Corey Knebel, Phillies’ bullpen fight against Marlins

PHILADELPHIA — Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson probably would have pitched Zach Eflin at least another inning Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

But Eflin felt soreness in his surgically repaired right knee, so Thomson pulled him after six innings and 80 pitches. It was an easy decision to make. Eflin’s health is critical to the team’s success. Plus, the Phillies held a four-run lead at the time. But everything fell apart from there in an 11-9 loss to Miami. The bullpen blew the four-run lead in the seventh and a one-run lead in the ninth.

It left unanswered questions about who will take the ball the next time the Phillies need a save.

“We’ll discuss it,” Thomson said. “I haven’t talked to Corey [Knebel] about anything. Or the other relievers.”

The Phillies wasted perhaps the best game of Rhys Hoskins’ career, one night after he had the first walk-off hit of his career. He went 4-for-5 with two home runs and a career-high tying six RBIs. He was the first Phillies player to have four hits and six RBIs in a game since David Bell hit for the cycle against Montreal on June 28, 2004.

Hoskins hit a game-tying, three-run homer in the fourth.

He hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth.

The Phillies needed Hoskins’ eighth-inning heroics because Jeurys Familia allowed a three-run homer in the seventh to Jacob Stallings, who had not homered since Opening Day. Seranthony Domínguez then allowed a game-tying homer to Jazz Chisholm Jr.

It was the first homer Dominguez had allowed this season.

Gag started the ninth. He had not pitched since Friday because of tightness in his right shoulder. Miguel Rojas hit a ground ball to third baseman Alec Bohm, who made a nice play to grab it. He threw to first, but Hoskins could not make a clean pick.

Knebel has had trouble throwing strikes this season, with a career-low 46.2 percent of his pitches in the zone. He walked Stallings and Chisholm to load the bases. Garrett Cooper singled to score the tying run.

“It was tough, especially an experienced guy like that,” Thomson said. “I do trust [Knebel]. But he just looked really rusty. I thought maybe we had a better shot with Bellatti at that moment.”

Knebel, who threw only four strikes out of 16 pitches, said he understood the decision.

“I mean, I just walked two guys,” Knebel said. “I threw probably three strikes. So I couldn’t argue that. That was it. He made a great decision. Bellatti went in there and shoved, man. Big spot right there. He did a great job right there.”

Bellatti got Jorge Soler to fly out for the first out. He then got Jesús Aguilar to pop up behind home plate. Phillies catcher JT Realmuto had a play, but the ball bounced off his glove. Aguilar followed with a double to right-center field to score two more runs.

So where do the Phillies go from here? Certainly, they need gags to get straightened out. He has good stuff when he is on, but his control has been an issue.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve had the same problems,” Knebel said. “Yeah, I had one a couple outings ago. But my body felt good today. My arm felt good. I just couldn’t throw strikes. … I went and looked at it. I thought everything mechanically-wise looked good. It just didn’t go over the plate.

“I’m frustrated. Of course, you’d like to go out there and win that game. Have a clean one. But it doesn’t always work out like that. So that’s on me. I didn’t throw a strike. I just have to throw strikes. That’s it.”

If the Phillies go with somebody else until Knebel gets right, Domínguez (1.88 ERA) is the most likely candidate. Brad Hand (1.96 ERA) has also closed. He has allowed runs in only three of his 26 appearances.

“Even the best bullpens in baseball have tough nights,” Realmuto said. “I feel like our guys in the back end have been throwing the ball a lot better lately. We’ve just got to put this one behind us. I feel like we’ve got a better situation back there now than we had two, three weeks ago. There’s more confidence in the guys, guys have more confidence in themselves. I don’t want to write them off just yet. I feel like they’re heading in the right direction. Tonight was just a mishap.”

Eflin said he is “not too worried” about his knee, which required surgery in September. He said “as of right now” he plans to make his next start.


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