Giants on Saturday and Sunday. They went 5 for 21 with runners in scoring position in those two games.

But the pitching staff’s inability to throw strikes was killer both days — and throughout the entire trip for that matter.

During the trip, the Phillies had a 10-walk game, an eight-walk game and two five-walk games. Six times a Phillies pitcher walked a batter with the bases loaded. There was also a hit batsman with the bases loaded.

“I can’t pinpoint why, but we’re giving away too many free passes, just not attacking the zone, getting behind in the count a lot,” Realmuto said. “We did a great job attacking early in the season, but we haven’t this week. It’s definitely something we need to fix moving forward.”

Thomson was more direct.

“Walks are a concern,” he said. “We have to throw strikes. We have to quit giving guys free passes.”

Starting pitching was a big problem on the trip. Only Bailey Falter, filling in for the injured Zack Wheeler, delivered a quality start. Otherwise, the Phillies did not get enough innings from their starters and that, in turn, put pressure on a bullpen that is down to Seranthony Dominguez and Corey Knebel. In the five losses, Phillies starters went 3⅔ innings, 4 innings, 1⅔ innings, 4⅓ innings and 4 innings. That’s not enough.

Ranger Suarez cruised through three innings on 31 pitches Sunday then lost it in the fourth inning. He gave up two walks and three singles while throwing 38 pitches and falling behind, 3-0. The Phils did nothing against Giants lefty Carlos Rodon, who struck out 10 in six innings. Realmuto’s homer in the eighth came against righty John Brebbia.

Suarez has lost command and effectiveness three straight outings in the middle innings and the Phils have lost two of them. Realmuto says Suarez’ stuff is good, he’s just not attacking in the middle innings, “picking too much.”

The left-hander is approaching a career-high innings total. He’s at 127⅔. He threw 106 last year and just four while dealing with COVID in 2020. His high is 139⅓ between the majors and minors in 2018.

Suarez said he is healthy and not tired. The Phils will need more from him if they’re going to break their decade-long postseason drought. They will need more than they got from Nola in Arizona on the first leg of the trip, as well, and it would help if Wheeler can come back quickly from elbow inflammation that nobody seems all that worried about but will now cost him a third start .

Robertson, who gave up the game-losing homer Sunday, is another veteran, like Schwarber, who has been on winning clubs. He shared Schwarber’s view of it all after the game.

“We just had a bad week,” he said. “This team is way too talented. We need to start fresh back in Philly.”

But he added something.

“We need to pick up the pace and start winning games,” he said. “There’s only a certain amount of time left. We need to get back on track.”

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