CINCINNATI -- Billy Hamilton sprinted around the diamond until he reached Homer Bailey near third base. Fireworks erupted Sunday at Great American Ballpark while a Reds pitcher -- whose two-run single ignited a nightmarish fifth inning -- scored on a slap-hitting outfielder's home run. This is how the 36th loss, 4-1 to Cincinnati, looked for the Phillies.
There is no end in sight. They are on pace to lose 96 games.
The Phillies have the worst record in the National League. They lost five of six on the road this week and 22 of their previous 32 games overall. At least they cannot lose Monday, the team's first day off in three weeks.
It came as no surprise when things fell apart in the fifth. Rookie David Buchanan permitted a leadoff single to Todd Frazier. Zack Cozart pelted a one-out double to right, and that prompted the Phillies to bring in the infield with Bailey at the plate.
The 28-year-old pitcher with a hitter's name does not wear batting gloves. He entered the day a career .164 hitter with two RBIs since the start of the 2013 season. Buchanan threw him a meaty curveball. Bailey slapped it past a diving Jimmy Rollins for two runs.
Hamilton worked a full count. He is known for his speed, so much so that the Phillies pinch at the corners every time he bats. But Buchanan elevated a change-up right into Hamilton's swing path. It landed 348 feet from home plate in right field.
Buchanan, like most young starters, has not yet solved a major-league lineup the second time through the order. The opposition has a .534 OPS in the first three innings against Buchanan. But from the fourth through the sixth innings, that rises to a .997 OPS.
Teams have not yet seen much of Buchanan, who made his fourth career start Sunday. With time, and some adjustments, they have conquered him. His ERA is 6.08; four runs in six innings actually lowered the 6.11 ERA he lugged into the game.
Buchanan, 25, was left unprotected this winter from selection in the Rule 5 draft and barely received an invitation to big-league spring training. He replaced Cliff Lee in the rotation. The Phillies have lost three of his four starts.
Lee is nowhere near a return. He accompanied the Phillies on this six-day road trip because he hoped to earn clearance to test his strained left elbow by playing catch. That never happened. Lee has not thrown for 20 straight days. He will need at least that much time to build arm strength once cleared.
Until then, the Phillies may have to stick with Buchanan. There are no strong candidates at triple-A Lehigh Valley to slide into his spot. This is, in effect, an education for Buchanan at the highest level.
His teammates supported him with a run in the third on the strength of Ben Revere's legs. He singled to right, stole second base, and moved to third on a Rollins single. (Rollins is five hits from breaking Mike Schmidt's franchise record.) Chase Utley's sacrifice fly scored Revere.
That was all Bailey allowed. The $105 million righthander authored eight pristine innings. It was his best start of the season. These days, the Phillies are an appealing challenge to any pitcher.
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