Slumping Phillies lack timely hits in loss to Cards

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Slumping Phillies lack timely hits in loss to Cards

BOX SCORE

The Phillies threw a twist into their lingering offensive slump Thursday night.

Instead of just sputtering offensively all night, this time they actually got a bunch of hits but couldn’t get big hits when they needed them.

After managing just four runs and 13 hits in three losses in Cincinnati, the Phillies hammered out 13 hits Thursday night against former Cy Young runner-up Adam Wainright and two Cards relievers. But they left men on base inning after inning, stranded runners in key spots and lost their fourth straight game, 4-3, to the Cards at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).

“As long as we keep getting them, eventually it’ll come around,” third baseman Michael Young said. “As long as we have a good approach, eventually we’ll start to find some holes in big spots.”

The Phils have now scored three or fewer runs in seven straight games for only the fifth time since 1976.

They fell to 6-10, their worst record after 16 games since they were 5-11 in 2007.

“We hit the ball good,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We had runners on base. That’s the best we’ve hit in a while. We had some good chances, we just couldn’t cash in. We didn’t get the big hit when we had chances.”

The Phillies wasted a bunch of good opportunities. Two on with one out in the fourth. Two on with two outs in the eighth. Then first and third with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, a jam reliever Edward Mujica worked out of by getting Kevin Frandsen to ground out, striking out Jimmy Rollins and getting Freddy Galvis to bounce out.

“I felt our approach was a little better,” Young said. “But we have to make sure that every positive turns into a win.”

Ryan Howard had three hits, and Chase Utley, Galvis and Erik Kratz had two apiece.

This was the first time since Oct. 1, 2009 in a 5-3 loss to the Astros that the Phillies scored three or fewer runs despite 13 or more hits.

The Phillies also failed to draw a walk for the fourth consecutive game, matching the longest such streak by any major-league team in 93 years. They’ve sent 135 batters in a row to the plate without a walk.

The Phillies’ latest frustrating offensive performance wasted a solid outing by Cole Hamels, who went seven innings, allowing five hits and three runs. He struck out eight and walked two.

Two of the three runs he allowed were tainted, coming on a routine fly ball that John Mayberry turned into a double and then a two-run double by Yadier Molina down the right-field line in the fourth that appeared to be foul.

Mayberry simply fell down ranging to his right while tracking down Allen Craig’s fly ball to right-center.

“I was going back on it and and looked back and the ball was in the lights,” Mayberry said. “By the time I [found it], my cleat kind of gave out, and I wasn’t able to recover and make the break.”

Craig’s double gave the Cards second and third with no outs, and Molina’s double gave the Cards a 2-0 lead.

“It kind of looked like the ball did not hit the line,” Manuel said. “It looked like it was foul. It was very, very close, but it looked like it was a foul ball.”

Two bad breaks for Hamels, but he didn’t use either one as an excuse.

“It comes with baseball,” said Hamels, winless after four starts for the first time since 2009. “There’s going to be situations you have to battle through, and it tonight it was a couple poorly executed pitches. … You have to put it past you and try to minimize runs, and I wasn’t able to do that as well as I would have liked.

“I felt really good tonight. Everything was working well. I was able to execute most of my pitches, but a few got away and didn’t go where you planned, and they came at the wrong time. When I’m making mistakes, they’re coming at the wrong time right now. Sometimes you have to be better than good to win games. You have to be great.”

The Phillies tied the game at 2-all in the sixth on doubles by Rollins, back in the leadoff spot for the first time this year, and Galvis, making his first career start in the outfield, and a base hit by Utley. They tied it at 3-all in the seventh on Kratz’s RBI single.

But Carlos Beltran’s 336th career home run, a solo shot just over the left-field wall off Mike Adams in the top of the eighth, was the game-winner.

“He’s a good hitter, and I left one up just enough where he could get a pretty good pass on it,” Adams said. “He struck it well. I thought maybe it might be to the warning track or off the wall, but it stayed up and got out.”

With the Braves winning again, the Phillies dropped 7½ games out of first place.

“I mean, they’re hot, they’re a good team,” Ben Revere said of the 13-2 Braves. “They have good pitching, good hitting, but we’re going to get hot, and when we start rolling, we’re going to be a tough team to beat also. We’re going to be up there with them, I guarantee that.

“We’ve got a good enough ball club to compete for a championship. I believe in this squad.”

Tonight's lineup: Aaron Altherr to make 6th straight start

Tonight's lineup: Aaron Altherr to make 6th straight start

Aaron Altherr's audition continues Wednesday night.

The Phillies put out the same lineup on Wednesday as they were going to use on Tuesday before the game was rained out. 

For Altherr, it's his sixth straight start. Howie Kendrick's oblique injury has provided the 26-year-old outfielder another chance to play regularly, and so far, so good for Altherr. He's 9 for 21 with three doubles, a homer, four RBIs and seven runs scored over his last six games.

Altherr is also the Phillies' best defensive outfielder, so if he continues to hit it will be tough for Pete Mackanin to pull him out of the lineup when Kendrick is ready to return. That's where Kendrick's versatility comes into play — he could play first base or second base on any given night, opening up a spot in the corner outfield for Altherr.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Aaron Altherr, LF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Michael Saunders, RF
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Vince Velasquez, P

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: 48 hours after last win, Phils take the field

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: 48 hours after last win, Phils take the field

Phillies (9-9) vs. Marlins (10-8)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies will have had 48 hours off when they take the field Wednesday night against the Miami Marlins, the only division team they've yet to face.

The Phils and Marlins were rained out Tuesday with a makeup date yet to be determined. Aug. 21 seems like a safe bet — it's the next time the Marlins come here, and both they and the Phillies have an off-day before their scheduled three-game series Aug. 22-24.

