Archive | May, 2013

Phillies Offense and Bullpen Come Up Short in Loss to Boston

31 May
After giving four runs in the first inning, Rookie Jonathan Pettibone didn't allow another run, but his offense couldn't score either in the Phillies loss to the Boston Red Sox. Photo by Webster Riddick.

After giving four runs in the first inning, Rookie Jonathan Pettibone didn’t allow another run, but his offense couldn’t score either in the Phillies loss to the Boston Red Sox. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

PHILADELPHIA—After a shaky first inning in which he gave up four runs, Phillies starting pitcher  Jonathan Pettibone did everything he could to minimize the damage. He didn’t allow the Boston Red Sox to score another run for the next four innings.

Unfortunately, Pettibone didn’t get much help from his offense that could only muster just three hits after the first inning when they got three hits including a two-run homer by Delmon Young.

The Phillies hitting woes were complicated by the bullpen’s failure to keep the Red Sox off the scoreboard after Pettibone, who allowed four runs on six hits, left the game after the fifth inning.

The result was yet another setback in the Phillies efforts to get back to the .500 mark as the Red Sox came away with a 9-2 win over the Phils in the series finale at Citizen’s Bank Park in front of 40,083 fans, many of whom left the ball yard long before the final out.

“If we’re going to run off a winning streak or something like that, we’ve got to play much better, we’ve got to play more consistent,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “I’m not looking at .500 as a big championship move or nothing like that. I’m looking at .500 as a place where we can get going a little bit.”

The Red Sox jumped on Pettibone (3-1) for four runs in that fateful first inning. Boston got a two-run RBI double from Jarrod Saltalamacchia that scored David Ortiz, who walked and Mike Carp, who reached on an RBI single that score Daniel Nava.

“I was able to get ahead early on, but then I wasn’t really finishing-a couple of 0-2 and 1-2 hits,” Pettibone said. “I didn’t finish the batters and they were able to get some hits through. Of course, that double was an 0-0 changeup that was up in the zone …I left it up in the end zone and he was able to put a good swing on it. Two runs came in and that was that.”

The Red Sox also scored on a RBI fielder’s choice from Dustin Predroia, scoring Jacoby Ellsbury, who set a team record by stealing five bases.

The Phillies (26-28) bounced back in their half of the first inning with a two-run homer from Young off Red Sox starting pitcher Franklin Morales (1-0) to cut the lead to 4-2.

The Phils offense, which was without first baseman Ryan Howard who had the night off, would do nothing the rest of the game against a pitcher in Morales who’s not a world beater by any stretch of the imagination.

“We didn’t muster enough offense. It’s the same thing every day,” Manuel said. “If you noticed, we swung at some bad balls, especially when we were ahead in the count. We didn’t use (Morales) wildness to our advantage tonight.”

It was not like the Phillies didn’t have their chances offensively. In the fourth inning, the Phils had the bases loaded with one out. But catcher Erik Kratz hit into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play to snuff out the threat.

“The game’s sitting there for us and we couldn’t do nothing to take it,” Manuel said. “We couldn’t get enough base runners and we couldn’t get enough big hits.”

After the fourth inning, the Phillies would have just four base runners the rest of the way.

The Phillies erratic bullpen once again failed to keep an opponent off the scoreboard as they allowed five runs on eight hits in the last four innings of the game.

Phillies reliever Jeremy Horst allowed a pair of solo home runs to Red Sox pinch hitter Jonny Gomes in the sixth and Ortiz in the seventh. Reliever Chad Durbin, who has an earned run average of 9.00, allowed Boston to score three more runs in the ninth.

Manuel said Horst and Durbin were the only pitchers available, which is not a good thing considering how those two pitchers have  struggled this season.

“Our bullpen has been out of whack since we were in Washington and we didn’t have some guys tonight,” Manuel said. “When we’re behind the guys that are in the middle of our bullpen are going to pitch.”

Suffice it to say, the Phillies middle relief corps is in a serious state of disarray.



