The Phillies have been embarrassing for the last two months. It’s no secret, as the club entered Wednesday’s game against the Cardinals at 22-47, a full three games worse than the next-worst team (Padres, 27-46). There’s not a whole lot they’ve done right this year. The Phillies have the third-worst offense in baseball, the fifth-worst pitching staff, and they have the fifth-worst stolen base success rate. The bullpen had blown 12 saves, tied for the fifth-most in baseball.
Somehow, the Phillies managed to raise the bar for embarrassment on Wednesday night. The game was fine through eight innings, as the Phillies were holding onto a 5-4 lead. Hector Neris took the mound to start the ninth, looking to lock down the save. After getting Yadier Molina to fly out, Neris served up a game-tying solo home run to Tommy Pham, blowing the save. That moved the Phillies into a tie with four other teams for the major league lead in blown saves.
The Phillies, to their credit, rallied in the bottom of the ninth as Howie Kendrick singled with one out. Odubel Herrera reached after hitting into a 5-4 force out at second. Freddy Galvis then hit a weak line drive down the third base line that bounced off of the facing of the stands, back into shallow left field. Herrera is fast, but not score-from-first-on-a-grounder-to-left-fast. Herrera wheeled around third base as third base coach Juan Samuel threw up the stop sign. Herrera ignored it and was thrown out by a good 15 feet by Pham from left field.
It gets worse. Edubray Ramos started the 10th inning of a 5-5 game. He immediately allowed a double to Jose Martinez, putting the go-ahead run at second base. During Matt Carpenter‘s at-bat, Ramos balked, moving Martinez to third. After striking Carpenter out, Dexter Fowler was intentionally walked. Aledmys Diaz pinch-hit for Brett Cecil. During Diaz’s at-bat, Ramos attempted to pick Fowler off at first base, but airmailed the throw to Tommy Joseph. Martinez scored the go-ahead run easily and Fowler advanced to second base. Adam Morgan relieved Ramos and got Diaz to fly out. Morgan then intentionally walked Jedd Gyorko to bring up Yadier Molina, who singled to right field, giving the Cardinals a crucial insurance run. Pham struck out looking to mercifully end the inning.
The Phillies again rallied in the bottom of the 10th, scoring a run to close the gap to 7-6, but would eventually lose when closer Seung-Hwan Oh struck out Aaron Altherr swinging. Last night, Ramos and Casey Fien combined to allow seven runs in the 11th inning to lose to the Cardinals 8-1. That inning included back-to-back walks to lead off the inning, a Maikel Franco error, and home runs from Molina and Pham.
I’ve been a Phillies fan since before I could even talk. I lived through the absolutely dreadful teams the Phillies put together between the mid-1990’s and the mid-2000’s. The rosters were chock full of relatively untalented players who lacked fundamentals in one way or another. Having watched this year’s iteration of the Phillies, now 22-48 and losers of 39 of their last 50 games, I feel confident in saying that the 2017 Phils are the worst team, fundamentally and otherwise, of my lifetime. Wednesday’s game was, to date, the apex of their season-long bout of incompetence.
Fans have become increasingly frustrated, and understandably so. A team committed to a rebuild has yet to show any positive signs. Franco and Herrera (until recently) have punched well below their weight. No. 1 prospect J.P. Crawford has a .562 OPS at Triple-A. Young pitchers like Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola, and Hector Neris have had inconsistent seasons at best. As the 2011-14 Astros showed us, however, sometimes you have to play really bad baseball before you play really good baseball, so there is precedent for teams as bad or worse than the Phillies eventually recovering. It’s just really hard to watch right now.