By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—If you look at the standings coming into Sunday’s games, you notice that the last place Phillies are five and a half games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals in the National League East standings.
The Braves and Nationals aren’t world beaters because they’re both just three games above .500.
When you see where the Phillies are, you get the feeling that if they can start playing with more consistency, they can get right back in the pennant race and all will be right with the world.
At 29-38, the Phillies are what their record says they are a last place team that runs hot and cold, mostly cold. In this last homestand, the Phillies swept the San Diego Padres, but then lose two out of three to the last-place Chicago Cubs.
The starting pitching and the relief pitching have improved over the last month or so. The offense has been woefully inconsistent. They’ve been shut out nine times including seven times at home.
In Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the Cubs, the Phillies managed to get just three hits and three walks off Chicago starter Travis Wood, a pitcher who didn’t get past the fifth inning when the teams met in April.
“We’ve been hot and cold and inconsistent on a string of games on the offensive side of things,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “Everybody’s had a chance, everybody’s had opportunities, we just haven’t able to put numbers on the board consistently. … It’s about picking it up on the offense. ”
That was something that really bothered Sandberg who said that Wood was putting balls over the plate, but his team couldn’t get any wood on the ball. The Phillies were hitless until the sixth inning.
“He pitched up in the zone and got away with it,” Sandberg said. “We couldn’t get on top of him. Those are balls if you get on top, you can drive them. He got away with pitching up… For us not to make an adjustment and get on top of some balls when a guy pitches up, those are hittable balls.”
Over the next 35 games including their next road trip through Atlanta and St. Louis, the Phillies are going to be facing teams that can score runs and with the way they’ve haven’t scored runs this could be a stretch of games that is going to determine whether they’re going to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.
“If we pick it up on the offensive side of things,” Sandberg said. “We have to play to a different level and we have to do things better to get through this stretch.”
That’s been the hard part for a Phillies team that can’t seem to put anything together. The maddening part about this is that they are still in the race, at least for now. I guess you can hang your hopes on that possibility.
Looking at the way this team has played this season, I don’t see it and I’m not buying it. With this team’s luck, they might go on a tear on offense only to have the starting pitching or the relief pitching go into a slump.
Let’s face it when you can’t perform well enough in every phase of the game on a consistent basis, you are grossly mediocre or just bad. The Phillies, even with all the veterans, are just a bad team right now. As much as I like the Jimmy Rollins and the Chase Utley’s of the world, they may be on contending teams by August if they don’t start winning soon.
“Every game is big from here on out,” Utley said. “I definitely believe things can get better. There are guys in this room that want to get better.”