By Chris Murray
You would like to think that all the Phillies have to do is go on a major 10-game winning streak and everything would be right in the world. But the stark reality is that in order for them to get on that roll, they’re going to have to get it right in all phases of their game.
As you’ve seen this season, the Phils can’t seem to get anything right on a consistent basis. If the starting pitching is going well, then the Phillies aren’t scoring enough runs or the bullpen is letting them down. Then you have guys Kyle Kendrick or Joe Blanton where you never know what you’re going to get or somebody makes a crucial error.”
“We have trouble and there’s no getting away from it,” said Phils manager Charlie Manuel. “There’s three phases of the game and I see it over and over. There’s pitching, defense and hitting. We’re dysfunctional at times. Two of those phases, it seems like we really can’t put together good games.”
Losing both ends of a day-night doubleheader to the Tampa Bay Rays was a microcosm of the season. In the first game, Cole Hamels pitched his rear-end off. He allowed no runs and scattered three hits, but didn’t get the decision.
“That’s kind of like who we are,” Manuel said. “In order for us to put together a streak and win five or six games in a row, we’ve got to play much better.”
Two of the Phillies (34-40) nagging bad habits-their inability to score enough runs and the bullpen giving up the lead late in the game-came back to bite them on the rear end.
Antonio Bastardo, who struggled in the eighth inning of Saturday’s win, gave up two walks and allowed what turned out to be the game-clinching three-run home run to Rays first baseman Carlos Pena.
Of course, it’s easy, not to mention absolutely right to blame Bastardo for having a poor outing the mound and not helping Hamels out. But when you don’t score more than one run, you’re a big two-run, three-run or grand-slam away from being on the short end of a defeat.
In the eighth inning of the opener, the Phillies, down 3-2, had two chances to tie tbe game, but came up short. With men on first and third, John Mayberry Jr. inexplicably looked at a pitch that was right down the middle. Instead of swinging, he ended being called out on strikes.
After pinch hiiter Jim Thome was intentionally walked to load the bases, it was up to Mike Martinez, who was 0-for-3 coming into that at-bat. He eventually became 0-for-4 when he flew out to right.
“We’ve had trouble knocking in runners from third base with less than two outs all year long,” Manuel said. “We must be trying too hard because the law of averages should catch up to you before long and our percentages will be better.”
A visibly frustrated Manuel chided the media for second-guessing his moves and sarcastically “invited” reporters to give him suggestions via Twitter. That display of surlyness is really about a deeper frustration of not having players who are going to get it done on the mound or at the plate.
In game two’s 7-3 loss to the Rays, Cliff Lee (0-4) had another outing where he walked off the mound without getting his first win of the season, but this time it was partially because of his own doing. He allowed five runs on six hits, but struckout nine.
“It’s not like his stuff is not there because it is, he’s very capable of pitching much better than that, we know that,” Manuel said. “It’s hard for me to explain it.”
Lee put the Phillies in early 3-0 hole by giving up three runs in the second. When the Phillies cut the margin 3-2 in the fourth inning, Lee gave up two more runs in the sixth inning after retiring 11 in a row.
“I do have to do a better job of being ahead in the count. With two outs, I can’t let a big inning happen with nobody on,” Lee said. “The second inning, I let things get out of hand there. I walked the first guy in that inning and led to a bad inning. A few crucial walks throughout the game ended up costing me.”
And then, of course, the Phillies awful bullpen topped off the evening’s festivities by allowing two more runs. Relievers B.J. Rosenberg and Jake Diekman combined to walk five. Rosenberg four and Diekman. Both pitchers walked home the runs.
During the course of the game, the Phillies suffered another injury when backup catcher Brian Schneider sprained his right ankle. X-rays were negative, but he likely spend some time on the disabled list, leaving the Phillies with just one catcher.
This, too, is par for the course for what is so far a difficult season for the five-time defending National League East champions.
“This year has been real tough on us because of everything that’s happened,” Manuel said. “We’ve got more problems than we’ve had in the past. Injuries and things like that have kind of accumulated. If you look at our pitching, if you look at our hitting, our offense and our everyday players, we’re trying to get by until we get healthy.”