Giles goes into orbit, Phils fall again

KEITH SPRAKOCIC — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS The Pirates’ Chris Stewart slides into home plate with the only run of a 13-inning game Friday night into Saturday morning, as Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp walks away. The Pirates won 1-0 in 13 innings.

PITTSBURGH >> The Phillies got a quality start from the new guy, a yeoman’s effort from a beleaguered bullpen, and a lot of stranded base runners from a punchless lineup in their 1-0, 13-inning loss to the Pirates at PNC Park Friday night.

But what stood out most in a game that tried to test the theory that, unlike a women’s World Cup soccer game, baseball does in fact keep going until someone scores, was the night their most prized reliever had on the mound and on the bench.

Ken Giles, who has been far more erratic both as a pitcher and a person this year for reasons unexplained, had both of those unsightly trait trends go up like a propane tank set ablaze as he pitched in the eighth inning and walked to the dugout.

The outing in the bottom of the eighth inning started simply enough for the hard-throwing – but not as hard-throwing as last season – right-hander. He got the first two outs without issue. However, when Josh Harrison hit a ball back at Giles, it pulled a string on what has been a loosely woven season that the right-hander has been experiencing.

The ball squirted behind Giles after he got leather on it. He scrambled for it and whipped a throw a few rows deep in the stands, putting Harrison on second.

From there, Giles became unhinged. He showed disgust when he was instructed to intentionally walk Pedro Alvarez. The situation became dicey when he walked Francisco Cervelli to load the bases. Catcher Cameron Rupp went out to speak with him. Then pitching coach Bob McClure trotted to the mound and tried to converse with Giles, who stood stone-faced and silent.

When play resumed, Giles nearly threw his first pitch to Jordy Mercer to the backstop. The next two pitches were off as well. Then, he got two straight close enough to be called strikes, and when he threw a 97 mph fastball past Mercer for strike three and end the inning, Giles walked off and delivered a hand gesture.

Ryne Sandberg and McClure weren’t pleased with Giles, but none of the nonsense that happened on the mound could explain the level of fury that took place as the 24-year-old sat on the bench. Sandberg, normally not an animated guy, got nose-to-nose with Giles, screaming his message home. McClure, whose playing days were spent as a motorcycle-riding free-spirit, also had a turn screaming and gesticulating as he engaged Giles, who delivered some screams of his own while seething.

The fact that the game stretched for five more innings might’ve been the saving grace for everyone involved. After the game, Giles strode swiftly past with earmuff headphones around his neck as reporters spoke with starting pitcher Kevin Correia, evading questions about what the heck was going on.

As for Sandberg, he tried to keep the issue in-house.

“There was some frustration about the game situation,” Sandberg said, referring to the intentional-walk decision. “We talked about some game situations. There was just communication about some strategy. I thought he threw well …

“Everything is taken care of in-house. Everything is fine.”

Time will tell how true those words are. The incident cast a shadow over a game that featured 28 runners left on base by both teams, some of which were stranded thanks to defensive gems. Both Harrison and Maikel Franco made huge bare-handed plays on swinging bunts to third base with runners in scoring position. Gregory Polanco made a leaping grab of a Cody Asche drive to end the top of the sixth.

The game, the start of which had been delayed 85 minutes by rain, went so deep into the night that it made Correia’s debut with the Phils a virtual afterthought.

The Phillies aren’t trying to conjure up four aces in 2015. Those days are long gone. But they still play Major League Baseball. It says so at the top of the standings box, the one where they are listed at the bottom.

What they have at the moment are one ace, Cole Hamels, and a solid face card in Aaron Harang. After that, the starting rotation has wandered into some foreign decks of cards – maybe an Uno stack, Candy Land … Old Maid?

At some point this season, Hamels will be pitching for a contender. If Harang can stop the listing that he has been doing in recent starts, he also should be appealing to a team with playoff aspirations and depth issues. The Phillies, meanwhile, still are going to need five starting pitchers with an iota of competence to finish the season.

They hope Correia can provide that. The 13-year big-league veteran had a rough year with the Twins that got even worse when he was shipped to the Dodgers and put in the bullpen. He got cut by the Mariners in spring training, then requested free agency after two months of effective work with the Giants’ Triple-A team.

That led him to the mound in Pittsburgh Friday night, where he gave the Phils 5 2/3 innings of solid, shutout work. It was the first time a Phillies’ starter had gone that deep with a scoreless outing since Sean O’Sullivan worked six scoreless against the Diamondbacks May 17.

The only real struggle Correia had was dealing with balls hit back to him. He took a Starling Marte come-backer off the butt in the first inning for Pittsburgh’s first hit. In the fifth, a Polanco line drive clipped Correia in the back of the foot and kept sailing toward short center field, but second baseman Andres Blanco made a diving catch. Even a Neil Walker single in the sixth zipped a couple of feet over Correia’s head as he ducked for cover.

“I was probably rusty, but for the most part I felt pretty good,” said Correia, who hadn’t pitched in more than two weeks. “It’s not a rare occurrence for me to have balls hit back at me. I had two that hit me today, so I guess that was a welcome-back thing there. But no harm, so …”

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