Another underwhelming start from the ace and another late-inning implosion by the bullpen relegated the Philadelphia Phillies to a 7-4 rubber-game loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.
After a difficult series with the defending-champion Los Angeles Dodgers, the Phillies have lost four of their last six as they try to remain at the top of the National League East.
Aaron Nola’s maddening inconsistencies continued as the Phillies ace has struggled to fulfill that role. He allowed four runs on six hits over 4.1 innings pitched with four strikeouts and three walks, raising his 2021 ERA to a swollen 4.48.
He and the Phillies were behind immediately when Jonathan India — the front-runner for the NL Rookie of the Year Award — cracked a lead-off home run for his 15th of the season to put the Reds in front immediately.
Cincinnati was still able to extend its lead despite losing a pair of All-Star outfielders during the early innings. After Nick Castellanos was ejected for arguing balls and strikes just two batters after India’s homer, Jesse Winker exited the game following the top of the third inning after suffering an injury while swinging the bat.
That third inning saw the Reds put up another two on Nola when Castellanos’ replacement, Shogo Akiyama, doubled to left with two outs. The Reds’ rally began with the opposing starting pitcher, Sonny Gray, singling to center before India put two ducks on the pond for Akiyama with a single of his own.
Nola fell into further trouble in the fourth, loading the bases with no outs, but a dicey flyout that was basket-caught by Bryce Harper in right field and a double play hit by Gray got the righty out of the major jam that would’ve taken the Phillies out of contention.
Things got nervy for Gray beginning in the bottom half of the fourth when a Bryce Harper sacrifice fly got the Phillies on the board following a J.T. Realmuto triple. While Nola gave it right back, walking in a run by admitting a free pass to Tyler Naquin with the bases loaded, the Phillies got to within one in the fifth when Harper drew a walk with the bases loaded and Didi Gregorius drove in a second run in the inning with a sacrifice fly. However, Philadelphia could have inflicted much more damage having loaded the bases with just one out, but Lucas Sims relieved Sonny Gray to get the final out of the frame.
The Reds’ preservation act allowed them to gain some breathing room in the eighth inning off the Phillies’ bullpen as Connor Brogdon and Hector Neris saw through the host’s downfall. After Tucker Barnhart smacked an RBI double to put the Reds up two off Brogdon, Tyler Stephenson doubled their lead with a two-run home run off Neris.
In a pinch-hitting appearance after losing his job to Ronald Torreyes, Alec Bohm helped the Phillies inch closer in the bottom of the eighth, doubling home Torreyes with a double that also moved Odubel Herrera up to third with two outs in the inning. Jean Segura would fly out to end the Phillies’ threat and ultimately, their chances.