If the Phillies Can’t Get Above .500 Over the Next 10 Days, That’s Bad

If the Phillies Can’t Get Above .500 Over the Next 10 Days, That’s Bad

For all of the negativity surrounding the Phillies this season, they’re still alive, as backhanded of a compliment as that is. 6.5 games back of first place in the NL East, 7.0 out of a Wild Card spot don’t exactly equate to a couple of tight races, nor are they insurmountable leads as we crossover into June, either.

What might help to change some of the perceptions was if the Fightins weren’t having such a hard time of trying to push their record above .500, a place it has not visited at any point this season. They've not been so much as back to even since April 15 – going on seven weeks ago – so for that (and a variety of other reasons) you can’t really blame people for lacking in faith.

Frankly, Charlie Manuel and his squad are about to embark on a stretch of games where if significant progress is not made in the standings even the most optimistic fans and observers will be shaken. The Phils’ next 10 contests all come against either the Brewers or Marlins, two of the three worst teams in Major League Baseball.

In order to be above .500 when it’s said and done, all the Phillies need to do is win each series – three against the Brew Crew and the Fish in Philly, followed by a four-gamer in Milwaukee. Or simply post a minimum 7-3 record against a pair of teams who have combined to go 32-74 in 2013.

Actually, winning seven of 10 would move them two games above, creating something of a cushion for the Phils with another sub-.500 team on the horizon in the Twins.

Should they fail to do that, even given the absences of Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and Roy Halladay, it ought to be enough to finally make Ruben Amaro start thinking long and hard about the future, meaning the trade deadline. The road isn’t going to get any easier from here, as they will already have burned both meetings with the Brewers and four of six against the Marlins. Sorry, the Astros aren’t on the slate this season.

The good news is the Phillies have remained competitive despite their inability to climb over the .500 hump. Prior to dropping a series in Washington last weekend, they were riding a 7-3 wave similar to the one we are hoping for over the next 10 days. Actually, they’ve been playing plus-.500 ball since dropping to a season-worst five games below the mark on April 25, going 17-14.

That’s nothing to hang their hats on, but it’s kept the Phils’ heads above water.

It’s hard to believe, but the club was in better position in the standings this time one year ago. They were a surprising 27-25 heading into June, just three games back of first place in the East. By the time the month was over, they were essentially out of the running, falling to eight games below .500 and 10 games back.

This time around, they should be making up ground rather than losing it. The schedule is set up for the Phillies to receive a bounce, which combined with the imminent returns of Utley and Chooch could provide some much-needed momentum for when the difficulty picks back up.

Of course, it could always go the other way. If the Phillies stand in place, or worse, slide in their series with the Brewers and Marlins, plenty of fans will be ready to jump ship. They should find plenty of company once they're overboard.

Best of MLB: Chris Sale misses strikeout record, but Red Sox rally for win

Best of MLB: Chris Sale misses strikeout record, but Red Sox rally for win

BOSTON -- Dustin Pedroia waved home the tiebreaking run on a wild pitch, then singled in two more during Boston's seven-run seventh inning on Wednesday night and the Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers 9-4 for their third straight victory.

Chris Sale (5-2) struck out six, falling short in his attempt to become the first pitcher in baseball's modern era to strike out at least 10 batters in nine straight games in one season. He allowed three earned runs, six hits and a walk in 7 1/3 innings and received more runs of support in the seventh inning alone than in any previous game this season.

Sam Dyson (1-5) faced seven batters in relief of Martin Perez and gave up four hits, three walks -- two intentional -- and a wild pitch without retiring a batter. Mike Napoli homered for Texas, which has lost three of four to follow a 10-game winning streak (see full recap).

Ellsbury hurt as Yankees blank Royals
NEW YORK -- Helped by a great first-inning catch that forced center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury from the game with a concussion and sprained neck, Luis Severino won for the first time in a month and led the New York Yankees over the Kansas City Royals 3-0 on Wednesday night.

