PHILADELPHIA — As the bottom of the sixth inning started on Sunday, Red Sox manager Alex Cora already had his mind made up.
Tanner Houck was pitching well. But if Kyle Schwarber came to the plate, lefthander Richard Bleier was coming in from the bullpen.
With the Sox trailing the Philadelphia Phillies by a run, it was the obvious move.
Schwarber, a powerful lefthanded hitter, was 1 for 8 against Bleier in his career. That included a groundout in the seventh inning Friday night.
But good intentions are no match for poor execution. With a runner at second, Bleier left a sinker up and over the plate and Schwarber drilled it into the second deck in right field.
The Phillies went on to beat the Red Sox, 6-1, before a sellout crowd of 44,669 at Citizens Bank Park.
Houck struck out Trea Turner to start the bottom of the sixth. Bryce Harper singled before Houck retired Nick Castellanos on a grounder to second.
Houck was only at 74 pitches, but Cora went to Bleier.
“As a friend and as a competitor, I’d love to face him,” said Houck, who struck out Schwarber in the second inning then allowed a single in the fourth. “But trust AC with everything that I have. If he comes out there and takes the ball I have full faith in whoever is coming in the game.”
On Friday night, Bleier located a sinker on the inside corner that Schwarber couldn’t do much with. This time the sinker floated and Schwarber got the ball in the air. It went 434 feet like it was shot out of a cannon.
“He wanted it in, it stayed over the plate, and that’s what Kyle does,” Cora said.
It was the eighth home run for Schwarber, who played two memorable months for the Red Sox in 2021 before signing with the Phillies for four years and $79 million.
Lefthanded hitters are 8 for 18 against Bleier with two home runs.
“I think that was probably the first one that was really hit,” Cora said. “There were a lot of ground balls. He’s not giving up damage.”
The Phillies added two runs in the eighth inning off newly acquired Zack Littell.
The Sox took two of three in the series but saw their eight-game win streak come to an end. They were held to five hits as the Phillies snapped a six-game losing streak.
This was a rare day the clubhouse was not morose after a loss.
“We’ll be OK,” Houck said. “It’s one game.”
The Sox are planning to add James Paxton to the rotation later this week. But Cora said Houck (3-2 with a 5.26 earned run average) was not a candidate to go to the bullpen.
“He’s been good. He’s gone five [innings] in most of his outings and given us a chance to win,” Cora said. “We don’t see by results or whatever, we see how he’s trending and the stuff.”
Said Houck: “For me, I’m just going out there ready to start. Whatever they need. I’ve always wanted to start; I’ve always seen myself as a starter. To have that confidence from AC is great.
“Just continuing to work and not worrying about things out of my control.”
The Sox, who averaged 7.4 runs and 12.6 hits during the win streak, did not do much offensively.
Phillies starter Taijuan Walker (3-2) allowed one run over six innings for the win, using his split-finger fastball effectively. He did not allow a runner past first base until the fifth inning when Triston Casas blasted a fastball 416 feet to center field for a home run.
Former Red Sox lefty Matt Strahm pitched the final two innings for the Phillies.
Masataka Yoshida was 2 for 4, extending his hit streak to 16 games.
The Sox are off Monday and open a two-game series at Atlanta on Tuesday.