National League Player of the Week: Brown is Coming Up Big for Phillies, But Still Has Work to Do

30 May

Brown Has to Show Consistency Throughout the Season

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Domonic Brown is having an incredible month of May, he has hit homeruns in four of his last five games

Domonic Brown is having an incredible month of May, he has hit homeruns in four of his last five games

PHILADELPHIA—When the Phillies sent a struggling Domonic Brown back to the minors in 2011 after the big trade for Hunter Pence, the sports talk radio community as well as several local media outlets were calling on the Phillies to trade him.

I wasn’t so sure that he was a bust or the team’s next great superstar. Brown’s time with the team in 2011 and late last season just wasn’t enough time to make that assessment. I always thought the calls to jump ship on the kid were way too soon.

You have to see what a young player can do over a course of a couple of seasons before you just write somebody off. Besides, the Phillies have a history of getting rid of young guys in their farm system, i.e. Ferguson Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg, who end up doing well for other teams. Psst- those guys are Hall of Famers.

This week, the soft-spoken Brown garnered National League Player of the Week honors (May 20-26). In six games, he batted .348 with two doubles, a triple, two homeruns, seven runs batted in and had a .783 slugging percentage.

The 25-year-old left-handed slugger showed Phillies fans why he deserved such accolades with a two-home run performance in Wednesday’s 4-3 win over the Boston Red Sox at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Brown’s play really stood out last weekend in a Phillies win over the Washington Nationals when he doubled, homered and drove in two runs. In Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park, he hit a solo homerun in the ninth inning.

In 27 games during the month of May leading into Thursday’s home game against the Boston Red Sox, Brown has hit 10 home runs. He currently leads the team in runs batted in with 32 and in homeruns with 13.

Brown has homered in three straight games and has hit the long-ball in four out of his last five games.

“He’s kind of doing some of the things that we’d hoped and expected of him. And he’s finally getting a chance to go out there and know that he’s in the lineup pretty much every day,” said Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. “I think that means a lot to players, and if he goes 0-for-4 he doesn’t have to really worry about it because he’s probably going to be in the lineup the next day.”

Brown said being sent back down to the minors at Lehigh Valley back 2011 was probably the best thing that happened to him because it made a better player and a better person.

“It made me a better man on and off the field going back to the minor leagues,” Brown said. “It’s good to be having some success, but I’m trying to keep it going.”

While it’s good to see that Brown is beginning to show why he was the Phillies top prospect, it is still too early to crown him as the next Phillies superstar just yet. I think we need to see if Brown can do throughout the season and not just one month of a season.

“It goes back to that consistency,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “He’s starting to be consistent in his hitting. He can get better. That’s why you have to leave him alone and just let him play. I don’t want him getting caught up in all the hoopla and people patting on the back and telling him how good he is. I want him to show how good he is. I like it when he hits.”

That’s the thing that Brown has to do over time. Anybody can have a hot month and the sun does shine on a dog’s ass every now and then. It’s still a long season.

At this point, Manuel is not going to tinker with moving him up in the lineup from about sixth to fifth and he’s definitely not moving into the fourth spot. At this point, Brown will stay where he is in the lineup and that’s cool with him.

“I’m not worried about that,” Brown said. “(Howard) and those other guys can do more things that I can. I’m just trying to do my little part, whatever that might be each night, and that’s fine as long as we’re getting ‘Ws’.”

Of course, the next thing that Brown has to face is when pitchers start making their adjustments and coming up with different ways to pitch to him. When you start coming of age and you start getting good, teams will scrutinize everything a player does down to the bone.

“He has to see what they’re trying to do and try to make adjustments to their adjustments,” said Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard.

When Brown can be consistent in the face of teams pitching him differently, then you can crown him.

Brown, Kendrick Lead Phillies Past Boston

30 May


Kyle Kendrick has learned to pitch his way out of some tough jams this season. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Kyle Kendrick has learned to pitch his way out of some tough jams this season. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—If you have learned anything about Kyle Kendrick this season is that he is becoming adept at pitching his way out of some difficult situations. Wednesday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox was a classic example.

With his team hanging onto a 3-1 lead, Kendrick started the sixth inning by giving up a home run to Boston right fielder Daniel Nava. Dustin Pedroia reached on error by first baseman Ryan Howard. Then Kendrick walked Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli.

But Kendrick got catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to fly out to center and then retired the side by inducing Mike Carp by hitting into an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play.