1. Pitching plans
The rainout forces the Phillies to push back Nick Pivetta's major-league debut until the weekend in Los Angeles (see story).

It makes sense to try to keep the rest of the rotation on schedule. Jeremy Hellickson, who last pitched Friday, will start Thursday's series finale against the Marlins. There's no sense in messing with his rhythm too much because Hellickson has made four excellent starts to open the season.

So it looks like Pivetta will pitch Sunday at Dodger Stadium against Clayton Kershaw and an experienced lineup. That would mean Pivetta would be the lone Phillies starting pitcher not to face the Cubs in the ensuing four-game series at Wrigley Field.

The upcoming schedule is tough -- after hosting the Marlins, the Phillies have three in L.A., four in Chicago and then three at home against the Nationals, who own baseball's best record at 14-6.

2. Velasquez looks for two in a row
Vince Velasquez pitched much better than his line last Wednesday at Citi Field. After averaging a major-league worst 21.3 pitches per inning in his first two starts, he needed just 84 pitches to complete six innings.

He was through 5 2/3 scoreless before Bruce beat him for a three-run homer.

Velasquez just had everything working against the Mets. He threw more than twice as many sinkers (11) than he threw in his first two starts combined (five). He had three 1-2-3 innings.

It was surprising to see Velasquez strike out only two batters in a whiff-prone Mets lineup, but it was no coincidence that by getting quicker outs he was able to go deeper into a game. It was a rare performance for him last week — Velasquez induced just two swinging strikes after getting 17 in his season debut and averaging 10.5 per game as a Phillie.

Velasquez faced the Marlins three times last season and went 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA. He struck out 20, walked seven and allowed two homers in 18 innings. 

The only time he faced them in Miami, he allowed four runs in the first two innings before settling in to pitch four scoreless. (That was the game that ended with Giancarlo Stanton's titanic blast off Hector Neris.)

In the two other meetings, Velasquez pitched five shutout innings with 10 strikeouts and gave up just three hits and one run in seven innings two months later.

Christian Yelich has hit him the hardest, going 3 for 8 with a triple and two homers. Martin Prado is 3 for 9 with two doubles. Stanton is 0 for 6 with three strikeouts.

The Prados of the world can give Velasquez trouble because they don't swing and miss much.

3. Scouting the Fish
The Marlins are on the third and final leg of a rough road trip, travel-wise. They started out as far away from Miami as possible with a series in Seattle, then went to San Diego and wrap it up in Philly before heading home.

After losing three of the first four games of the trip, they ended the San Diego series with back-to-back wins.

Phillie-killer Marcell Ozuna is having a heckuva month, leading the majors with 21 RBIs. He's hit .306 with six homers and two doubles.

Stanton is heating up, which is bad news for the Phillies. He's 9 for 17 over his last four games with four homers, seven RBIs, two walks and one strikeout. He's obviously seeing the ball very well at the moment.

The book on Stanton, as always, is to beat him with low-and-away sliders. If the pitch starts in the middle of the plate he has a lot of trouble laying off of it. He's so big and extends his arms so far that he often thinks he can reach pitches he can't. In his career, Stanton has swung at pitches classified as low and outside off the plate 249 times and has one hit. One.

J.T. Realmuto has quietly become one of the game's most consistent offensive catchers. He's hit .344 in the early going.

Second baseman Dee Gordon is always a threat to swipe a bag when he reaches. He's hit .288 with a .313 OBP so far and has stolen four bases in five tries.

Yelich, who bats third, is always a tough out. 

The Marlins' lineup is deep.

4. A rare lefty starter
It seems like there are fewer left-handed starting pitchers than ever before, especially in the NL East. The Nationals have played all 19 games against right-handed starters. The Braves have faced only one, while the Phillies and Marlins have seen three.

On Tuesday, the Phillies face 31-year-old southpaw Wei-Yin Chen, who the Marlins signed away from the Orioles two offseasons ago with a five-year, $80 million contract. 

Chen disappointed in his first season in Miami in 2016, going 5-5 with a 4.96 ERA in 22 starts. He allowed 22 home runs, a surprisingly high mark at a ballpark as cavernous as Marlins Park.

In three starts this season, Chen is 2-0 with a 3.94 ERA. He's coming off seven no-hit (yes, no-hit) innings last Tuesday in Seattle. He gave up six runs and two homers in three innings the previous start.

The Phillies beat up on Chen the last time they saw him, scoring four runs on 11 hits over 5 1/3 innings. 

Current Phils have hit .378 off of him with five doubles and three home runs in 81 at-bats. Switch-hitting Daniel Nava is 7 for 17 with a homer and could get a start. Cesar Hernandez is 5 for 12 with two doubles. Freddy Galvis is also 5 for 12 with a double. Maikel Franco is 4 for 12 with a double and a homer.

5. This and that
• Monday was a much-needed day off for Hector Neris, who has labored through his last two outings, needing 49 pitches to get six outs. He's allowed runs in back-to-back games after starting the year with eight scoreless appearances.

• The Phillies' 1-2-3 hitters this season have a combined .384 on-base percentage. (This includes all players who have batted in one of those three spots.)

• In 58 career games against the Phils, Ozuna has hit .310 with 18 doubles, seven homers and 29 RBIs.

• We always notice it when they do, so let's also notice when they don't. Stanton has not been a Phillie-killer throughout his career, hitting just .252 against them with 19 homers and 44 RBIs in 86 games. Compare that, for example, to his numbers against the Nats: .301, 28 homers, 66 RBIs in the same number of games.

In four of his seven seasons, Stanton has hit .217 or worse against the Phillies.