Phillies vs. Dodgers: Bryce Harper returns but Phillies lose again

The Phillies are losing games at an alarming rate. Saturday night brought the team’s fifth loss in the last six games, a 7-4 setback at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have come into Citizens Bank Park and taken the first two of a three-game series that ends Sunday.

The loss, in front of a crowd of 32,068 that expected more than it got, was the Phillies’ fourth in five games on this homestand, dropping them to 10-13 at home. The Phils are 18-22 overall, matching a season-high at four games under .500.

“This is frustrating for all of us,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We go out and have a really good road trip and you try to build on that and you come home and lose some games where you don’t score any runs, three of them, basically. It’s really frustrating.”

In many ways, the Phillies beat themselves Saturday night. Their pitchers, particularly Aaron Nola, had trouble putting away hitters. Five of the seven runs given up by Phillies pitching came on 3-2 pitches. Nola gave three two-out runs on a homer and a two-run double, both with full counts. He also gave up a homer with one out and the count full.

“I made some mistakes with two outs and two strikes that hurt me,” Nola said.

Star of the game Mookie Betts had one of the solo homers and the two-run double as Nola failed to hold a 4-1 lead.

Betts also made the defensive play of the game when he gunned down Odubel Herrera at the plate from right field to complete a double play and get the Dodgers out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam with the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh.

Herrera’s speed is not what it was earlier in his career. Betts made the catch on Alec Bohm’s sinking liner to right and threw Herrera out by eight feet.

The decision by third base coach Dusty Wathan to send Herrera had to be questioned with Bryce Harper in the on-deck circle.

“I’m OK with it,” Girardi said. “Betts made a perfect throw. If the ball is a little more at his shoe top, it’s probably a little more difficult, but it didn’t quite get down there. I’m OK with it.”

Even with Harper on deck?

“Yeah,” Girardi said. “He made a really good throw. There’s a lot of things that can happen that can go your way. It just didn’t. Dusty is a really good third base coach. He was a great player (Betts) having a great night. There’s nothing he can’t do.”

Harper had missed the previous five games after a medical procedure on his ailing right elbow. He had a hit in five at-bats.

Buoyed by Betts’ big play to end the seventh, the Dodgers scored two in the top of the eighth to break the tie. The runs were charged to Jose Alvarado. Gavin Lux’s base hit against Seranthony Dominguez, we have 3-2 fastball, scored the go-ahead run. Another run scored on one of the two wild pitches that Dominguez threw in the inning.

On the, ahem, plus side, the Phillies scored four runs, matching their total from the previous three games. That was hardly an eruption. The Phils are averaging just two runs per game over their last six.

The Dodgers got through the game using their bullpen, a cast of eight relievers in all.

Nola had one of those outings where the stuff was good — he struck out nine in 5⅓ innings — but the inability to put a hitter away in a big situation was killer.

He gave up a solo homer to Betts on a 3-2 curveball in the third inning. The pitch was a hanger and Betts, a terrific hitter of off-speed pitches, did what good hitters do with hangers.

Thanks to an RBI double by Jean Segura, a two-run homer by Bohm and a solo homer by Kyle Schwarber, Nola took a 4-1 lead into the fifth inning. The right-hander got two quick outs before allowing a single to No. 8 hitter Chris Taylor and a walk to No. 9 hitter Lux. That brought the dangerous Betts to the plate again.

Nola got ahead of Betts, 0-2, with a fastball and a curveball but could not put him away. After going 0-2, Nola then threw three straight fastballs out of the zone to run the count full. The next pitch was also a fastball. Betts unloaded on it and stroked a hard-hit double to left-center to drive home two runs and cut the Phils’ lead to one.

An inning later, Nola got burned on another full-count fastball. With one out in the sixth, he gave up a game-tying solo homer to Will Smith.

The Phils have not been five games under .500 this season. A loss Sunday will put them there. Zach Eflin will pitch against Tony Gonsolin.

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