PHOENIX – The Phillies played sloppy baseball Wednesday night, they did not hit and they showed none of the urgency you’d expect from a team trying to stay in a playoff race.
A three-hour, 10-minute sleepwalk produced a 6-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Phils played a strong all-around game in winning the first game of the series, 7-3, on Monday night. After that, the offense vanished and the Phils were outscored, 14-5, in losing the next two. Only a way-too-late, ninth-inning homer by Bryce Harper saved the Phils from being shut out on Wednesday night.
“I think we’re all pretty frustrated,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Certainly we’re a much better offensive club than we’re showing.”
At a time when the Phillies need to win series to make a playoff push, they have lost three of their last four series.
The National League East standings tell a painful tale for these Phillies. They led the division by three games on the last day of May. Nine weeks later, they are just a half-game out of fourth place in the division. The New York Mets, once thought dead and buried, have reeled off wins in 13 of their last 14 games are poised to overtake the Phillies for third place in the division. (Mets skipper Mickey Callaway, nearly fired a few weeks ago, could end up being the NL manager of the year if his team keeps this up.)
Of more relevance, the Mets have played themselves into the thick of the playoff race and are poised to overtake the Phillies in the wild-card standings.
The Phils headed for San Francisco after Wednesday night’s loss tied with Milwaukee for the second wild-card spot, but the Mets and Cardinals were just a half-game behind and Arizona was 1 ½ game out.
“We still in second in the wild card?” Harper asked reporters. “I’ll take it. If the season ended today, we’re in the playoffs. We just have to keep going, keep working. San Fran is a tough place to play. We have to go in there and hopefully split or win that series.”
There are 48 games left.
It’s time for the Phillies to turn it on.
But are they capable of a run with the inconsistencies in their offense and the problems with their pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen?
“When our club is playing our best baseball, we are going to be unbeatable,” Kapler said.
The Phillies did not play their best baseball the last two nights in Arizona. They got only 10 innings from their starting pitchers (Jake Arrieta and Jason Vargas) and the bullpen got tagged for eight runs. The defense was bad on Wednesday night and the offense was sluggish both nights.
The Phils followed up Tuesday night’s 2-for-17 performance with runners in scoring position with an 0-for-3 effort Wednesday night. Scott Kingery walked and stole second base to open the third inning. The next three batters struck out.
The Phillies had just four hits, all singles, until the ninth inning when Harper homered.
The lack of offense has given the pitching little margin for error.
“We’re a team here,” Kapler said. “We win as a team, we lose as a team, we fight as a team. We scratch and claw for every advantage as a team and when we’re not getting it done as a group we all put additional pressure on ourselves.
“So, obviously, if the offense isn’t performing to its capability, I think our pitching staff is going to put a little extra pressure on itself to make the perfect pitch. And if our pitching staff isn’t throwing up zeroes then our offense is going to put a tremendous amount of pressure on itself to score runs. That’s never the best environment and we have to find ways to get stronger as a unit so we can remove some of the pressure from each other as teammates.”
The offense could get a boost in San Francisco. Jay Bruce is expected to be activated from the injured list in the next day or two.
The Phils could use his bat.
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