BOSTON — Three hours before Monday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin was asked about the frustration his team was feeling after losing five straight ballgames and falling to 19 games under .500.
“I think everybody’s frustrated,” he said. “When you have a team that’s losing, everybody should be frustrated for one reason or another. I’m staying positive, but it’s frustrating to lose. So I hope everybody else is.”
Again, that was before the game.
By the time Mackanin left his office in the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park, his frustration level had spiked. The Phillies played the far-superior Red Sox tough but came away with a 6-5 loss in 11 innings to fall 20 games under .500.
And it’s not even summer yet.
The Phillies’ sixth straight loss was particularly frustrating because they blew an early four-run lead and a late one-run lead before watching Dustin Pedroia single home the game-winning run with one out in the 11th.
Pedroia’s base hit came against right-hander Casey Fien, who was in his third inning of work after pitching two scoreless frames. The ground-ball hit was the blow that finished the Phillies. The one that staggered them came with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning — a laser beam home run over the Green Monster by Hanley Ramirez against veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit. The blast tied the game at 5-5.
Benoit opened the frame by retiring a pair of left-handed hitters, Mitch Moreland and Andrew Benintendi. He then threw a first-pitch slider to Ramirez.
“It was funny because they had those two lefties up and Benoit handled them very well,” Mackanin said. “And, of course, Ramirez — you can’t make a mistake to him and first pitch he threw him a cement mixer down the middle. That’s not what he wanted to do but he did it.”
Benoit has allowed three runs in 1 2/3 innings since coming off the disabled list Sunday. He did not stick around to speak with reporters after the game.
The Phillies scored four times against Boston starter Rick Porcello in the first inning, a nice cushion for Jerad Eickhoff, who hadn’t won a game in a span of 14 starts, dating to last September.
Eickhoff did not lock down the lead — he gave it up on an unearned run in the fourth — but the Phils got the lead back in the fifth and this time Eickhoff delivered two scoreless innings.
“I battled the best I could to keep us in the game,” the right-hander said.
Mackanin liked the effort.
“He battled,” Mackanin said. “He’s a blue-collar guy. He likes to compete. His command just needs to get better.”
Eickhoff said he experienced some cramping in his right shoulder during the game. He said it was due to some dehydration and was “not big deal.”
After Eickhoff left, the Phils got another strong inning from Pat Neshek in protecting the lead. Neshek has pitched 24 innings this season and allowed just two runs. With success like that, one had to wonder why Mackanin did not stick with the right-hander for the eighth inning. After all, he threw just seven pitches.
“He may be equipped to do it, but I don’t want to use him up,” Mackanin said. “You know, you can’t use guys up like that. If we had the firepower offensively where I felt more comfortable I would do it, but I don’t want to do that. In fact, even in a tie game I’ve done that once or twice with him and Benoit and it’s tough to do because when you have that one- or two-run lead you want those guys to be available.
“I would have loved to send him back out. I just can’t do that.”
The Phillies had several big scoring chances late in the game, but none produced results. With two outs in the ninth, Howie Kendrick — he had an interesting game with three hits, three stolen bases and two errors at second base — was thrown out trying to steal second base. That took the bat out of the hands of Tommy Joseph, the Phils’ best power threat.
“He had the green light,” Mackanin said of Kendrick. “It was a pretty close play. At this point, we’ve got to take chances. We can’t sit back. We don’t have the firepower to sit back, although we got 14 hits today. But after that first inning we only scored one run.”
The Phils had the leadoff man on base in the 10th and 11th innings and both times hard-throwing Matt Barnes pitched out of trouble. He struck out five in two innings and got the win when the Sox rallied for the winning run in the bottom of the 11th.
“We battled hard,” Mackanin said. “I’m happy for that.”