“(Kendrick) has grown up in the last year and a half or so,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said afterward. “He pitches with more poise and he stays focused better. He pitched out of a terrible jam in the sixth inning. He did a good job.”

Kendrick’s escape from that situation along with two home runs from a hot Domonic Brown gave the Phillies a 4-3 win over the Boston Red Sox in interleague play Wednesday night at Citizen’s Bank Park.

The Phillies (26-27) will once again have a shot to move back to the .500 mark if they can come away with a win over the Red Sox on Thursday night.

“It’s one of those things where we’ve been fighting, grinding,” said Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who hit a solo home run in the second inning to tie the game at 1-1. “It’s a good position to be in, so if we can get there and get over it, then that’s great.”

Domonic Brown hit two home runs in the Phillies 4-3 win over Boston. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Domonic Brown hit two home runs in the Phillies 4-3 win over Boston. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Along with Kendrick’s Houdini act, Brown kept his torrid pace at the plate going with a two-home run performance. The second home run Brown hit in the eighth turned out to be game-winner. He became the first Phillies player since Howard last season to hit home runs in three straight games. The National League’s Player of the Week has homered in four out of his last five games.

“I’m just getting some pitches to hit,” said Brown, who has hit 10 home runs during the month of May. “The first at-bat, I swung at some bad pitches. I told myself to try not to do it the rest of the night. I got some good pitches to hit and I was just happy to hit them hard.”

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard said he knew back in spring training that Brown was going to have a big season.

“I’m not surprised by it at all,” Howard said. “I know some people are. It’s just his mindset. He’s been playing free. He’s just going out there and swinging it.”

For the game, Kendrick (5-3) allowed just two runs on four hits with three walks and three strikeouts in six innings on the mound. He threw 100 pitches. More importantly, Kendrick rose to the occasion in a tough spot in that crucial sixth inning.

“I’m just confident in what I have and I feel like I can make quality pitch after quality pitch,” Kendrick said. “When you make a good pitch, you’ll get the call. I feel I can come back and get a ground ball and make a quality pitch to get out of it.”

The Phillies bullpen did their part as Antonio Bastardo and Mike Adams got the Phillies through the seventh and eighth without giving up a run. Closer Jonathan Papelbon, who got his 11th save of the season, gave up a run-scoring double to Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to bring Boston within 4-3.




Finding Success When One Door Closes and Another One Opens

22 May

Can Dennis Dixon Join a List of Players Who Found the Right Situation to Display Their Talents?

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles quarterback Dennis Dixon believes he can be the Eagles starting quarterback.

Eagles quarterback Dennis Dixon believes he can be the Eagles starting quarterback.

PHILADELPHIA—I’ve always been a firm believer in the idea that successful athletes not only have the raw ability and the determination to work at bettering themselves in their sport, being in the right place at the right time or having the right people around you—i.e. teammates or coaches-is also a determining factor.

Covering the Eagles organized team activities for the last couple of weeks, the one player that I see that could be an interesting case of what I mentioned in the previous paragraph is Dennis Dixon, who is competing for the Eagles starting quarterback spot.

So far, he is the one quarterback in Eagles camp that seems to have a firm grasp of head coach Chip Kelly’s. After playing in both Pittsburgh and Baltimore as a backup, Dixon is hoping that he can take that experience in addition to what he learned playing for Kelly at Oregon and be the Eagles starting quarterback in 2013.

“I thought that one thing I’ve learned is leadership and you got to make sure that the other 10 guys are all ready to go,” Dixon said after practice on Monday. “At the end of the day, you got to be able to know your plays.”

Dixon is one of those interesting studies in what if his circumstances were different? During his senior year in 2007 with the Ducks, there was a strong possibility that Dixon would win the Heisman Trophy and be high draft pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

In the last 10 games of his collegiate career, Dixon had thrown 20 touchdown passes and threw for 2,136 yards before the injury to his anterior-cruciate ligament in his left knee ended his season.  His Heisman hopes died and his draft stock plummeted dramatically.

Pittsburgh drafted Dixon in the fifth round to be a backup to Ben Rothlisberger. Oddly enough, Dixon actually started three games during his tenure with the Steelers and had a 2-1 record.

He left Pittsburgh after the 2011 season and served as a scout team quarterback as a member of the Baltimore Ravens taxi squad.

