The National League’s “Reliever of the Month” in June began to turn sour in July.
And now it appears, August is starting out as a a continuation of July.
Kyle Barraclough gave up a walk-off home run in the ninth to Maikel Franco as the Phillies rallied for a 5-2 win at Citizens Bank Park.
It was Barraclough’s third blown save in his past four outings and the second time he’s given up a walk-off homer in 12 days to lose a game. He also did it on July 22 when he gave up a grand slam in the ninth in a loss to the Rays.
“It’s something we’ll talk about,” manager Don Mattingly replied when asked if he was considering moving Barraclough out of the closer’s role, at least until he can get back on track. “I’m obviously not going to make a decision after a game like this.”
Strike zone command -- or lack thereof -- was again the issue for Barraclough. He walked two batters in the fateful ninth Thursday and just nine of his 24 pitches were thrown for strikes. He even threw one pitch behind the back of one Phillies batter, Nick Williams, as the inning was unraveling on him.
Barraclough, who took over the closer’s role for since-traded reliever Brad Ziegler in early June, was sensational his first month on the job. He delivered 20 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings during July, a streak that was snapped on July.
But he’s struggled badly of late as rumors have swirled that he might get traded before Tuesday’s deadline. That didn’t happen.
Barraclough did not talk to reporters after Thursday’s ninth-inning meltdown.
Thanks to strong pitching by starter Pablo Lopez and other members of the bullpen, along with a two-run homer by Justin Bour, the Marlins were clinging to a 2-1 lead going into the ninth when Barraclough took over.
His problems started almost immediately when he walked Rhys Hoskins to start the inning. After retiring Odubel Herrera on a pop fly, he gave up an unplayable infield hit to Carlos Santana. Next came a four-pitch walk to Asdrubal Cabrera.
Williams, after nearly being hit by a pitch, hit a soft grounder that just eluded Barraclough’s grasp for what might have turned into a key force out at the plate. Instead, the Marlins had to settle for the out at first and the tying run scored, leaving runners at second and third.
Mattingly could have opted to intentionally walk Franco in that spot, as his run was unimportant. But he chose instead to have Barraclough pitch to him.
The reason: Barraclough was so wild that Mattingly was afraid he might issue bases-loaded walk to end the game.
“I have a lot of trouble loading the bases where he has to throw a strike,” Mattingly said. “I didn’t feel like we could walk him there and kind of pin him down.”
Instead, Franco belted a three-run homer to end it.