Kyle Gibson struggles again for Phillies and other observations from a 4-3 loss to the Brewers

By Matt Breen

MILWAUKEE — The Phillies had recorded just one out Wednesday night when the phone rang in the visiting bullpen. Kyle Gibson was laboring on the mound as he struggled for a second straight start and sent the relief pitchers scurrying behind the right-field wall.

It was an ominous way to start a 4-3 loss to the Brewers as Sam Coonrod — a usual late-inning reliever — was warmed up before the first inning was complete. Gibson reached 50 pitches in the second inning and lasted just 4⅔ innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and four walks.

He was a steady presence for five starts after being acquired at the trade deadline, but his two September starts have been rough. The Phillies won four of Gibson’s first five starts and he posted a 1.93 ERA. He has allowed 11 runs over 10 innings in two starts this month, both of which have been losses during a playoff push.

The Phillies did not lose ground Wednesday in the division standings as Atlanta fell at home to Washington. But it was another missed chance to gain ground. The Philles trail Atlanta by 2½ games with 23 remaining.

The rest of the schedule is mostly light — the Phillies play 14 of their next 17 games against the Rockies, Cubs, Orioles, and Pirates — but those games are only winnable if the starting pitching can be dependable. Aaron Nola has not been sharp this month, Gibson is faltering, Ranger Suarez is pitching through arm soreness, and the Phillies are using a bullpen game instead of a fifth starter.

The rotation, which carried the Phillies in August, is stumbling in September. And if that doesn’t change, it’s going to be hard to chase down a playoff spot.

Brogdon gives it up

Connor Brogdon needed just three pitches in the fifth inning to extinguish the rally that Gibson left for him. Gibson was lifted when his 103rd pitch walked Lorenzo Cain, putting runners on first and second with two outs and the score tied at 3. Brogdon popped up Jackie Bradley and the threat was over.

But the game wouldn’t stay tied for long as Brogdon gave up a two-out homer in the sixth to Eduardo Escobar. The Phillies leaned on their bullpen Tuesday night when Nola gave them just five innings and need to keep arms ready for Friday and Saturday. So Joe Girardi tried pushing Brogdon through the sixth. He was one out away from finishing it before the switch-hitting Escobar crushed his fastball 408 feet.

Falling short

If the Phillies were to rally back Wednesday, they would have had to do it against one of baseball’s best late-inning tandems in right-hander Devin Williams and left-hander Josh Hader. Somehow, the Phillies had yet to face either pitcher in their first six matchups this season.

And they nearly cracked Williams, last season’s NL Rookie of the Year, in the eighth. Jean Segura hit a fairly routine grounder to shortstop that appeared to end the inning in order. But Segura hustled to first and the grounder was hit deep enough that his sprint beat the throw from Luis Urias. Bryce Harper walked after Segura kept the inning alive, but J.T. Realmuto struck out on a change-up to end the rally.

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