Phillies

Bleep it, says frustrated Freddy Galvis, Phillies just need to play better

Bleep it, says frustrated Freddy Galvis, Phillies just need to play better

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PHOENIX -- When your starting pitcher doesn't make it out of the third inning and your offense generates just five singles and one run, well, it's not going to be a good day, and it wasn't for the Phillies on Monday. They suffered a 6-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks to fall to 24-51, the worst mark in the majors (see Instant Replay).

The Phils are on pace for 110 losses, one shy of the club record set in 1941.

No one expected this team to contend, but no one expected things to be this bad, either.

"In spring training, if you told me we were going to have this record, I wouldn’t believe it," shortstop Freddy Galvis, the team's elder statesman, said after the last loss. "I believed we had a good team. But we just can’t put anything together. We play well for five or six games and then we go to another six- or seven-game losing streak.

"It’s hard. It’s hard to see. It’s hard to believe it. (Bleep) it. We have to (bleeping) play harder every single day. We need to try to do better."

The Phillies were out of this one early as rookie right-hander Nick Pivetta had trouble throwing strikes and was racked for six runs in 2 2/3 innings. He allowed 12 base runners on seven hits and five walks.

It's tough to start climbing out of a hole on a day when your starting pitcher doesn’t give you much of a chance, but Galvis would like to see a little more fight, nonetheless.

"The effort has to be more than we have right now if we want to win," he said. "I think we have to do a little bit more — if we want to win."

Sometimes it almost seems as if losing is becoming habit to this team. 

"We’re losing, we’re losing, we’re losing and I don’t see any change so far," Galvis said. "If you get used to it, we’re (bleeped). We have to have a different mentality every time we come here. We have to try to win. We have to try to fight for nine innings and 27 outs."

Entering the season, some hopeful hearts thought the Phillies could make a run at .500, a 10-game improvement on last season's 71-win season. But 75 games into this season, the Phils are on pace for just 52 wins.

Phillies management was always reluctant to put a number on how many wins it thought this team could deliver. That's standard operating procedure because rebuilds are unpredictable. But management has never been shy in pointing out that the Phillies are a club building for a better day and expectations were never high for this club. Could it be that the players are simply playing down to expectations?

"If you get that into your mind you’re (bleeped),” Galvis said. "We’re players. We have to play hard, 24-7. And that’s it. Yeah, they say we’re a rebuilding team, but we still have good players here.

"Sometimes you have to relax a little, just breathe and let it go. When we’re in a winning streak everybody just relaxes and plays baseball. But right now it’s not that way. We want to do it so badly and in the end we don’t do it because we try too hard. Let our abilities speak for us and go from there."

Manager Pete Mackanin acknowledged that the "losing is hard to deal with. It’s not easy." But he said he had no qualms with the team's effort. The Phillies won the first game of the series against Arizona then lost the next three.

"We scored six runs the first game and four the next three," Mackanin said. "You know the old saying that pitching and defense wins games, well, if you can’t hit you can’t win a lot of games and we haven’t been hitting."

The Phillies had just five hits in this game, all singles, on a day when Zack Greinke was off his game and lasted just five innings and threw 102 pitches. They had some chances to get in the game, but left two men on base in the first and sixth innings and the bases loaded in the fifth. They were just 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

Pivetta struggled with his control in his first six starts (16 walks), improved it in his next two (just three) and struggled with it again on Monday in his ninth big-league start.

Part of the learning experience?

“Yeah, but that’s not an excuse I want to use," he said. "I’ve got to make an adjustment during a game and do better. 

"I beat myself today and let my team down."

Didi Gregorius impacts Phillies in more ways than meet the eye

Didi Gregorius impacts Phillies in more ways than meet the eye

The Phillies will host the New York Yankees in a doubleheader today. Zack Wheeler, the Phils' big offseason free-agent acquisition, will start the first game and Aaron Nola will get the ball in the second game.

Dating back to August, the Phillies are winless in Nola's last eight starts. The trend needs to stop today.

Wheeler, so far, has been everything the Phillies could have asked for when they signed him for five years and $118 million. But, of course, he's only made one start — seven innings, one run in the 1-3 Phillies' only win of the season. Many more efforts like that will be needed from Wheeler over the life of his contract.

But this isn't about Nola, who needs to pitch well over these next two months if the Phillies are going to make the 16-team postseason field in this shortened, 60-game season.

And it isn't about Wheeler, the so far, so good right-hander who also needs to continue his good work if the Phils are to have a chance.

This is about the Phils' other free-agent acquisition this winter.

This is about Didi Gregorius.

Now, obviously the sample size is ridiculously small because, well, you know all about the Miami Marlins and how they forced the Phillies into an unwelcome hiatus after just one weekend of play — but through the first four games, hasn't Gregorius been fun to watch?

He's made all the plays, smoothly, some even with a flare, at shortstop.

He's hit in every game.

He's shown pop with two homers. (And the way he turns on anything middle-in, he'll hit a lot more at Citizens Bank Park.)

