The Phillies have shown flashes of their potential.
They’ve jumped out to comfortable leads, pitched well in spurts and rallied when trailing late.
They nearly came back once again in the ninth inning on Sunday.
But instead of two consecutive come-from-behind wins, the Phillies lost another game in which they grabbed a 4-0 lead against the Royals, falling, 9-8, on Sunday (see Instant Replay).
“Our guys are not trying to make outs or lay down when we’ve got a lead,” Charlie Manuel said. “Believe me, they’re trying — they're trying hard.”
That effort was noticeable in another dramatic ninth inning. After Manuel’s club put up a four-spot in the first, Cole Hamels was hit hard for a second straight subpar outing, burying the Phillies in a 9-4 hole (see story).
As they did in Friday’s home opener, the Phillies' bats started hot and then went quiet. On Sunday, however, they produced another wild finish more similar to Saturday. With one out in the final frame, Jimmy Rollins smacked a three-run homer to right field, cutting the Royals’ lead to 9-7 while bringing life to the crowd.
Ryan Howard and Michael Young both singled with two outs before Laynce Nix shrunk the deficit to one with an RBI single, giving Erik Kratz the chance to play hero.
“We were a hit away from winning the game,” Manuel said.
Kratz fouled off five straight pitches with two strikes to work a nine-pitch at-bat but was finally put away on a changeup after seeing a heavy dose of fastballs.
“I battled him and he ended up throwing a pretty good pitch,” Kratz said. “He got me.”
It was a tough end for Kratz, who went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts.
“I was trying to just put the barrel on it,” Kratz said. “I wasn’t trying to do anything too much. He was going to supply the power, I just needed to barrel it up.
“I was underneath it a couple times, on top of it a couple times, and that’s what happens.”
The Phillies combined for 10 hits and all eight of their runs in the first and ninth innings.
From the second inning to the eighth: five hits and nothing to show for it.
“The one thing we want to continue to get better at is making sure we keep our foot on the gas as the game goes on,” said Young, who went 4 for 5. “And that’s one thing [the Royals] did well during this series was they tacked on runs in those middle innings and we didn’t.
“I don’t think we’re pressing. I think it’s just a matter of making sure we stay with it as the game goes along.”
For the Phillies, it's the flashes that must turn into consistencies. Kyle Kendrick threw four scoreless innings in Friday’s home opener before unraveling in the fifth. The Phillies totaled seven runs in the ninth inning of Saturday’s win and the first inning of Sunday’s loss. Before that stretch, they had scored just one run in their previous 14 innings.
If not for Kevin Frandsen’s heroics Saturday, the Royals leave Citizens Bank Park with a three-game sweep.
“We’re gonna be all right,” Manuel said. “We’ve got to put a solid game together.”