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Phillies fooled by the knuckleball in series-ending loss to San Diego

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Phillies fooled by the knuckleball in series-ending loss to San Diego

Phillies fooled by knuckleball in series-ending loss to San Diego originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Wednesday afternoon was the first time the Phillies faced a knuckleballer in nearly seven years, before the arrival of all position players on the roster, and it showed in a 5-2 loss to the Parents that ended the series.

Matt Waldron kept the Phillies off balance for seven innings, allowing only a solo home run to Bryce Harper in the third. The only inning in which they put multiple men on base was the bottom of the first. Nick Castellanos struck out and Brandon Marsh flied out to end that threat, and both expressed their displeasure with umpire Jeremie Rehak on called strikes that felt floating outside the zone. One did, the other didn’t.

There haven’t been many knuckleballers, period, in the major leagues over the past decade and the Phillies haven’t seen one since RA Dickey on August 30, 2017, a lineup that included guys like Nick Williams and Pedro Florimon. Waldron entered having thrown his knuckleball three of every eight pitches, but he did it nearly 50% of the time Wednesday. He had little reason to abandon it. He fooled the Phillies and Harper’s home run came on a fastball. Harper added another solo shot in the eighth inning for the Phillies’ only other run.

“When you go up against a guy with a knuckleball, you tend to know what to do with it, but he’s a lot different than other guys because he has four or five other pitches that he throws,” Bryson Stott said. “Today he had good control of his knuckleball.

“He’s tough. Your instinct is to sell out on that first pitch and hope it’s a cutter or a four-seamer and then he’s going to throw the good knuckleball and you’re going to hit it with the end (of the bat). He did a really good job mixing it up, combining and throwing his knuckleball when he needed it. He tends not to throw the knuckleball in batter counts and he did that today.

“I don’t even know if he really knows what he’s going to do. You watch it for so long that the laces don’t move. One hits Bohm and then throws it to the same spot and it’s in the other batter’s box. “Just a tough pitch.”

Pitching in front of his wife and two children for the first time as a professional, Ranger Suarez got off to another strong start, allowing just one solo home run to Jackson Merrill in six innings. He ignored the call, escaping a jam at first and third in the top of the sixth to end his afternoon with 94 pitches. Suárez’s ERA barely changed, declining to a major league-leading 1.75 from 1.77. He has allowed two runs or less in 12 of his 15 starts.

Orion Kerkering came on in relief in the seventh inning and pitched his first clunker in a month, hitting a batter and allowing a pair of two-out singles, the second of which scored San Diego’s go-ahead run. He has a 1.69 ERA and remains one of the Phillies’ most reliable relievers.

Seranthony Domínguez gave up three runs in the eighth inning, all unearned due to an error by Alec Bohm. Two batters after Bohm’s bobble, Marsh ran out in center field attempting a catch with the bases loaded and two outs, but the ball sailed just under his glove, resulting in a bases-clearing triple for Kyle Higashioka. . (Does the recently acquired Johan Rojas make that move?)

The Phillies failed to achieve their 10th sweep in the last 19 series, but won two of three over the Padres. They are 49-25 with a Thursday off and a three-game set looming this weekend against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the first meeting between the teams since the shocking outcome of the 2023 National League Championship Series .

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