I think Dixon’s chances are his good of being the Eagles are as good as anybody else’s considering that he knows the offense better than any of the quarterbacks competing for the job. That certainly bodes well for him.

Maybe this is the point where Dixon’s takes off. To be honest, I don’t know if he’s going to win that job or not. But if he does and he performs well, it will be another story of a guy finding the right situation to elevate his career.

That is always the beauty of sports is when players can find the right venue to display their talents.  Of course, there are plenty of instances in sports where talented guys have found themselves in the right situation after being cast aside in another circumstance.

John Unitas was cut by the Steelers in 1955 and playing semi-pro before getting his opportunity in Baltimore.

John Unitas was cut by the Steelers in 1955 and playing semi-pro before getting his opportunity in Baltimore.

Perhaps the most famous story in sports of an athlete finding the right place to achieve success in his career was that of one John Constantine Unitas.  He is one of the all-time great quarterbacks in NFL history.

But when Unitas was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1955, he was the fourth quarterback on a team that wanted to keep three quarterbacks. Even though he had one of the strongest arms in the Steelers camp that year, Pittsburgh head coach Walt Kiesling thought Unitas was not smart enough to be an NFL quarterback and didn’t allow him to take a snap in a game.

When the Baltimore Colts called Unitas in for tryout in 1956, he was living in Pittsburgh and working as a construction worker while playing semi-pro football for the Bloomfield Rams at six bucks per game.

Of course, you know the rest of the story, Unitas, who called his own plays, became the quarterback who elevated the two-minute drill into an art-form, re-wrote the NFL passing records and led the Colts to two NFL Championships and one Super Bowl title.

Eagles fans know the story of Randall Cunningham, who actually had a human highlights film of a career with the Birds. Unfortunately, he didn’t win enough playoff games-one to be exact-and was maligned for being just a running quarterback.

During Cunningham’s time in Philadelphia, he never had a good offensive line, a running game, or a good offensive coordinator. Cunningham was ultimately let go a year into then Eagles head coach Ray Rhodes regime.

After a one-year retirement, Cunningham was back up quarterback with the Minnesota Vikings in 1997 and came off the bench to lead the Vikings to a comeback win over the New York Giants in the NFC Wildcard game.

In 1998, Cunningham became the starter of the Vikings after Brad Johnson went down with an injury. Working with offensive coordinator Brian Billick and armed with receivers like Cris Carter and Randy Moss, he threw 34 touchdowns and passed for 3,704 yards while completing 60 percent of his passes.

It was the best statistical year of his career. You have to wonder what would have happened if Cunningham had good offensive assistant coaches like Billick who could have really tutored him in perfecting his passing skills earlier in his career.

Equally as important, if Cunningham in his Eagles days would have had a running back like Robert Smith, a more mature Carter (who played with Cunningham in Philadelphia earlier in his career) and a superstar like Moss playing wide receiver, I think could have been an even better quarterback for the Birds.

For the first three years of O.J Simpson’s career in Buffalo, he was considered a bust with a propensity to fumble and could not catch a pass out of the backfield. It looked as if he was going to become another Heisman Trophy winner who couldn’t make it in the pros.

In 1972, the Bills brought in Lou Saban to coach the team. Thanks to a couple of offensive linemen, Saban built Buffalo’s offense around Simpson. He was arguably the best running back in the NFL from 1972 to 1976.

Simpson became the first running back in NFL history to gain over 2,000 yards in one season. Saban recognized Simpson’s talent as a ball carrier and transformed him from a guy who was going nowhere fast to a player who ran his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Chicago Cubs gave up on Lou Brock, who went on to have a Hall of Fame career in St. Louis.

The Chicago Cubs gave up on Lou Brock, who went on to have a Hall of Fame career in St. Louis.

In the middle of the 1964 season, the Chicago Cubs were unhappy with rightfielder Lou Brock, who had trouble fielding his position (especially in Wrigley Field) and wasn’t the home run hitter the team had projected him to be.

So the Cubs traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Ernie Broglio, who had 18 wins the previous season. At the time, people covering baseball felt that the Cubs got the best of the deal.

