Phillies shut out in Sandberg's debut as manager

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Phillies shut out in Sandberg's debut as manager

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Baseball doesn’t stop. Not ever. So even on a day as emotional as Friday was at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies had to get back to work.

Baseball doesn’t stop.

“All things come to an end,” Jimmy Rollins said after the Phillies’ 4-0 loss to the Dodgers on Friday night, the team’s first game without manager Charlie Manuel since 2004 (see Instant Replay).

“It was different. My brother-in-law clued me in earlier and told me about the presser and then Chase (Utley) hit me and said, ‘You might want to get in.’ I got dressed. I knew what it was at that point.”

Manuel was fired on Friday afternoon before the Phillies dropped their 20th game in the last 24 (see story). This time, with Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg leading the club, the Phillies were shut out for the 11th time of the season and for the fourth time during the 4-20 swoon.

Not even a solid pitching outing from Cliff Lee, who went eight innings and allowed just five hits, could change the Phillies’ fortunes against the streaking Dodgers on Friday. After the game, Sandberg talked about Zack Greinke’s 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball and his timing-killing changeup, but that wasn’t the real reason the Phillies played so poorly again.

This time it was because they felt guilty about costing Manuel his job.

“There’s no thought behind that. It’s the truth,” Rollins said. “The manager is always the first one to go. It always starts with him and he always gave credit. He didn’t take credit when the wins came, so we feel the same way. If we had been winning, he’d still be here. That’s the truth.”

Lee, who suffered his fourth straight defeat on Friday, didn’t seem surprised that Manuel was out as manager. But he knew very well the reason Sandberg was in and Manuel was out.

“It’s definitely our fault he got let go,” Lee said.

Nevertheless, the Ryne Sandberg era began exactly the way the Charlie Manuel era ended. The Phillies had chances to score runs off Greinke and relievers Paco Rodriguez and Ronald Belisario, but came up empty.

Again.

Though the Phillies got just three hits, they were able to draw five walks. They had the leadoff man on base in the second, fourth and seventh innings and had two on with one out and then the bases loaded in the eighth inning.

The trends didn’t change one bit.

The Phillies went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position with a pop up, two groundouts and two strikeouts. Utley put one ball in play and had some shaky moments in the field. Dom Brown misplayed a fly ball into an RBI double with two outs in the seventh.

Before the game, Sandberg talked about cleaning up some of the “lackadaisical” play he’d seen from the Phillies lately, but clearly the best laid plans take some time.

“It was a roller coaster of a day emotionally,” Sandberg said. “It affected me and I think it affects the players. That’s how the day was.”

After his introductory press conference in the afternoon, Sandberg met with his team to fill them in on the regime change. He also explained his expectations and let the players know that there were chances for them to prove something on the field.

Nobody took Sandberg up on the opportunity to stand out on Friday, but then again, it was only the first day.

“I just let them know that I was their manager for the next 42 games on an interim basis. Some of my expectations about meaningful games, play the right way, give your best and try to win games,” Sandberg said.

“I used the word opportunity. There is an opportunity here for the players and a responsibility to be a major league player.”

Fortunately for the Phillies, a new game arrives on Saturday. For a season that seemed doomed at the outset and suddenly has taken an unexpected turn, the slate is temporarily clean.

Change comes quickly, but then so does the routine. The Phillies hope to get back into a new groove quickly.

“Baseball is demanding,” Rollins said. “Change happens, but the game keeps going. It doesn’t stop.”

The stench of recent losses prompts a Phillies team meeting

The stench of recent losses prompts a Phillies team meeting

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ATLANTA – After every Phillies road game, it’s customary for reporters to enter the clubhouse and stop into the manager’s office to collect a few observations from the ol' skipper.
 
On Wednesday night, Pete Mackanin, still in his uniform pants and red undershirt, took the unusual step of leaving the visiting clubhouse at Turner Field and approaching a group of reporters as they waited in the hallway outside the room.
 
What gives?
 
Did the toilets overflow or something?
 
Well, in a sense, yes.
 
The stink of a 12-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves led some of the team’s elder statesmen to call a players-only team meeting (see Instant Replay). That meant Mackanin had to do his postmortems outside in the hallway.
 
“I don't know who called it, but it’s nice to see,” Mackanin said. “Somebody cares.”
 
Catcher Cameron Rupp revealed that the meeting was called by veterans Ryan Howard and A.J. Ellis. The Phillies have lost five of their last six games and given up a ridiculous 63 runs over that span. They lost, 17-0, Sunday in New York and blew a 6-0 lead in losing, 7-6, Tuesday night in Atlanta. Losing by a 10-spot on Wednesday night added to the embarrassment and dropped the Phillies to 70-88 with four games remaining in the season.
 
“We have some older guys, Howie and A.J. that have been around and they don’t want to see guys stumble to the finish line,” Rupp said. “Finish hard, finish strong. We’ve had a good year in a lot of guys’ eyes. We’ve improved on last year. There has been a lot of good things we can build off and that’s what the message was – continue to work and get better.
 
