By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report
While fans and media folk are trying to figure out when Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are going to rejoin the team, the Phillies players who are playing are trying to figure out where their bats are hidden when they have runners in scoring position.
It seems like the umpteenth time that we’ve witnessed the continuing saga of another Phillies pitcher that has a decent performance on the mound only to have the offense muck it up by not scoring runs. Monday’s best pitching performance without- run-support award goes to a much-improved Kyle Kendrick (0-4).
And for Kendrick’s effort, of course, the Phillies were on the short-end of a 2-1 loss to the Washington Nationals front of another sell-out crowd at Citizen’s Bank Park. The Phils have lost three straight since their season-high six-game winning streak.
“You can’t control that,” Kendrick said after the game when asked about the Phiilles inability to score runs.. “As a starting pitching, you have to do what you can for as long as you can to keep your team in the game. You can’t worry about run support. It’s all out of your hands.”
In seven innings of work, Kendrick scattered five hits over seven innings, allowed just two runs with four strikeouts and two walks. The only damage to Kendrick came from Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond who got a solo home-run in in the second inning and an RBI single in the fourth. Kendrick retired the last 11 men he faced.
“He got in trouble early, but he pitched out of it and did a tremendous job at the end,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “He ended up doing a good job.”
Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez did an even better job stifling Phillies hitters. He struck out nine and scattered just three hits, allowing no runs in six innings of work.
Though they did managed to score a run in the bottom on a sacrifice fly by Ty Wigginton that scored John Mayberry Jr, the most frustrating thing about this game were the other scoring opportunities they blew. They were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. They left 10 men on base. The Phillies are 0-17 in games when they are trailing going into the ninth inning.
The Phillies had the bases loaded in the third with two outs and failed to score.In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Phillies had men on second and third with nobody out. First, Hunter Pence had a line drive that Nationals centerfielder Rick Ankiel caught falling to the ground, but Placido Polanco didn’t tag up third, thinkng the ball was going to drop for a base hit. He was off the bag while the ball was in the air.
“I was thinking (Polanco) would score, the guy (Ankiel) slipped to the ground,” Manuel said.
Polanco would get thrown out at home on a grounder that Carlos Ruiz to first baseman Adam LaRoche. With men on first and second and two out, John Mayberry Jr. flew out to right to end the Phillies threat. Another blown scoring opportunity.
“That hurt us,” Manuel said. “We can’t afford not to score runs with a doubt. If you’re going to scream small ball, you have to score those kinds of runs.”
In the bottom of the eighth, the Phillies had men on first and second with one out. Pence inexplicably swung at the first pitch and popped it up to the third baseman and was ruled out on the infield-fly rule. Ruiz ended the inning on a force out to the shortstop.
After scoring their only run in the ninth inning, the Phillies ended the game with a runner stranded on second when Polanco lined out to the second baseman to end the game.
Polanco said he and his fellow teammates simply have to relax and avoid trying too hard.
“You feel the pressure everywhere,” Polanco said. “When you get out there, you want to get a hit.”
Manuel said he would like to see guys like Pence and Shane Victorino start hitting on a more consistent basis.
“We need some guys to get hot and start hitting the ball for us,” Manuel said. “It’s hard for a major league lineup if you got just one guy hitting, that’s not good enough. That’s where the consistency part comes in.The guys in the lineup have to pick one another up.”