5/3/2014 6:39 P.M. ET
Phillies looking for answers in shaky bullpen
By Todd Zolecki and Austin Laymance / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Mike Adams wondered Friday if the Phillies' bullpen could be cursed a little bit.
At least it would help explain things.
The Phillies entered Saturday tied for second in baseball with six blown saves. Their 57.1 save percentage and their 34.5 inherited runners scored percentage each ranked 21st and their 5.07 bullpen ERA ranked 28th.
The Phillies had lost a lead or a tie in the seventh inning or later 10 times in 27 games, including a one-run lead in the eighth inning in Friday's 5-3 loss to the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. They lost six of those 10 games.
If the Phillies could have won just two of those six, they would have entered Saturday's game at 15-12 instead of 13-14.
"It's about guys stepping up in the bullpen," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said, "and doing the job and creating the jobs themselves."
Sandberg chose Adams instead of left-handers Antonio Bastardo or Jake Diekman to start the eighth inning Friday against Denard Span, who hits left-handed. Span broke his bat on a 0-2 pitch, but it fell for a double. Span stole third and scored on a single. Adams allowed hits to the only three batters he faced before Diekman replaced him.
Diekman allowed two consecutive hits and both inherited runners to score.
Asked how he plans to handle the eighth inning in the future (the Phillies' 6.33 ERA in the eighth inning ranked 27th), Sandberg said, "Matchups, I think are key. We've got two guys capable of that with the way Adams has been throwing against right-handed hitters. I felt he was a good matchup last night. If there are a couple lefties and a righty it could be Bastardo."
Diekman struck out the side after allowing singles to Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond. In many ways, it captured his season. He is 2-1 with a 6.75 ERA in 14 appearances. He has allowed 13 hits, 10 runs, six walks and three home runs in 13 1/3 innings, but he has also struck out 23.
He has looked dominant at times, but then at other times he's surrendered the big hit.
His first pitch to Danny Espinosa, the third batter he faced Friday, came high and inside, knocking Espinosa on his back. Diekman said he just wanted the pitch inside, but he also elevated it. Regardless, he was angry after allowing both inherited runners to score and attacked hitters the rest of the inning.
"You'd like to see that fire right from the get-go, right when he gets out there," Sandberg said.
Said Diekman: "It's execution. It's more about executing. It's a new month. Today is a new day. That's the way you have to think about it in the bullpen. You can be mad until you go home. Then after that, I feel you have to say it's over because you could be back in there the next day."
Brown still looking to recapture power at plate
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown has seen his power numbers dwindle ever since he put together a stellar first half in 2013, when he hit 23 home runs and made the All-Star team. Brown hit four homers in the second half last year and entered Saturday's game against the Nationals with one homer in his last 212 plate appearances dating back to last August.
Opposing pitchers took notice of Brown's power surge last year and have since changed their approach. Brown is seeing more pitches on the outer half of the plate, which has resulted in fewer opportunities to pull an inside pitch for a home run. He's also seeing more changeups and fewer fastballs.
"When you have a first half of the season like he did last year, then it becomes a game of adjustments," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Pitchers make adjustments and hitters need to make adjustments. But he's not one to take a pitch on the outside corner and pull it to the power side. So that's why it's important for hitters to utilize the whole field and take what the pitcher gives. You have to work as a hitter to make the pitchers come back to you."
Brown seemed content for much of April to take those outside pitches and go to the opposite field. He hit .304 over his first 13 games. Brown hit his only homer of the season on April 14 and his average has since dropped to .242, with Brown 0-for-12 in his last three games entering Saturday.
"Up until just a few games ago, he was doing a nice job just going to left field and getting base hits and taking the outside pitch and going with it," Sandberg said. "I don't know if he's forcing to go to the pull side right now, or what."
Sandberg doesn't want Brown to fall into the trap of trying to go deep.
"I hope not, because that's what he could fall into, forcing," Sandberg said. "We don't talk about home runs. Home runs just happen when the pitchers come to you and you get your pitch and you don't miss it. For him to utilize the whole field and force the pitchers to come back to him with pitches that he can pull for extra-base hits, that's something that hitters need to do to bring the pitchers back to them."
Hamels pushed back to Tuesday with flu
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies ace Cole Hamels has the flu and will have his next start pushed back to Tuesday against the Blue Jays, manager Ryne Sandberg announced on Saturday. Roberto Hernandez will start in place of Hamels on Sunday against the Nationals.
Hamels was at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday afternoon and will get fluids overnight. Sandberg remains confident the left-hander will be well enough to start Tuesday.
"That's what we're planning on right now," Sandberg said.
Hernandez was scheduled to start on Tuesday after being skipped in the rotation this week. The right-hander hasn't started since April 25. Hernandez has since been in the bullpen and made a relief appearance against the Mets on April 29. Sandberg said Hernandez is still stretched out to start, though.
"He's prepped to go," Sandberg said. "We were staying away from him just knowing how Cole was feeling. We wanted to see how [Hamels] was today, but we stayed away from [Hernandez] last night. He's all good to go."
• The Phillies announced their Minor League players of the month for April: outfielder Cameron Perkins and right-handed reliever Ken Giles. Both players are with Double-A Reading.
Giles converted seven saves in eight opportunities and posted a 1.38 ERA in 11 appearances. He struck out 25 against only four walks in 13 innings. Giles has limited opponents to a .174 average while averaging 17.31 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. He was invited to Major League Spring Training, but is not on the 40-man roster.
Perkins hit .382 with two home runs, 14 RBIs and a 1.023 OPS. He had at least one hit in 19 of 23 games played in April, including 13 multi-hit games.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jalaymance. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.