“There are four games left – don’t quit,” Rupp said. “Come to the ballpark expecting to win and see where it takes you. We got pushed around the last couple of nights and in New York. Stuff happens. It’s part of the game. But with four games left, there’s a lot that each player can prove.
 
“A lot can happen in four days. We can ruin somebody else’s season.”
 
The Phillies play their final game at Turner Field on Thursday night – the Braves will open a new stadium next year – then return home Friday night to play the Mets, who are locked in a tight race for the National League wild card.
 
The weekend series against the Mets will mark Howard’s last three days in a Phillies uniform.
 
He has swung the bat lately like a man who still has pride. His part in the team meeting reflected that pride.
 
“A.J. and I felt like having a quick meeting and that we did,” Howard said. “We need to refocus on these last four games. We got beat up tonight. We have to put a halt to that momentum and refocus on the last four games.
 
“It’s important to finish strong. It would be easy to cash it in, but we want to go out on a high note and we have four games to try to do that.”

Mackanin admitted the series in New York – three losses in four games to the Mets – “took the life out of everybody” and the malaise followed the Phillies to Atlanta.
 
“It's all about pitching,” Mackanin said. “Pitching keeps you in games. That's why we won 70 games. Now we're not getting the pitching.”
 
The Phillies have struggled to score runs all season. In fact, they are the only team in the majors not to reach 600 runs. (They have 599.) But recently, the pitching has gone downhill, especially in the bullpen.
 
Mackanin tried to give the bullpen a break on Wednesday night. That’s why he had Adam Morgan suck up five innings on a night when he didn’t have it. The lefty allowed 10 hits and nine runs in his final start of the season.
 
“It’s pretty bad,” Morgan said. “It’s not the way that I wanted to go out.”
 
Morgan made strides recently as he picked up a two-seam fastball and used his changeup more. But he is 2-11 with a 6.04 ERA.
 
“Below average,” said Mackanin, assessing Morgan’s season. “It wasn't a successful season for him. He has ability, but the numbers matter. If you want to go by the numbers, they're not good. It doesn't mean I don't like him. It doesn't mean he doesn't have a future. At some point, you have to put up numbers.”
 
Speaking of numbers, the Phillies have put up some awful numbers against the NL East. They are 16-35 against the NL East in their last 51 divisional games.
 
“I look at the team statistics,” Mackanin said. “When you're 13th, 14th and 15th in 10 of those categories, that tells you all you need to know.
 
“We're down at the bottom in hitting. We're sinking fast in pitching.
 
“As far as a yardstick to measure, I look at those stats. Numbers matter. They tell you the story.”
 
In four days, the story of the 2016 Phillies will be over. Maybe Wednesday night’s players-only meeting will inspire a couple of final wins.

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Best of MLB: Hyun Soo Kim's pinch HR gives Orioles win

Best of MLB: Hyun Soo Kim's pinch HR gives Orioles win

TORONTO -- Hyun Soo Kim hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the ninth inning off Roberto Osuna, and the Baltimore Orioles beat Toronto 3-2 on Wednesday night to move within one game of the AL wild card-leading Blue Jays.

With Toronto ahead 2-1, Jonathan Schoop singled with one out, pinch-runner Michael Bourn stole second and Kim homered on a 3-2 pitch into the visiting bullpen in right, causing the Orioles relievers to jump in celebration.

Osuna (3-3) has five blown save chances, including two in his last three appearances.

Mark Trumbo hit his major league-leading 46th home run, a solo drive off Jason Grilli in the eighth.

Brian Duensing (1-0) got one out, and Zach Britton finished for his 47th save in as many tries (see full recap).

Mets win to keep grip on wild-card spot
MIAMI -- The Marlins walked half a block alongside a hearse carrying their ace away from Marlins Park at the start of a funeral motorcade Wednesday, and then peeled away with watery eyes to go back inside and play a game.

Drained by four days of grieving, they didn't have much left for the New York Mets.

Jay Bruce hit his 32nd home run, James Loney also homered and the Mets helped their NL wild-card chances by beating Miami 5-2.

New York began the night leading the Giants by half a game and the Cardinals by 1 1/2 games in the race for the two wild-card spots. The Mets conclude the regular season with three games at Philadelphia starting Friday.

The Marlins' loss in their home finale eliminated them from playoff contention. Despite high hopes this year, they still haven't been to the postseason since 2003.

Set Lugo (5-2) went 5 1/3 innings and allowed two runs.

Jose Urena (4-9) allowed five runs in five innings (see full recap).

Cano's HR boosts Mariners' playoff hopes
HOUSTON -- Robinson Cano hit a three-run homer in the first inning, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Houston Astros 12-4 Wednesday to keep pressure on the other AL wild-card contenders.

Kyle Seager added another three-run drive in the eighth, his 30th home run this season, as Seattle pulled within 1 games of Baltimore for the second AL wild card. Houston dropped three games back as its magic number for elimination was cut to two. The Orioles were at Toronto on Wednesday night.

Cano's career-best 36th home run, a drive off Doug Fister (12-13), landed in the first row of the Crawford Boxes in left field. Cano has nine homers and 25 RBIs in 19 games against Houston this season (see full recap).

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