The ol’ schedule maker threw a nice layup in the Phillies’ direction this weekend.
Or so it seemed.
Three games against a lowly Chicago White Sox club that entered the series with just four wins in 20 games since the All-Star break. Two games against starting pitchers with ERAs over 5.00 and one against a starter with an ERA over 6.00.
Time to make some hay.
The Phillies continued their maddeningly inconsistent play by losing two of three to the White Sox. The opportunity lost weekend ended with a 10-5 defeat in the series finale on Sunday.
“Tough weekend,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We’re not getting enough hits in big spots. We’re not making enough pitches. We’re not doing enough collectively to win baseball games the last three days. We’re a better team than this.”
Are they really?
The Phillies went 33-22 in their first 55 games of the season and were in first place by 3 ½ games in the NL East.
Over their last 56 games, they are 25-31, seven back in the division and in the thick of a wild-card race loaded with flawed clubs.
Don’t look now, but the Phils are only three games ahead of the fourth-place New York Mets in the division. The Mets have firepower in the starting rotation and they’ve won nine of 10.
The Phillies hit just .192 (25 for 130) over weekend and were 5 for 26 (.192) with runners in scoring position. They left 27 men on base. They were on their way to being held to three or fewer runs for the 12th time in 21 games on Sunday before newcomer Corey Dickerson clubbed a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
“I thought they threw the ball well,” Bryce Harper said. “We haven’t seen any of those guys, really. When you’re playing the American League, it’s definitely a tough task to figure those guys out immediately. I thought the first game got away from us, the second game we were able to come back and win that, and today we just got beat.”
The Phillies were beaten in one inning. Drew Smyly, who had given up just one run over 13 innings in his first two starts with the club, was tagged for five runs in the second inning, four on a two-out grand slam by Leury Garcia.
Garcia hit a 1-1 curveball left over the heart of the plate.
“I have to do a better job ending that inning and keeping it at a one-run game,” Smyly said.
Smyly said the loss stung. He pitched five innings. He was perfect in four of them but imperfect in the second inning when he gave up three singles, a walk and the grannie.
“This one stings because I feel like I was one or two pitches away from a much different outcome,” Smyly said.
Earlier in the day, the Phillies sent Maikel Franco, their opening day third baseman four straight seasons, to Triple A. It was a jarring move, but Franco was about to lose more playing time to Scott Kingery and the Phillies wanted a more versatile player on their bench. They activated Brad Miller from the injured list and kept right-handed hitting Sean Rodriguez over Franco (see story).
The Phils cut the White Sox’ lead to two runs in the sixth inning and Rodriguez had a chance to reward the brass’ faith in him when Kapler called on him to pinch-hit with two runners on base. Rodriguez bounced into a double play and the White Sox pulled away with five runs against the bullpen after that.
“It was a big play in the game,” Kapler said. “Nobody is more frustrated in that than Sean.”
The Phillies went 4-5 on the homestand. They play their next seven games in Arizona and San Francisco.
What type of shape will they be in when they come back home?
Will they be looking up at the Mets?
“We have to go out there and not really worry about what happened today,” Harper said. “Of course, we lost the series and you never want to do that. But just go into Arizona and have to turn the page as quick as possible. Get past this weekend and go out there and play Arizona and beat them, hopefully. Then go to San Fran for a big four-gamer.”
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