Phils dealt third straight loss by MLB-best Cards

Phils dealt third straight loss by MLB-best Cards

July 24, 2013, 12:45 am
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Domonic Brown fails to make a diving catch in the Phillies' 4-1 loss to the Cardinals. (AP)

BOX SCORE

ST. LOUIS — Opportunity keeps knocking for the Phillies. And they keep shooing it away like an unwelcome visitor.

The Phils blew another chance to pick up ground on NL East-leader Atlanta when they suffered a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay).

With the trade deadline a week away and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. trying to decide whether to keep the team together or sell off players, the Phils have lost three games in a row to fall to 49-51. They are seven games behind the Braves, who lost for the third time in four games on Tuesday night. The Braves lost two of three over the weekend to the White Sox. Alas, the Phillies also lost two of three over the weekend.

“We’re two games under .500 and the team ahead of us keeps losing and we can’t gain no ground,” manager Charlie Manuel lamented after Tuesday night’s loss. “That’s tough.”

Manuel was quite downcast after the game.

His flawed team has scored one run in its last two games and it still has two left against the Cardinals, whose 60-37 record is the best in baseball. It gets no easier later in the week when the Phils travel to Detroit for three against the AL Central-leading Tigers.

“Yeah, we’re playing a good team and we’re getting ready to play another good team,” Manuel said. “But we’ve got to play good enough to win some games. We didn’t play good enough tonight. The Cardinals outplayed us.”

It’s no secret in the clubhouse that the clock is ticking on this club. The players see the scoreboard. They know Atlanta has struggled. They know the door has been left ajar. They know they have not taken advantage and that might make things easy on management as it ponders whether to buy or sell.

“It would be nice every time [the Braves] lose that we throw some wins up there to cut the deficit down,” Delmon Young said. “But we’ve got two and a half months, and if we could just cut a game a week, we’d be in first place by the end of the year.

“Unfortunately, we don’t know as players in the clubhouse how much time we have together, so we’re trying to win as many games as possible right now. Guys are busting their butts. Guys are getting here early and getting extra work in. We’ve just got to find a way from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. to have all the hard work pay off.”

Nothing paid off Tuesday night.

Rookie Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller entered the game ranked 10th in the NL with a 2.92 ERA. He lowered that mark to 2.77 with six shutout innings. He allowed just three hits and a walk and struck out six. Miller would have gone deeper into the game had he not been bothered by a cramp in his calf.

Manuel was not happy with the approach of Phillies’ hitters against Miller. The Phillies’ hacking ways stood in stark contrast to the patient Cardinals, who racked up excellent at-bats with a lineup loaded with .300-plus hitters.

“He’s got a good arm,” Manuel said of Miller. “He’s got a big fastball. He gave us pitches to hit. He challenged us at times with his fastball.

“I think when we get against a guy like this we get a little anxious and we want to hit him so bad we chase balls out of the strike zone up and that gets us in trouble. If we make him bring the ball down and get a good ball to hit, that’s how you adjust to pitchers like that because they will give you some fastballs to hit. If you swing at the high ones and they have command, more than likely they’ll keep feeding them and walk you up the ladder.

“We just chased a lot of balls up.”

By contrast, the Cardinals’ hitters worked rookie Jonathan Pettibone for 10 baserunners in five innings.

The Cards scored a single run in the first inning and two in the fourth (on four hits) against Pettibone.

“They worked him,” Manuel said. “They had a lot of baserunners. He wiggled out of some trouble and hung in there. They made him pitch and were able to score three runs off him. He did a good job holding them to three runs, I thought. At the same time, we didn’t get him any runs.”

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