Sleepy and sloppy, Phillies fall back under .500 with third straight loss


There are plenty of reasons to doubt that this Phillies team can hang around in the National League East race until the nights get cool in September.

Three of them stood out Thursday night.



Defense has been a season-long problem and it cost the Phillies a run in the first inning.

The back end of the starting rotation has been a problem all season and it was again.

So was the team's inconsistent offense, which had just two hits through six innings, one of which didn't leave the infield.

Not looking like anything close to a playoff team, the Phillies opened a huge eight-game homestand with a 7-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

The Braves stole a run on the Phillies' sleepy, sloppy defense in the first inning. They put four on the board when Dansby Swanson clubbed a two-out grand slam in the third and another when Orlando Arcia went deep in the fourth to make it 6-0.

All six of those runs were surrendered by lefty Matt Moore, who violated the old starting pitcher's commandment about keeping one's team in the game and giving it a chance to win.

Moore, signed for $3 million in the offseason to help stabilize the back end of the rotation, has a 6.23 ERA in eight starts.

The Phillies' offense, which produced just three hits in 21 chances with a runner in scoring position in a pair of losses the previous two nights at Yankee Stadium, didn't get going until the seventh inning when it capitalized on three hits and a walk to score two runs. By that time, it was too late. 


For the night, Phillies hitters went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.

After opening the month of July with 10 wins in 14 games to improve to two games over .500, the Phillies have lost three straight to fall a game under.

They are tied for second place in the division with the Braves. Both teams are 47-48, four games behind the division-leading Mets. The two teams play the second of their important four-game series Friday night -- Zack Wheeler will oppose lefty Max Fried -- and the loser will fall into third place.

"Momentum always starts with the next day's pitcher and we have Wheeler going tomorrow," manager Joe Girardi said after the game. "I know they have a good pitcher going as well. We need a big start out of Wheeler."

Though there are more than two months of baseball left, this is a crucial time in the schedule as the trade deadline is just a week away. The Phillies' hot start in July had management looking to add pitching, and that still may be the case, but things could change if the team doesn't turn things around quickly.

"I never discuss that publicly," Girardi said of trade-deadline needs. "It doesn't make sense. I worry about the guys in that room. Because it always takes two teams if you're going to make a trade. My job is to win with the guys in that room."

The team did not get back to Philadelphia until 3 a.m. Thursday morning so Girardi gave catcher J.T. Realmuto and left fielder Andrew McCutchen the night off. That late arrival was only part of his reasoning. He also wanted to get some extra lefty bats in the lineup against Atlanta righty Charlie Morton. Odubel Herrera came off the injured list and started in left field and switch-hitter Andrew Knapp started behind the plate.

Both were involved in an unusual play in the first inning. Herrera was slow getting the ball back to the infield on a hit by Freddie Freeman, and Ozzie Albies, who had gone to third, alertly broke home on Herrera's throw to second base. Albies would have been dead at the plate, but Jean Segura's throw short-hopped Knapp, allowing the run to score.

Herrera threw to second to try to keep the double play in order. Girardi said a throw to third baseman Ronald Torreyes would have been a better option. Either way, Albies had stopped at third and took off for home only because Herrera made a lazy throw back into the infield.

Moore hurt himself in the third inning when he gave up a two-out single to Albies. He then gave up a hit to Freeman and a walk to Austin Riley to load the bases. It was a recipe for disaster. Swanson clubbed a 1-0 fastball, 92 mph and right down the middle, over the left-field wall for a grand slam.


"That's the difference between this game being a good one for us and not being a good one," Moore said of the third inning. "Being able to work out of that, even if I did give up a homer later in the game, it's still two runs right there and I still like our chances with our team. That was the story. It was about as poor of a pitch as I made all night right there to Swanson."

Reliever Mauricio Llovera put a fitting cap on the Phillies pitching experience when he walked in a run in the ninth. Phillies pitchers issued seven walks in all.

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