Even on a night when the Atlanta Braves weren’t playing, the Phillies could not pick up any ground on the NL East leaders.
The are their own worst enemy. And that reality has clear itself time and time again this season in poor defense.
The Phils played another sloppy game in the field Wednesday night on their way to a 7-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Citizens Bank Park.
The game was decided in the top of the ninth when the Rays rallied for three runs against a tiring Zack Wheeler to break a 4-4 tie.
Rhys Hoskins tied the game with a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Wheeler took the mound at 93 pitches in the top of the ninth. He allowed a leadoff single to Yandy Diaz then two straight 0-2 hits, a double over the third base bag to Kevin Kiermaier, and a three-run homer to Francisco Mejia to give up the lead.
It was a poor ending to a strong outing for Wheeler. He scattered seven hits through the first eight innings, did not walk a batter, and struck out 10.
One of those strikeouts was his 200th of the season. He became the first pitcher in the majors this season to reach 200 strikeouts and he did it in his 26th start. Only Curt Schilling and Steve Carlton reached 200 in fewer starts as Phillies.
While Wheeler’s inability to hold the Rays back in the ninth was the deciding factor in the ballgame, there were other contributing factors in the Phillies’ loss.
The defense, a season-long problem, was poor once again and it cost Wheeler a pair of runs in the fourth inning. Hoskins, playing through a lingering groin injury, failed to make two plays (one very difficult, one not so difficult) at first base in the inning and left fielder Andrew McCutchen whiffed on another after he appeared to lose a ball in the lights.
The Rays, who have the best record in the AL, swept the quick, two-game series and improved to 79-48.
The Phillies have lost 10 of their last 14 games to slip to 63-63. They are five games behind the Braves, who are not playing again on Thursday night. The Phillies open a four-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday night. The D’Backs have the worst record in the NL, but they just swept the Phils last week.