Anemic offense continues to plague Phillies

Anemic offense continues to plague Phillies

April 20, 2014, 12:30 am
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Chase Utley reacts after striking out in the Phillies' 3-1 loss to the Rockies. (AP)

BOX SCORE

DENVER -- Coors Field is the baseball equivalent of Lourdes, the place where sickly hitters go to find miracle cures. But even baseball’s most notorious hitters’ park hasn’t been able to help the anemic Phillies find their stroke.

The Phils lost their second straight game in the home park of the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night. Kyle Kendrick kept his club in the game, but the Phillies’ bat rack offered him no support in a 3-1 loss (see Instant Replay).

The loss was the Phillies’ fourth in the last five games as they slipped into the basement of the National League East at 7-10.

The offense has been terrible lately.

The Phils have scored just three runs in their last four games.

They have scored just two runs -- both unearned -- in the first two games of this series at the hitter’s paradise in the lower downtown section of Denver.

They have just seven hits -- all singles -- in the first two games of the series.

That leads to this bit of ignominy: The Phillies have gone four games -- 129 plate appearances -- without an extra-base hit. Lyndon Johnson was in the White House and the Phillies were still playing at Connie Mack Stadium the last time they went four games without an extra-base hit in May 1968.

“We’re a better hitting team than this,” leadoff man Ben Revere said after the game.

Really?

The Phillies’ offense has sputtered for several years now. This is just more of the same. It used to leave Charlie Manuel frustrated. Now, Ryne Sandberg knows how Charlie felt.

“This is a place where you need to score runs, no question about it,” Sandberg said. “The guys just seem a little in between with the guys we faced in these first two games. They just seem to be in between on pitches and what might be coming. Their guys pitched well. We just seem to be a little bit off. We hit some balls hard, but the defense was there.”

The Phillies have been manhandled on consecutive nights by Tyler Chatwood and Jordan Lyles, hardly two household names. Lyles pitched seven innings and allowed just one unearned run Saturday night.

Offense isn’t the only area of the game where the Phillies are struggling.

Defense has been a season-long problem and it was again Saturday night as Sandberg acknowledged that first baseman Ryan Howard should have handled Carlos Gonzalez’s ground ball to first leading off the bottom of the fourth. Gonzalez hit the ball hard to Howard’s backhand. The ball clanged off Howard’s glove and was generously ruled a hit. Two batters later, Kendrick hung a mistake cutter to Justin Morneau who smacked it for a two-run home run and a 3-0 Colorado lead.

Given the way the Phillies have been scoring, that was the ballgame.

“He mixed his pitches well and kept them off balance,” Sandberg said of Kendrick, who held the Rockies to three runs over seven innings. “He did a nice job for us. Any luck at all, he could have allowed just one run.”

Sandberg was right about that. Howard’s non-play on Gonzalez hurt Kendrick. And the Rockies’ first run would not have been a run a year ago.

The play occurred in the third inning. The Phillies appeared to have Nolan Arenado cut down at the plate as he tried to score from first on a hit-and-run single to left, but Colorado manager Walt Weiss asked for a replay and, sure enough, the Rockies were awarded the run when it was determined that Phillies’ catcher Carlos Ruiz had blocked the plate before he had possession of the ball.

Sandberg acknowledged that the review resulted in the correct call, at least as the rule is defined. He just wishes the umpires and the replay reviewers in New York were a little more consistent. On Sunday, Tony Gwynn Jr. was not given a lane to the plate by Miami catcher Jeff Mathis. Sandberg asked that the run be counted and was denied.

“If that was a year ago, [Arenado] was out,” Sandberg said. “It’s just one of those things.”

The Phillies’ best chance to support Kendrick came and went in the fourth inning when Lyles loaded the bases with one out on two singles and a walk. Domonic Brown hit the ball hard, but right at shortstop Troy Tulowitzki who started a double play.

“We had a couple of innings with a couple of guys on base and couldn’t come up with the hit,” Sandberg said. “That might have changed the whole thing.

“We just need a spark from somebody.”

Maybe it will come Sunday.

Then again, the way the Phillies have been swinging, maybe it won’t.

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