MIAMI — Believe it or not, the Phillies started the month of May with a victory.
Against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field, no less.
The Phillies scored 10 runs in that game to inch their record to 12-12, not great, but certainly respectable, especially for a rebuilding club looking to make progress from a 71-win season a year ago.
Fast-forward to the end of the month and it's difficult to fathom the dramatic plunge the team took after that feel-good night in Chicago when Tommy Joseph broke out with a three-run home run and Vince Velasquez notched the pitching victory.
The Phillies completed a dreary month of May with another loss Wednesday afternoon. This one was a 10-2 defeat at the hands of the Miami Marlins (see Instant Replay), coincidentally the same score by which the Phillies won their first game of the month. But what followed the night in Chicago were just five more wins. The Phillies finished May with a 6-22 record, making it their worst month since they went 4-22 in June 1997 and their worst May since they went 3-22 in 1928.
"I'm glad we're going into June and putting May behind us," manager Pete Mackanin said.
If Mackanin wasn't such a gentleman, he might have said, "Bleep you, May!"
The Phils were outscored, 163-99, in the month.
They had a team ERA of 5.53 in the month.
They have lost 10 straight series — the last time they lost 11 straight was 1941 — and have the worst record in the majors at 17-34. That represents their worst 51-game start since 1945 when they were 11-40.
The Phillies came to Miami hoping to get well against a Marlins team that wasn't much better. The Marlins entered the series at 18-30.
Then they went out and outscored the Phillies, 21-5, in three games.
"Another disappointing game, to say the least," Mackanin said after his team's latest loss. "Two teams, both struggling, pretty much even. They came out on top, we came out on the bottom.
"We need a series like they just had. That's what we're looking for. That might spur them on and give them a spark. That's what I want to see."
Offense has been a huge problem for the Phillies recently. Entering Wednesday, they had produced just four or fewer hits in six of their previous 10 games.
But starting pitching was a consistent weakness for the Phils in May. The team's starters had a 6.55 ERA in the month and opposing batters hit .313.
Aaron Nola was the latest starter to struggle. He was tagged for three runs in the first inning Wednesday and was out of the game after three innings. He gave up five hits, including a homer, and four runs. He threw 73 pitches.
Nola was surprised by the quick hook.
"I was ready to go out for the fourth," he said. "I didn't think I would be taken out that early."
But Mackanin had seen enough.
"Seventy-three pitches in three innings — too many pitches for me," he said. "I didn't want him to get hurt and end up throwing 100 pitches in four innings. So I just took him out."
Ricardo Pinto, called up from the minors earlier in the day, struggled in his big-league debut. He was tagged for six hits, three walks and four runs in two innings.
Phillies hitters struck out 15 times, 10 against starter Dan Straily. The Phils had 10 hits, but just two of them were for extra bases and the first didn't come until the seventh inning, when the Marlins were up, 10-1.
The Phils did have one mild threat earlier in the game. Down, 5-0, in the fifth, they got a pair of hits from Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera to lead off the inning. After Freddy Galvis struck out for the first out, Mackanin let Pinto hit. The rookie struck out trying to bunt for the second out. Cesar Hernandez then loaded the bases on an infield hit before Aaron Altherr struck out to end the threat.
Mackanin said he did not use a pinch-hitter for Pinto because he was watching the bullpen's workload.
"Yeah, I've got to protect the bullpen," he said. "I can't go with a nine-man bullpen for very long.
"At this point, that's what happens when your pitcher comes out in the second (like the injured Velasquez did Tuesday night) and it happens a little too often. You've got to protect the bullpen and I was more concerned about that than trying to get somebody to come up and hit a three-run dinger to get back in the game. Because then if I go to another pitcher then if he doesn't do the job, you get into big trouble and the bullpen is shot again."
With an off day Thursday, the Phils' bullpen should be in order when the club starts a new month Friday night.
But the team will still have the worst record in the majors after a month of May that was pure torture.