SAN FRANCISCO — The Phillies are one of baseball’s surprise teams because they have gotten consistently strong pitching and just enough offense to win games.
The calendar has turned to June and the pitching remains strong. The offense, however, has gone from just enough to microscopic.
The Phillies suffered their second straight shutout defeat Saturday night, wasting a strong start from Vince Velasquez in a 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park (see first take). The Phillies had just three hits and one was an infield hit. Twenty-four hours earlier, the Phils were shut out, 4-0, by the Giants. Over their last four games, the Phillies’ offense has produced just four runs and one was a phantom run (see story).
“Obviously, at the end of the day, you have to score runs to win baseball games,” manager Gabe Kapler said.
“I think we're pressing a little bit. I think we're putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to get the big hit. We're putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to drive the baseball. Sometimes it's happening, sometimes it's not. It's a little bit less patient right now. It's certainly not a lack of talent. I believe strongly in the guys in the lineup tonight. I believe strongly in the guys in that room to score a bunch of runs. And I believe in our hitting leader, John Mallee, to lead them in the right direction. So everything is in place. It's more just we're going through a tough stretch. We have to weather this storm.”
The Phillies were sky-high coming out of Los Angeles with a split of a four-game series three days ago. Now, they need a win Sunday to avoid being swept by Giants, a team they took four games from last month in Philadelphia.
Over the last 15 games, the Phillies are 6-9. After briefly poking their head into first place in the NL East, they are now two games back at 31-25.
Over that 15-game span, the Phillies have hit .205 and averaged 2.9 runs per game. Odubel Herrera is 10 for 61 over that span and has gone from a league-best .361 to .306.
“Right now, we’re going through a tough moment but we’re going to find a way to turn it around,” Herrera said. “We’re not being as patient as we were before and that’s really a key. You know if you look for your pitches and you’re patient, things are going to work, but we’re too desperate and we’re trying to look for something too early.”
As for Herrera himself …
“I don’t really know what it is,” he said. “One thing I can tell you is, I’ve been putting in the work in the cage. Maybe it’s something mental, maybe it’s bad luck.”
Velasquez gave up just five hits, walked one and struck out nine over 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball. He was tagged for a leadoff double by Joe Panik in the sixth and it led to the only run the Giants would need. Panik moved up on a groundout and scored on a contact-play ground ball by Andrew McCutchen to shortstop Scott Kingery. The infield was in on the play. Kingery had to make a quick throw home and it was high, allowing Panik to sneak in before Jorge Alfaro's tag.
“You don’t really have time to re-grip and aim there,” Kingery said. “It’s just catch it and get rid of it as quickly as possible.”
Giants rookie Andrew Suarez held the Phillies to three hits over seven innings and got a huge assist from rightfielder McCutchen, who stole extra bases from Cesar Hernandez with a great running catch to end the top of the third. Alfaro, who had tripled, died on third.
“Man, I thought the ball was absolutely murdered,” Kapler said. “That was a tremendous play — great break, full speed, perfect route, never broke stride. Good job by him by making that play. Cesar absolutely leaned on that ball. It was disappointing for the dugout. But a really good play by the other guy.”
The Phillies, who have not scored in 20 innings, will turn to Jake Arrieta to salvage a game in the series Sunday. He will face rookie Dereck Rodriguez. The son of Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez will be making his first big-league start.