It was 1990s Retro Night at Citizens Bank Park on Friday and in the spirit of the event the Phillies played a game right out of 1997. If you don’t recall what happened that year, the Phils went 68-94, tying them for the worst record in the National League. That season was lowlighted by a 4-22 performance in the month of June.
Things aren’t that bad in June 2018, but they’re not good either.
With winning teams all over the schedule, June figured to be the month that would determine if these Phillies were for real or not, and how active they might be at the July trade deadline. So far, the month is not going well. The Phils dropped to 1-6 in June with a 12-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Citizens Bank Park (see first take). The Brewers, owners of the National League’s best record, pounded Vince Velasquez for 10 runs in 3 2/3 innings and never looked back.
Since poking their heads into first place in the division for one day last month, the Phillies have gone 3-9. They have hit just .209 over that span and averaged three runs per game while racking up 10 double-digit strikeout games.
Rhys Hoskins is on the disabled list — he may be back Saturday (see story) — and Odubel Herrera has disappeared. Since leading the NL in hitting at .361 on May 17, he is just 15 for 81 (.185) with 23 strikeouts and three walks. He had three of the Phillies’ 11 strikeouts Friday night and has dropped to .298.
Over their last 20 games, the Phils are just 7-13. That has left them just three games over .500 at 32-29.
“I don’t think it’s one thing,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I think collectively we’re not performing the way we’re capable of.”
Kapler praised the bullpen’s work Friday night as Mark Leiter Jr., Hector Neris and Victor Arano held the Brewers to two runs in 5 1/3 innings, but the game was long out of hand by the time the bullpen door swung open. The Brewers jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the fourth inning and that was followed by more than a smattering of boos.
Velasquez, the maddeningly inconsistent right-hander who has given the Phils hope with some actual consistency lately, had a forgettable outing. He started off with two quick outs in the first inning then walked two batters before hanging a 2-2 curveball to Ryan Braun, who clubbed it for a three-run homer. He also smacked a two-run homer later in the game. He is hitting .400 (52 for 130) with 10 doubles, a triple, 13 homers and 39 RBIs in 32 career games at Citizens Bank Park.
“First few pitches, I got some ground balls then one walk led to another and I made a mistake on Braun,” Velasquez said. “He hunts mistakes. He capitalized on it and after that it was kind of a snowball effect.
“Bad pitch [to Braun]. It wasn’t bad pitch selection. The execution was just horrible. Guys got really comfortable going outside and I didn’t make the adjustment going inside.”
It was just two weeks ago that the Phils were a season-best nine games over .500 and it was reasonable to wonder what the team would do to get better at the trade deadline. Now, the team has three more weeks left in a challenging month of June that will likely determine the tack management takes at the deadline.
“Our June schedule is really tough,” general manager Matt Klentak said. “Now, how we come out of June and how we transition into the month of July and what our placement in the standings is in the month of July will be what really dictates what our trade-deadline strategy is. If we are contending and in a legitimate spot to make a run, then I would expect to address that and make moves. We just have to maintain the proper perspective on that and adjust as our performance suggests we adjust.”