And, he's played with a smile under the mask he wears to protect himself and others in this time of COVID-19. Gregorius is committed to wearing the mask because he has an underlying health condition.

Having watched Gregorius up close since the start of spring training back in February, we have been captured by his smile, his energy, his effervescence and love of playing the game. These can be infectious qualities of the most beneficial kind on any team and they have shown on the diamond in Gregorius' next-door neighbor, Jean Segura. 

Over the winter, there were questions about how Segura would deal with coming off of shortstop to accommodate Gregorius. Would he feel slighted, pushed aside? Would he pout? These were legitimate concerns because Segura has always been a little high maintenance.

Well, Segura moved over to third base with nary a protest. He put his head down, started working, and has taken to the new position. Having been a shortstop, Segura has the ability to succeed anywhere in the infield if he puts his mind to it. He's the one who has made the transition. But we believe that Gregorius' encouragement and positivity has played a role in Segura's acceptance of the challenge. Gregorius has bonded with Segura, convinced him of his importance and even gotten him to smile a little bit more. All of this might end up making Segura a better player. It has already helped the team solve the matter of how to get Scott Kingery to his best position, second base.

Over the winter, when the Phillies signed Gregorius, we asked a scout about him. We heard all the expected stuff about Gregorius' play on the field, the pop, the throwing arm that was getting better after surgery. But we also heard something that surprised us.

"He was the leader of that Yankees team," the scout said. "Great makeup."

So far in Philadelphia, we're seeing that. We're seeing that with the connection he has made with teammates, particularly his next-door neighbor, Segura.

But these Phils will need more than leadership and strong teammate behavior from Gregorius if they are going to make the postseason. Intangibles can only take you so far.

So what will the Phils need from Gregorius on the field? That's easy. Sound defense, left-side pop, big hits with men on base, get on base, hit for average. Basically, what every other team needs from its top players if it is going to be successful. Gregorius is just two seasons removed from a career-best .829 OPS with the Yankees. An elbow injury derailed that season. He's healthy now. Maybe a season like that — over a shorter track — is in the cards.

If it is, it won't just help the Phillies, it'll help Gregorius, as well. He signed a one-year, $14 million deal with the Phillies in the offseason and he'll be right back out there on the market this winter.

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Injuries and schedule changes have already created a chaotic NL East picture

Injuries and schedule changes have already created a chaotic NL East picture

A little less than two weeks into the season, injuries and schedule changes have already created a chaotic picture in the NL East.

Two teams have played 11 games. One team has played seven. One has played four and another has played three.

The only NL East teams who haven't missed any early-season games are the Braves (7-4) and Mets (4-7). The Braves are 2½ games ahead of the Phillies and one game ahead in the loss column. 

The Phillies are in a better early-season position than the Mets just because the Mets have already accrued seven losses. The only two teams in the majors with more are the Pirates and Royals.

Though, which team would you rather be: The team that already has seven losses or the team that has five additional games to make up? It's an advantage for the Mets and Braves that they have less hectic remaining schedules than the rest of the division. The Phillies have 56 games left to play in just 54 days. The Mets and Braves have 49 games left in those same 54 days. 

The Phillies' first series with the Braves is this weekend at home after they finish with the Yankees. Early as it is, that series carries major significance. The Phillies will play 40% of their games against the Braves in this one weekend wraparound series from Friday through Monday. Going 1-3 or 0-4 against the Braves would put the Phillies in a deep hole from which their jam-packed schedule might not allow them to dig out. 

As the Phillies and Marlins have sat, the other three teams in the division have dealt with injuries. The Braves on Monday night lost Mike Soroka, their No. 1 starter. Just hours before his 23rd birthday, Soroka tore his right Achilles and is done for 2020. He is one of their most important players. Soroka was an All-Star last season who finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting to Pete Alonso and sixth in NL Cy Young voting. In 37 career starts, he's 15-6 with a 2.86 ERA. With Soroka out, the Braves have Max Fried, Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint, Kyle Wright and a to-be-determined fifth starter. Not exactly a starting staff you look at and expect to ride to a division crown.

The Mets scratched three infielders on Monday — Jeff McNeil with back tightness, Robinson Cano with a groin strain and Amed Rosario with a quad strain. Yoenis Cespedes opted out of the 2020 MLB season over the weekend.

The Nationals are still without Stephen Strasburg, who has yet to make his season debut. Strasburg was scratched from his first start because of a nerve impingement in his right wrist. He's back to throwing off a mound but is still unlikely to pitch for the Nats until at least the weekend. At minimum, Strasburg will end up missing two turns through the rotation, which in a 60-game season represents one-sixth of the starts.

Reliever Will Harris, whom the Nats signed away from the Astros after beating them in the 2019 World Series, is on the IL with a groin strain. Two other Nats, Howie Kendrick and Eric Thames, are dealing with back injuries.

Is it a coincidence to see these sorts of injuries early in the everyday grind of Major League Baseball after so much time off and an unconventional ramp-up period? No, probably not.

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