LOS ANGELES — Four strikeouts from a game-breaking victory and even road trip against baseball’s twin powers over the past decade, the Phillies had the perfect game on Wednesday.
“Alvarado versus Barnes? said manager Rob Thomson. “I’ll take Alvarado. Every day of the week.”
For the record, it’s José Alvarado, the Phillies’ left-handed flamethrower and the sport’s most untouchable reliever so far this season, against Austin Barnes, the Dodgers’ backup .104 catcher. How many times does Alvarado win this duel? Nine out of 10? Ninety out of 100?
But Barnes put a two-strike throw in play, and the way the Phillies defended in the morning series finale at Dodger Stadium, anything can happen. Even Edmundo Sosa, the slick third baseman, could miss a ball that went over his glove and into left field for the hit.
And on the day Bryce Harper hit three hits, reached base five times and scratched the rust in just his second game after a lightning-fast comeback from Tommy John elbow surgery, the Phillies received a punch in the gut, 10-6, after leading 5-0 in the third inning and 5-4 with two outs in the eighth.
“It can’t happen,” Harper said. “We just gave away this game. Who can not arrive. With the way we want to do it this year and the way we want to play this year, every year, that can’t happen. »
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In the end, it wasn’t Sosa’s game error — somehow Barnes was credited with a two-run single — that sank the Phillies. Nor was it Nick Castellanos’ mishap on the right field that led to a one-out triple for Chris Taylor in the seventh inning. Or left fielder Kyle Schwarber’s inability to hold James Outman to a single in the eighth.
The Dodgers won it in Max Muncy’s grand slam over reliever Craig Kimbrel and celebrated at home in front of a midweek crowd of 36,539. They sent the Phillies to their fourth straight loss after winning the first two games of the trip to Houston last weekend.
And now, Harper will return to Citizens Bank Park on Friday night with a Phillies team that is 15-17.
“The ball ended up in the seats and I’m leaving the field. It’s quite frustrating,” Kimbrel said. “I just didn’t make a few throws.”
But that might not have been the case if Sosa had caught a ball that came off Barnes’ bat at just 89 mph. Maybe he bumped into himself or changed direction. Sosa couldn’t say for sure. It’s a play he usually does.
“It’s simple,” Sosa said through a team interpreter. “I should have caught that ball. It’s a game that has to be done. Honestly, it wasn’t even a very difficult game.
Instead of coming out of the inning with a 5-4 lead, the Phillies trailed 6-5. Harper brought them back in the top of the ninth. He singled with two out to right field and scored two second batters later on Bryson Stott’s tying single.
Kimbrel, who fumbled the tighter work of the Dodgers late last season and was cut from the playoff roster, gave up a first single to Chris Taylor in the ninth. It was downhill from there. Kimbrel loaded the bases on an intentional walk from Freddie Freeman and a walk to Will Smith before Muncy ambushed a first pitch fastball.
And so, after beating the Phillies by a 26-5 margin in the first two games of the series, the Dodgers finished the sweep in a series between teams with visions of winning the pennant.
There were times when they didn’t belong on the same ground.
“When you play the game the right way, play it right, you win a lot of games,” Harper said. “There were mistakes made today, and I think there have been mistakes over the last two weeks that we just have to correct, myself included. I have to play the game the right way, make things the right way. Overall, we have to be better.
Said Thomson: “We’ve taken it on the chin here the last three games. But you have to dust yourself off and take it on again.
Harper slides in safely
Harper has a default speed — full speed – but for weeks team officials wondered how he would react the first time the game had him putting his rebuilt right elbow at risk.
In the third inning, they found out.
The first of Harper’s three hits – so much to be rusty, isn’t it? – jumped off the side wall and kicked into left field. He raced around first base, arms pumping, legs spinning, as usual. But he opted to slide feet first into second base.
“I didn’t even think there would be a play at second base,” Harper said. “I didn’t even think about sliding head first or feet first. It kind of happened that way.
Harper wore a bulky brace on his right elbow when he ran for base. But the Phillies were upset in the ninth inning because, with the new pace of play rules, he didn’t have time to put in the double.
Mixed bag for Nola
On the plus side, Aaron Nola pitched the seventh inning and went out with a lead. On the negative side, it was a one-run lead after he was staked to a 5-0 advantage in the third inning.
Nola allowed four runs on seven hits in 6⅓ innings without a walk. The biggest knock against him was Miguel Vargas’ two-run homer in the fourth inning that cut the deficit to 5-3.
“Left that fastball on the plate, and Vargas put in a good swing,” Nola said. “It was kind of a dagger. Other than that, I felt pretty good.”
Nola’s average fastball speed remained down a tick from his previous seasons, a factor Thomson attributes to the gradual buildup in arm strength after a shorter-than-usual offseason.
Backup catcher Garrett Stubbs contributed in the big fourth inning with, of all things, a two-out safety squeeze.
Making just his second start in 14 days — and with his family in town from San Diego to watch the game — Stubbs pushed a well-placed bunt to third base and beat it. Brandon Marsh, who was not running on play, scored easily, while Stubbs celebrated with pelvic thrusts towards the dugout.
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