When Brock arrived in St. Louis, Cards manager Johnny Keane moved Brock to left field and told him to focus on using his speed instead of trying to knock the ball out of the park. Brock took Keane’s advice and was the catalyst to the Cardinals run to the 1964 World Series.

Needless to say, Brock finished his career as the all-time leader in stolen bases. He has also had over 3,000 hits with a career batting average of .293. Meanwhile, Broglio won just seven more games for the Cubs before retiring in 1966.

Brock has a statue and plaque highlighting his accomplishments in Cooperstown. One team’s bust becomes another team’s success story.


Back-to-Back Homers by Galvis and Kratz Give Phillies an Improbable Walk-off Win over Reds

20 May

Revere’s Hustle Fuels Phillies Comeback

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Ben Revere's two out single in the eighth started the Phillies come back. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Ben Revere’s two out single in the eighth started the Phillies come back. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—After the Phillies were shut out by the Cincinnati Reds the previous day, Charlie Manuel talked about the importance of his team hanging in there and not quitting.

“You stay aggressive and keep working on trying to get a good ball to hit. Not trying to overdo it, but just stay within yourself and do something. … Never get down, play 27 outs,” Manuel said.

For a team that was scoreless for 16 and two-thirds innings, that mentality would pay dividends in the Phillies 3-2 walk-off win over the Reds in the series finale at Citizen’s Bank Park Sunday afternoon.

The back-to-back homeruns off the Reds hard-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman by third baseman Freddy Galvis, who hit the game-winner and Erik Kratz, whose homer tied it gave the Phillies an improbable win.

“As soon as I hit, I thought hit it good,” Galvis said. “It was the first time in my life (hitting a walk off homer). I don’t think I’ll forget it.”

The Phillies ninth inning heroics were set up by the speed and hustle of centerfielder Ben Revere, who had three hits in four at-bats. It was his last hit that put the Phillies on the path to victory on a day when it looked like they were going to get shut out again.

With two outs in the bottom of the eighth and the Phillies trailing 2-0, Revere smacked a hard grounder to Reds first baseman Joey Votto who dived for the ball and gloved it, but couldn’t get the ball to the pitcher covering first base in time put out the Phillies speedy centerfielder.

“It’s just all about hustle,” Revere said. “I could have just gave up on the play. About a week ago that could be an out, but no way today because I was feeling comfortable at the plate.”

After stealing second and a walk to Michael Young, Revere scored on a single by Chase Utley to cut the Reds lead to 2-1.

“Maybe that was the moment to get stuff going off of this,” Kratz said. “Anytime Ben gets on base, he can score from anywhere because of what he can do on the base paths.”

Kratz’s game-tying solo homerun should have been the game-winner if Chapman had not picked off pitcher Cliff Lee, who was pinch-running for Delmon Young who walked to open the bottom of the ninth.

“That was brutal. I’ve never been so disappointed when a guy hit a home run to tie the game in my life,” Lee said of his gaffe.  “That was bad. I felt horrible. Fortunately, Kratzy hit the home run and Freddy right behind him and that was a really good feeling. They made up for my mistake, which was unacceptable and basically brutal.”

Rookie Jonathan Pettibone kept the Phillies in the game. He gave up two runs on seven hits in seven innings. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Rookie Jonathan Pettibone kept the Phillies in the game. He gave up two runs on seven hits in seven innings. Photo by Webster Riddick.

For about seven and two-thirds innings, it was looking like the Phillies offense was going to waste another outstanding effort by a starting pitcher. Rookie sensation Jonathan Pettibone definitely pitched well enough to win. The offense’s late heroics turned a certain defeat into a no-decision.

In seven innings, Pettibone allowed just two runs-solo homer by Jay Bruce in the second inning and an RBI double to Todd Frazier in the sixth-and seven hits. He had four strikeouts and three walks.

More importantly, Pettibone and relievers Justin De Fratus and Antonio Bastardo kept the game within reach and didn’t allow the Reds to score anymore runs after the sixth inning.

“It was huge,” said Kratz, who came into the game in the third inning after Carlos Ruiz left the game with a strained right hamstring. “It doesn’t matter if we would have gone through seven guys in the bullpen or one guy, as a catcher you come out and you tell them we got to keep it right here.

“We got to play it like it’s a zero-zero game. You can’t let them get to three. Chapman with a two-run lead is tougher than Chapman with a one-run lead.”


Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard missed Sunday’s game because of soreness in his left knee. Team officials said Howard will get an MRI Monday in Miami where the team will begin a four-game series against the Marlins.

Howard said the knee had been bothering him for awhile and that the pain was bothering him more than normal Saturday night.

“It’s been acting up since Spring Training and I was able to tough my way through it,” Howard said. “(Saturday) it just kicked up a little bit.”

When asked if he thought that soreness was affecting his hitting in any way, he said it’s been tough trying to push off that knee. Howard has just four hits in his last 33 at-bats.

“We’ll see if the rest helps it,” Howard said.

Phillies Can’t Do Anything Right in Shutout Loss to the Reds

19 May

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Kyle Kendrick struggled in 10-0 loss to Cincinnati. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Kyle Kendrick struggled in 10-0 loss to Cincinnati. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—You knew at some point this season that Kyle Kendrick (4-2) was going to have one of those games where he would struggle and his team would not score enough runs.

In Saturday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds, Kendrick found himself in several jams and was actually lucky to just give up four runs on eight hits with four walks in six innings on the mound.

Kendrick’s lackluster performance was further complicated by another episode of “Disappearing Acts” by the Phillies offense and the Phillies bullpen which enabled the Reds to turn the game into a 10-0 laugher of a victory over the Phils in front of 41,817 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

“Kendrick got hurt by a three-run homer from (Ryan) Hanigan, but at the same time he battled, he kept us in the game and of course, we couldn’t score and the bullpen let the game get out of hand,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.

Pitching deep into counts and allowing a man to reach base in every inning during his tenure on the mound, Kendrick was constantly pitching his way out of trouble. The Phillies were fortunate that the lead wasn’t larger.

Kendrick’s worst inning of the game would occur in the second inning. After giving up consecutive singles to third baseman Todd Frazier and leftfielder Donald Lutz, catcher Ryan Hanigan crushed a three-homerun to the leftfield seats.

“It seemed like the whole game my command wasn’t very good and I fell behind a lot,” Kendrick said. “It was one of those days where I had to battle. It was a tough day all around.”

With the silence of the Phillies bats that’s all the runs the Reds would need. Before departing the game in the sixth, Kendrick gave up a run-producing double to Reds shortstop Zack Cozart that scored Hanigan.

Of course, the Phillies bullpen—B.J. Rosenburg, Jeremy Horst and Phillipe Aumount helped the Reds put the game out of reach by allowing the Reds to score four runs in the eighth. Cincinnati also added a pair of runs in the ninth. The runs in the eighth were charged to Rosenburg. For the game, Phillies relievers gave up six runs on eight hits.

“I think it’s about getting ahead in the count kind of thing,” said Phillies reliever Chad Durbin. “I thought Rosenburg’s stuff was outstanding today. He just had some poor luck. Horst gives up one there instead of a double.

“Phillipe makes a wild pitch, but it’s a matter of getting ahead. All of them did other than Horst. They got behind and they battled back.  It’s a day in, day out thing. It’s having a three-run lead instead of being down three.”

Cincinnati starter Bronson Arroyo (4-4) pitched seven and two-thirds innings and allowed no runs on six hits with six strikeouts and two walks.

Meanwhile, the Phillies big hitters-Ryan Howard and Chase Utley went a combined 1-for-7. By the time Howard doubled to begin the bottom of the ninth, the outcome was already decided.

While Manuel has said the team is going to eventually come around on the offensive end. He also said the team has to keep their heads up and not let things snow-ball into something worse.

“We’re in that area where we start doubting ourselves instead of just keep firing,” Manuel said. “You stay aggressive and keep working on trying to get a good ball to hit. Not trying to overdo it, but just stay within yourself and do something. … Never get down play 27 outs.”

As silent as their bats were, Phillies hitters were equally a quiet during postgame interviews as none were available to speak to reporters after the game. When the media gathered to interview Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins walked away and told reporters:

“There’s nothing to talk about, write what you saw.”

What fans saw today was a team that couldn’t do anything right.

The Phillies May Have Something Left, But the End is Near

18 May

By Chris Murray

Cole Hamels has struggle in his eight starts this season. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Cole Hamels has struggle in his eight starts this season. Photo by Webster Riddick.

