Phillies' cold bats shut down by Spencer Howard and the Giants' bullpen – NBC Sports Philadelphia

SAN FRANCISCO — No matter how well or poorly a team is playing, the Bay Area is rarely kind to the Phillies.

They lost to the Giants 1-0 on Tuesday night, their second consecutive series after going undefeated over the previous 15 games. The Phillies have lost nine games in a row at Oracle Park, 12 of their last 13, and their all-time record at the Giants' beautiful home park is 26-53.

Zack Wheeler (2.32 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) did his part with six scoreless innings and nine strikeouts, but batters stayed quiet. The Phillies have allowed 16 runs on their 1-4 road trip, and six of those came Saturday at Coors Field while returning to the ninth inning. They have allowed just 10 runs in the other 47 innings of the trip.

“This is baseball, this is the story of the ups and downs of the game,” manager Rob Thomson said. “This club is going to be successful. We're just going through a tough time.”

Orion Kerkering, Jose Alvarado and Jeff Hoffman kept the Giants off the board in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, but Matt Strahm gave up a walk-off sacrifice fly to Luis Matos in the bottom of the 10th inning. Four of the Phillies' last six losses have come in extra innings.

The Phils had a big advantage on paper with their ace in the bullpen playing for the Giants on Tuesday night. San Francisco has only two left-handed relievers — Eric Miller and Taylor Rogers — and they were the first two pitchers used to cover three innings.

The chance to score came in the middle innings when the Giants added Spencer Howard, who like Miller is a former Phillies prospect. The Phils traded Howard to the Rangers for Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy at the 2021 trade deadline and then traded Miller to the Giants for Yunior Marte in January 2023.

Howard has struggled mightily in the Major Leagues since the trade with an 8.37 ERA and .894 opponents' OPS, but the Phillies were unable to take advantage of him on Tuesday.

Nick Castellanos and Edmundo Sosa drove in singles in Howard's first inning (fourth), but were stranded when Brandon Marsh struck out swinging at a full count.

Johan Rojas drove in a run with a single against Howard in the fifth but grounded into a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play.

JT Realmuto got a double off Howard in the bottom of the sixth, but was thrown out at third base trying to advance on a groundball to left by shortstop Brett Wisely. Realmuto must have thought the ball was going down the middle, but Wisely made a great play by turning his body to field it and make the throw to third base.

Sosa hit a single off Howard in the seventh and couldn’t advance.

Howard pitched four scoreless innings. His only better performance in the Major Leagues was with the Rangers in July 2022, when he pitched five scoreless innings against the Angels.

“His fastball looked the same as it has,” Realmuto said. “I thought he looked good, though, his speed was good. He threw the ball well, kept us off balance, threw his offspeed for strikes when he needed to.”

The Giants' strength is the stoutness and depth of their bullpen. Tyler Rogers and Ryan Walker have unusual, deceptive deliveries, Tyler Rogers is one of the most miserly lefty specialists in the game and Camilo Doval is a top-tier closer. The San Francisco bullpen has thrown 15 scoreless innings in the series.

“It's tough. That's something they do really well — no two at-bats are the same,” Realmuto said. “Their staff and their bullpen, they do a good job of giving you different looks every single at-bat. They have some uncomfortable right-handers and some uncomfortable left-handers.

“It's definitely different. It's something they focus on when they sign guys and look for pitchers, they try to give you different perspectives. In my two at-bats, I went from looking down in the dirt on the mound (against Tyler Rogers) to the next guy (6-foot-11-inch Sean Hazell), I was trying to look at the scoreboard to find the ball. It's a very different perspective, a very different angle.”

“Still, you still have to try to get the job done and put the ball in play, we just couldn’t hit tonight.”

Third baseman Alec Bohm, who is 3-for-22 with one RBI in his past six games, was out of the starting lineup. That was planned and not a response to his two-error game on Monday, Thomson said pregame. Bohm will be back in the lineup for the series finale on Wednesday afternoon. He pinch-hit with one out and scored the go-ahead run 90 feet away in the top of the 10th, but cued up a ball to first base.

It will be a losing trip for the 38-18 Phillies, who are trying to salvage their three-game set in San Francisco behind Christopher Sanchez. They will return home after Wednesday's game and take Thursday off before beginning a six-game homestand against the Cardinals and Brewers.

“It's hard to continue what we've been doing,” Wheeler said. “At the end of the day, this is baseball, there's going to be ups and downs. Take it as it is. We'll be fine.”

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