Another futile day at the plate left Pete Mackanin searching for answers when he sat down at the podium Sunday afternoon.
Mackanin is on the prowl.
He’s looking for “professional at-bats” from an offense that mustered just three hits off a guy who entered Sunday’s start with a 5.66 ERA.
The Phillies are “snake bitten” right now, according to their manager.
When will they find the remedy? That’s anyone’s guess.
Sunday’s 5-1 loss was the Phillies’ sixth straight and 10th in their last 11 games (see Instant Replay).
Mackanin is trying everything he can to turn it around. Saturday, he slid the struggling Maikel Franco to sixth in the batting order. Cesar Hernandez was benched for the second straight game in favor of Andres Blanco.
Franco went 0-for-4 Sunday. He’s now hitless in his last 16 at-bats.
Freddy Galvis is entering that Peter Bourjos territory of his defensive ability not being good enough to put him on the field with as bad as his bat has been.
“We need somebody to solidify the offense as well as the pitching,” Mackanin said. “We need some professional at-bats. The guys are all not the type of hitters who are established. Even Franco, as good of a hitter as he's going to be at one point, he's still a young guy. First full year in the big leagues. It would be nice to have somebody surrounding him who you can kind of count on.”
Is that somebody in the clubhouse?
“Well, we've been looking at it for quite a bit of time now and we haven't seen a lot of professional at-bats,” Mackanin said. “We just need to get to that point. We need to work the count. We don't walk a lot. For me, we take too many fastballs for strikes. We expand the strike zone too often.”
The Phillies’ offense looked poised to break through against Archie Bradley in the sixth inning Sunday. They had the bases loaded and nobody out, trailing 2-0 with Tommy Joseph at the plate. But Joseph rolled a 1-1 curveball into a deflating, run-scoring double play.
In the fifth inning, the Phillies had runners at first and second with one away before Galvis popped out to the catcher behind the plate and pitcher Zach Eflin grounded out to third.
“Right now, there's nobody there that has risen to the challenge,” Mackanin said. “We're looking for that guy.”
With Franco struggling, the offense has hit a rut.
“We know these guys are better,” Mackanin said. “As much as they're working, they're not applying it in the game.
“It is what it is,” catcher Cameron Rupp said. “It's something we have to find how to get out of. It's part of the game. At some point it seems like every team will go through this. We're just in the middle of a bad rut. But we've got to come out tomorrow, keep battling and go from there.”
Perhaps the lone bright spot Sunday came in the rebound performance from pitcher Zach Eflin. The tall righty who was blasted for eight runs in less than three innings in his debut on Tuesday responded with a much better outing.
Eflin allowed two earned runs on four hits while striking out three in five and 2/3 innings.
His offense, though, gave him no chance to earn his first big league win.
“We just have to hold down the fort,” Mackanin said. “I just saw where Atlanta won their fifth game in a row. As bad as they've been playing ... At some point, we're going to snap out of this. We'll be fine. It might be tomorrow. It might be on the road. I'm anticipating us to improve.”
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