For the Chris Murray Report

PHILADELPHIA—In a week in which the Phillies face the possibility of not having starting pitcher Roy Halladay until maybe September or possibly not at all, the Phillies are facing a crossroads in the early season with a combination of injuries and players not playing up to their potential.

Phillies team doctor Michael Ciccotti said for Halladay to come back in September, he would have to get to the point where he has all his range of motion in the shoulder.

“(Halladay) needs to meet certain milestones before he can progress to the next level,” said Ciccotti. “If he achieves his range of motion if he’s strong and he can pick up a ball. If he can go to a mound and he can pitch and he’s comfortable. He has to pass those tests along the way and if he’s not comfortable and we’re not comfortable, we’re not going to let him get on the mound and pitch.”

As it stands now, the Phillies (20-22) are 3.5 games out of first place behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East and they are now down two starting pitchers. John Lannan, who had strained ligaments in his knee, is expected to be off the disabled list in June.

But the real issue facing the Phillies is that their run of success that goes back 2007 and includes one World Series title, two National League pennants and five National East titles is slowly coming to an end.

That’s not to say the 2013 season is a done deal by any stretch of the imagination because we’re not even at the All-Star Break just yet. The Phils can still contend for a playoff spot and a division title, but they don’t have a lot of margin for long stretches of games where they struggle to hit, have bad starts by their pitchers or have their bullpen blow games.

Shortstop Jimmy Rollins recently told that team could be broken up if they don’t start winning on a consistent basis

“We’ve just got to make sure we do what we need to do before they blow it up,” Rollins said.

You have to think that at some point Cole Hamels (1-6, 4.61 ERA) is going to break out of his current funk. If he doesn’t do it anytime soon, then more than likely, the Phillies will be sellers by the time the July 31 trade deadline.

Oddly enough, Phillies starters outside of Halladay, Hamels and Cliff Lee, have combined for a 7-2 record so far this season while aforementioned big three are combined 7-12.

“We haven’t gotten the pitching performance — other than Lee — the guys at the top of the rotation haven’t pitched the way we know they can pitch, in particular Roy wasn’t very consistent, although he threw a couple good games,” said Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.  “And Cole hasn’t been real consistent. But I am less worried about Cole than our offense, which has to come around and be a little more consistent.”

While the offense has played better within the last week or so, Amaro said he is concerned about Delmon Young, who is 2-for-11 on the current homestand and Ryan Howard, who is also 2-for-11, in the Phillies last three games.

“Right now, we have to be patient and see if Delmon starts swinging it and Ryan is going to have to start swinging it,” Amaro said. “If those guys do, then’ we’ll be OK. If they don’t, then we will have to figure out what we are going to do.”

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Howard has to work on finding some consistency at staying on the baseball.

“He’s not right yet,” Manuel said. “His swing is not consistent right now and he’s got to keep working until he finds it.”

The Phillies, whether they want to or not, are going to be finding how good or not so good their minor league farm system is getting ready pitchers are ready to start in the big leagues. So far, Jonathan Pettibone (3-0, 3.41 ERA) has raised as few eyes with his performances on the mound since being called up from Lehigh Valley.

At some point, teams around will the league have a better understanding of what Pettibone is doing on the mound and they will make the appropriate adjustments. If Pettibone can work through that, the Phillies will be in good shape.

Another possible “X” factor for the Phillies starting rotation is Zambrano, who recently signed a minor league contract with the team. In 12 years in the majors with the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins, Zambrano is 132-91 and has a 3.66 earned run average.

If the 31-year-old Zambrano can overcome his volatile past which includes fights with teammates and he comes back and still has something left, it will certainly give the Phillies a much-needed boost.

“We’re just trying to find some additional depth and some options for us,” said Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock. “It’s low risk and hopefully high reward …It’s one of those thing where just get him down there and see where he’s at. From the reports we got the other day, he’s in pretty good shape. We have to get a gauge of where he’s at.”

Meanwhile, some of the players feel that they are on the verge of putting together a run of game that would put them near the top of the division.

“I’ve been feeling that way the whole season,” said Phillies leftfielder Domonic Brown. “We’ve got a great team here. We just got to put it together.”