On the first pitch of the game, Ellsbury sprinted 107 feet and raised his glove above his head to catch Alcides Escobar's fly. Ellsbury's head jarred into the wall as the ball landed in his glove, and he crumpled to the field.

Ellsbury was checked by manager Joe Girardi and head athletic trainer Steve Donohue and remained in the game, then was replaced by Aaron Hicks starting the second.

Didi Gregorius homered against Jason Hammel (1-6) leading off the third inning, Gregorius' seventh hit in a span of 12 at-bats.

His fastball reaching 99 mph, Severino (3-2) allowed four hits over eight innings, struck out seven, walked one and threw a career-high 114 pitches.

Dellin Betances struck out the side in a perfect ninth for his fourth save (see full recap).

Rendon, Roark help Nationals beat Mariners
WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon hit a three-run homer for his eighth of the season, Tanner Roark allowed a run over seven innings and the Washington Nationals defeated the Seattle Mariners 5-1 on Wednesday night.

Rendon has three homers and eight RBIs in the Nationals' two victories to open this three-game series.

Roark (4-2) completed seven innings for the first time in seven starts and held the Mariners to 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

Mariners rookie Sam Gaviglio (0-1) allowed all five runs -- one earned -- over six innings as the Mariners lost their fifth straight.

Seattle's Robinson Cano went 3 for 4, including an RBI single and a double that center fielder Michael Taylor's glove prevented from being a home run.

Rendon had gone 12 games without an RBI before the series. But after driving in five runs Tuesday, he drove in three more to help Washington grab a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the first (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Rockies 7, Phillies 2

Instant Replay: Rockies 7, Phillies 2

BOX SCORE

The Phillies' miserable May continued in a 7-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night.

The Phillies were out-hit, 11-1, over the first seven innings.

The Rockies hit for the cycle in the third inning on their way to scoring seven times against Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson.

Phillies starting pitchers have an ERA of 6.39 in the month of May, second worst in baseball in that time.

The Phillies have lost five in a row, 9 of 10 and 20 of their last 24 games. They have the fewest wins in baseball at 15-29.

The Rockies lead the National League at 31-17. They go for a four-game sweep on Thursday. They have outscored the Phillies 23-5 in the first three games of the series.

The Phillies have scored just five runs in their last four games.

Starting pitching report
Hellickson allowed eight baserunners on six hits and two walks in the Rockies' seven-run third inning. He gave up a double, a triple, a homer and three singles in the frame. The homer was a three-run shot by Carlos Gonzalez on a 2-1 changeup.

Hellickson is 5-2 with a 4.28 ERA in 10 starts this season. He went went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts in April. His ERA in five starts in May is 7.30.

Colorado starter Tyler Chatwood, who entered the game with a 5.09 ERA, pitched seven shutout innings and gave up just one hit. He walked four and struck out eight.

Rockies starting pitchers have pitched 20 innings in this series and given up just two runs.

Bullpen report
Adam Morgan pitched three scoreless innings for the Phillies.

Mike Dunn gave up two runs in the eighth to lose Colorado's shutout bid.

At the plate
The Phils went hitless until Andrew Knapp singled with two outs in the fifth. They entered the bottom of the eighth inning with just one hit. They got two hits in the inning, including a two-run homer from Michael Saunders, and finished the game with three.

Charlie Blackmon did not hit a home run — he entered with seven in his previous five games at Citizens Bank Park — but he did have a two-run single in the third. Gonzalez's three-run homer was the big blow.

In the field
The Phillies made an error and had a runner picked off in the first inning. Catcher Knapp threw out a would-be base stealer in the first inning.

Rehab road
Howie Kendrick started a minor-league rehab assignment with Triple A Lehigh Valley on Wednesday night. He is expected to play four games and get time in left field and at first and third base. His work at third base could affect Maikel Franco, who was benched again Wednesday night (see story).

Roster move
Morgan was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley after the game. A corresponding roster move will be made Thursday.

Up next
The series concludes on Thursday afternoon. Vince Velasquez (2-4, 5.98) pitches for the Phillies against Colorado lefty Tyler Anderson (3-4, 6.00).