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.”

Phillies look to 'keep grinding' after latest rough loss to Rockies

Phillies look to 'keep grinding' after latest rough loss to Rockies

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The Phillies have scored just two runs in 13 innings against a pair of rookie starting pitchers and the eventual outcome has been two losses to the Colorado Rockies the last couple of nights. The latest was an 8-2 setback on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay). That followed an 8-1 loss on Monday night.

What's happening right now at Citizens Bank Park is ugly. The Phillies are in the midst of a freefall that has seen them lose 19 of their last 23 games. They have been outscored 134-91 over that span.

Now, before we completely lose perspective here, the Phillies remain a building team and they were not expected to contend this season. But they weren't supposed to be this bad, either, and right now they are embarrassingly bad at 15-28.

John Middleton, the team's fiery managing partner, watched several innings of Tuesday night's debacle sitting beside Andy MacPhail in the club president's box. Oh, to have been a fly on that wall. Middleton is committed to a patient rebuild from the ground up, but he's also a man who has made it no secret that he likes to win a little. The show that the Phillies are putting on out on the field these days can't sit well with him. Surely it's not sitting well with the fans. Tuesday night's attendance was just 17,109, the lowest of the season, and many in that group headed home after Gerardo Parra's sixth-inning homer gave the Rockies an 8-1 lead.

"We're just in a big rut right now," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Shortstop Freddy Galvis added that he couldn't remember going through anything this bad.

"We have to keep grinding," he said. "Keep grinding, man. It's pretty tough right now."

Tuesday night's loss offered a tale of two young pitchers. Zach Eflin, the Phillies' 23-year-old right-hander and a veteran of just 18 big-league starts, was hit hard. Meanwhile, German Marquez, the Rockies' 22-year-old rookie, was impressive. He held the Phillies to one run over six innings. He twice faced bases-loaded jams and gave up just one run when he walked a batter.

On Monday night, the Phils were held to one run over seven innings by another rookie, Jeff Hoffman.

Rookie pitchers are often good medicine for struggling teams.

"That's the way I look at it," Mackanin said. "Unfortunately it hasn't happened.

"I know we're better than this. I think the team knows they're better than this. I can't fault the hustle. Someone might say there's no energy. Well, when you don't get any hits, there's no energy."

The Phillies have scored just three runs in the last three games.

The scarcity of runs gives the pitching very little room for error. But in this game, Eflin simply did not keep it close. He gave up 10 hits and eight runs over six innings of work. Phillies killer Charlie Blackmon torched Eflin for a pair of two-run homers and Parra got him for a solo shot.

"A poor outing," Mackanin said of Eflin's work. "He couldn't locate. The ball was up in the zone. He's struggling to keep the ball down.

"When he struck out Blackmon in the first inning, it was a two-seamer with great movement, I thought we're in for a good outing here. But then he couldn't keep the ball down. You have to pitch down or you're going to get hurt."

Eflin has given up 21 hits and 15 runs in his last two starts.

"It's frustrating, but it happens. It's baseball," he said. "There are going to be a lot of times in my career where I give up a lot of hits and a lot of runs. But I'm really not worried about it right now. I know that I'm going to continue to work hard and go out every fifth day and, you know, put up a line of winning baseball."

Blackmon has seven home runs in his last five games at Citizens Bank Park. He has three multi-homer games in Philadelphia.

"He seems to like hitting here," Eflin said. "But I just have to execute pitches. There's no excuse. I just have to be on top of my game."

Right now, the Phillies are at the bottom of their game.

"We have to stay together as a team and keep fighting, try to get out of what's happening right now," Galvis said. "It's a really tough situation, but we have keep playing hard."

Best of MLB: Michael Conforto powers Mets to win over Padres

Best of MLB: Michael Conforto powers Mets to win over Padres

NEW YORK -- Michael Conforto homered twice and had a career-high four RBIs, including three on two hits during the Mets' biggest first inning in 13 years, and Matt Harvey won his first home start since getting suspended as New York routed the San Diego Padres 9-3 on Tuesday night.

Lucas Duda broke out of a slump with three hits and three RBIs, and manager Terry Collins earned his 500th victory with the Mets. His team got a leadoff homer and a two-run single from Conforto in a seven-run first against Jhoulys Chacin.

Given a huge early cushion, Harvey (3-3) labored through five innings to win for the first time since April 11 at Philadelphia. The embattled former ace was 0-3 in his previous six starts and got banned three days by the Mets after skipping a home game this month following a late night on the town.

Chacin (4-4) got only two outs in the shortest and worst of his 145 career starts over nine major league seasons. He gave up seven runs and eight hits (see full recap).

Rendon, Nationals clobber Mariners
WASHINGTON -- Anthony Rendon homered twice and drove in five runs, Joe Ross returned from the minors to allow one run over a career high-tying eight innings, and the Washington Nationals routed the Seattle Mariners 10-1 on Tuesday night.

Bryce Harper added his 14th homer and Jayson Werth hit his seventh off Chris Bergman (1-2), who allowed all of the Nationals' runs and 14 of their 15 hits.

Rendon doubled before his second homer -- and seventh of the season -- completed an eight-run fourth inning. Ryan Zimmerman also had three hits.

Mike Zunino homered off Ross (2-0) in his return from his own minor league stint. Robinson Cano was hitless in his first game back from the disabled list following a thigh injury as Seattle dropped its fourth straight (see full recap).

Lester pitches 4-hitter in Cubs’ win
CHICAGO -- Jon Lester pitched a four-hitter for Chicago's first complete game of the season, and the Cubs beat Johnny Cueto and the San Francisco Giants 4-1 on Tuesday night in a rainy rematch of last year's playoff opener.

Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer as Chicago improved to 5-2 on its nine-game home stand. Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward also connected, helping the Cubs bounce back from their 6-4 loss to the Giants on Monday night.

Lester and Cueto hooked up in a memorable pitchers' duel in Game 1 of the NL Division Series last October, with Chicago winning 1-0 on Javier Baez's eighth-inning homer. The Cubs eliminated the Giants in four games and went on to their first World Series title in 108 years.

Lester (3-2) was sharp once again in the low-profile reunion. Cueto (4-4) was just OK, striking out eight in six innings, but surrendering each of Chicago's three homers (see full recap).