As the Phillies were winning eight in a row in early August, you knew things would soon normalize, as they always do for major-league teams.
The speed and the depth of that regression, though, has been startling.
Since winning eight consecutive games over the Pirates, Nationals and Mets, the Phillies are 3-8 and rank last in Major League Baseball in batting average (.174), last in slugging percentage (.288), last in OPS (.560), last in home runs (7) and second-to-last in runs scored (28). The only team to score fewer runs than the Phillies over that span is the Orioles, who have lost 17 straight games.
Rhys Hoskins’ bat was obviously missed (he returned Sunday), but his absence wasn't the only reason or even the main reason for the offense’s struggles. During the eight-game winning streak, Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto were as hot as they’ve been in tandem since becoming teammates. The Phillies were also hitting with runners in scoring position.
That hasn’t been the case for two weeks. Harper, Realmuto and Andrew McCutchen are a combined 7 for 52 on the Phillies’ road trip, hitting a combined .135. On Saturday night, McCutchen went 0 for 5 with five strikeouts and stranded seven runners. His timing is off at the plate right now and he’s missing hittable mistakes. Since returning from a short stint on the injured list on August 11, McCutchen is 4 for 39 with 16 strikeouts.
The Phillies on Saturday night lost a heartbreaker, 4-3 to the Padres. Aaron Nola was one out away from completing a 3-1 Phillies win when Jake Cronenworth tied the game with a home run to center. Manager Joe Girardi drew criticism for keeping Nola in the game for 117 pitches, though he also would have drawn criticism if he brought in closer Ian Kennedy and the same result occurred. Girardi let Nola try to finish what he started because Nola had one high-stress inning the entire night and the Phillies’ top three relievers -- Kennedy, Archie Bradley and Hector Neris -- had each worked more than one inning the prior night.
But really, it should never have gotten to that point. The Phillies had many opportunities to build a bigger lead and break the game open before the ninth inning and couldn’t do it. They went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and had just four hits -- a leadoff homer from Odubel Herrera, two singles from Harper and Nola’s double to start the eighth.
The Phillies had the bases loaded with one out in the eighth inning and scored two runs on two bases-loaded hit by pitches. They were unable to pick up the one knock they needed. McCutchen and Ronald Torreyes struck out to end the threat.
Nobody’s hitting right now for the Phillies. Beyond the struggles of the middle of the order, Jean Segura, consistent from opening day until the middle of August, is 3 for 33 over his last nine games. His batting average has dropped from .316 to .296 over that stretch.
Brad Miller, who has played first base most of the month as Hoskins remains sidelined by a groin injury, is 7 for 47 in August, hitting .149 with a strikeout in one-third of his at-bats. His defense has also been costly.
The Phils have played Realmuto a ton since the All-Star break -- nearly every day -- and cannot seem to muster any offense out of Andrew Knapp when he starts. Knapp is hitting .153 on the year with a .209 on-base percentage. He has three hits since July 4 and has not reached base since August 4. Knapp is constantly praised for his handling of the pitching staff, but the Phils need at least something out of him offensively when he starts once or twice a week.
The Phillies were supposed to be carried by their offense but they’ve been middle-of-the-pack. They rank 16th in runs scored with one more than the Detroit Tigers. The Phils rank 19th in batting average, 17th in on-base percentage and 17th in slugging. Among meaningful offensive categories, their only Top 10 ranking is in walk rate, where they’re ninth.
And it’s not as if they’ve faced fantastic pitching lately. They faced spot starters in the final two games of the Dodgers series, saw three good ones against the Reds, had two of three games in Arizona against inexperienced, mediocre starters, faced talented but struggling arms Friday and Saturday in Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove, then went up against the Padres’ bullpen Sunday.
If the Phillies miss the playoffs for the 10th straight year, that series in Arizona will obviously loom large. The Phillies are 22-20 this season against the two worst teams in each National League division. The Braves are 31-18.