PHOENIX (AP) — Philadelphia spent most of the night taking advantage of Arizona’s moves in a bullpen game, building a three-run lead by the seventh inning.
A bullpen meltdown of their own cost the Phillies a chance to take a commanding lead in the NL Championship Series.
Craig Kimbrel gave up three runs in the eighth, including two on pinch-hitter Alek Thomas’ tying homer into the Chase Field pool, and the Phillies lost 6-5 to the Diamondbacks on Friday to tie the NLCS at 2-all.
“A lot of pitchers look sped up to me,” Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto said. “That’s what happens when you fall behind counts and let baserunners on. The place gets loud, they start feeling the crowd, the atmosphere.”
A night after striking out 13 times in a 2-1 defeat, the reigning NL champions appeared to have the Diamondbacks right where they wanted.
Kyle Schwarber hit a solo homer and Brandon Marsh added a run-scoring double to tie the game at 2. The Phillies scored two runs on an infield single and error in the sixth, and went up 5-2 on Trea Turner’s sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Then it all fell apart.
Phillies manager Rob Thomson was criticized for using Orion Kerkering late in Game 3 after the rookie blew a 1-0 lead.
Thomson sent Kerkering back out for another critical situation in Game 4 and he again struggled, walking two — including Christian Walker with the bases loaded.
“He struggled last couple of nights, but I still have faith in him,” Thomson said. “Maybe he got sped up a little bit, I don’t know. But he wasn’t the only one.”
With his team still leading 5-3, Thomson summoned Kimbrel for the eighth inning instead of waiting for the ninth.
Kimbrel, who had 23 saves in 28 chances during the regular season, struggled with his control before giving up the game-winning hit to Ketel Marte in the ninth inning Thursday.
The right-hander again had trouble locating his pitches in Game 4.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. led off the eighth with a double and Thomas followed with a two-run homer to tie it 5-all. Kimbrel then gave up a two-out single to Marte and hit Corbin Carroll with a pitch before Gabriel Moreno drove in the go-ahead run with a single off José Alvarado.
“The last two games sucked,” Kimbrel said. “I roll up in here and it cost us two games. The bright side is we are still tied 2-2.”
Philadelphia’s relievers had been sharp most of the season. They compiled a 1.26 ERA during the Division Series against Atlanta and allowed two runs in four innings over the first two NLCS games versus Arizona.
But in Game 4, Gregory Soto, Kerkering, Kimbrel and Alvarado combined to throw strikes on only 25 of 54 pitches while allowing four runs over the final 1 2/3 innings.
“We’ve got to throw strikes,” Thomson said. “Those guys have great stuff. They’ve got to throw it to the zone.”
Paul Sewald closed it out for the Diamondbacks in the ninth, leaving the Phillies searching for late-inning answers heading into Game 5 on Saturday.
The best-of-seven series will shift back to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Monday.
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