Slumping Phillies lack timely hits in loss to Cards

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Slumping Phillies lack timely hits in loss to Cards

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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.”

Best of MLB: Dodgers lose injured Clayton Kershaw, beat Braves in 10 innings

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Best of MLB: Dodgers lose injured Clayton Kershaw, beat Braves in 10 innings

LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw left after two innings with a back injury, but the Los Angeles Dodgers overcame a blown save by Kenley Jansen to beat the Atlanta Braves 5-4 on Sunday on Logan Forsythe's bases-loaded single in the 10th.

Kershaw, unbeaten in 15 consecutive starts, left after 21 pitches because of right low back tightness.

Jansen entered with a 3-1 lead and got the final out of the eighth, but gave up a three-run homer to Matt Adams in the ninth, tying the game at 4-all.

Forsythe singled up the middle after Cody Bellinger was intentionally walked by Jim Johnson (6-2) to load the bases.

Brandon Morrow (3-0) got the win after retiring the side in the top of the 10th.

Austin Barnes hit a three-run homer in the fourth for the Dodgers (see full recap).

Britton gets AL consecutive saves record as Orioles beat Astros
BALTIMORE -- Zach Britton set an American League record by converting his 55th consecutive save opportunity, blanking the Houston Astros in the ninth inning the seal the Baltimore Orioles' 9-7 victory on Sunday.

Britton struck out the first two batters and issued a walk before pinch-hitter George Springer bounced into a force play to end it.

Britton broke the AL mark held by Tom Gordon, who notched 54 straight saves with Boston from 1998-99. Britton started his run on Oct. 1, 2015, added 47 in a row last season and is 6 for 6 this year.

The major league record of 84 is held by Eric Gagne of the Dodgers from 2002-04. Saves became an official statistic in 1969.

Britton earned his fifth save on April 14 and endured two months on the disabled list with a strained left forearm before returning on July 5 (see full recap).

Nationals beat D-backs but lose Strasburg to injury
PHOENIX -- Stephen Strasburg left after struggling with his control in the second inning, and the Washington Nationals wrapped up a successful nine-game trip with a 6-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday.

There was no word from the Nationals during the game explaining the standout right-hander's departure.

Strasburg, 10-3 with a 3.31 ERA entering the game, uncharacteristically walked the No. 8 and No. 9 batters in the second inning before departing with a 5-0 lead. He threw 51 pitches, 29 strikes.

Brian Goodwin's leadoff homer ignited a four-run first inning off Robbie Ray (9-5), who lasted five innings, allowing five runs.

Wilmer Difo hit his second home run of the season off reliever T.J. McFarland in the seventh.

Joe Blanton (1-2) got two outs and earned the win.

The NL East-leading Nationals took two of three in Arizona to go 7-2 on the trip (see full recap).

Yankees win 1st series in 6 weeks, beat Mariners
SEATTLE -- The New York Yankees won a series for the first time in six weeks when Aroldis Chapman struck out Ben Gamel with a runner on to preserve a 6-4 victory over Seattle on Sunday, their third win in four games against the Mariners this weekend.

The Yankees had been 0-8-2 in series since sweeping Baltimore on June 9-11. New York had lost 13 straight games with a chance to win a series.

After Seattle overcame a 3-0 deficit with a four-run fourth inning against Caleb Smith, Brett Gardner hit a tying, bases-loaded single in the sixth and Clint Frazier followed with a two-run double off former Yankee James Pazos (2-3).

Didi Gregorius had his first career multihomer game with solo shots in the second and fourth innings for New York, both on 0-1 pitches from Yovani Gallardo. Gregorius has 14 home runs.

Gardner opened the game with his 17th home run.

A converted starter pitching on consecutive days for the first time in big league career, Chad Green (1-0) struck out three in 2 1/3 perfect innings. Dellin Betances and David Robertson each threw a hitless inning, and Chapman had another shaky finish for his 11th save (see full recap).

Nationals' GCL affiliate pitch no-hitter in both games of doubleheader
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Washington Nationals' rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate pitched seven-inning no-hitters in both ends of a doubleheader Sunday.

Facing the GCL Marlins at the teams' shared spring training home, right-handed prospect Joan Baez opened the first game with six innings, allowing a walk and striking out seven. Jose Jimenez walked one in the seventh to close a 4-0 victory.

Baez is among the organization's top pitching prospects. He improved to 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA in four appearances (three starts) with the GCL Nationals.

In the second game, Jared Johnson walked one in four innings, and Gilberto Chu closed with three perfect innings in a 1-0 win. It was only the second pro start for Johnson, a 17th-round draft pick last month from Palm Beach State Junior College.

They were the first no-hitters in the GCL this season.

Close to full health, Phillies no longer look like the worst team in baseball

Close to full health, Phillies no longer look like the worst team in baseball

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Though they still have the worst record in the majors by 3½ games, the 34-62 Phillies aren't playing like the worst team in baseball right now.

Not from an offensive standpoint, not from a starting pitching standpoint, not from a bullpen standpoint.

The Phils' offense stayed hot Sunday afternoon in a 6-3 win over the Brewers, their fourth win in five games and sixth in the last 10 (see Instant Replay).

Nick Williams homered again, Howie Kendrick had a very Howie Kendrick-like at-bat with the bases loaded, Jerad Eickhoff spun a quality start and the trio of Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit and Luis Garcia sealed the win.

The Phillies have scored at least five runs in seven straight games, which is something none of their recent division-winning teams did in a single season. It's their longest such streak since May 31-June 7, 2005.

Their starting pitchers have allowed three runs or less in six of the last eight games.

And the Phils' bullpen has the lowest ERA in the majors since June 26 at 2.19.

A lot of things are clicking right now for a team that probably can't play worse than it did in the first half. The Phils' record remains hideous, but there are actually four teams with worse run differentials: the Reds, Blue Jays, Giants and Padres.

"My first year here as a coach was '09, and in no way am I comparing ourselves to that team, but it was reminiscent the way we've been swinging the bats of us coming back and coming from behind and catching up and beating other teams," Pete Mackanin said. "It reminds me to a certain degree."

For much of the season, Mackanin has walked into the Phillies' media room after a loss and said that his hitters aren't living up to their standard. For much of the season, the Phillies have made quick outs and life easy for the opposing pitcher. 

But with Kendrick and Cesar Hernandez back from the DL, with Odubel Herrera hitting .331 since June 1, with Maikel Franco walking as much as he's struck out the last 35 games, and with Williams' power and energy rubbing off on the rest of the team, many different Phillies are playing like they have something to prove.

"Everybody is playing for a job next year," Mackanin said. "Everybody is playing to be part of our future and I think the guys are competing among themselves. It's good to see. Everybody's more aggressive. They're into the games."

The energy added by Williams' arrival on June 30 has been impossible to ignore, though it's kind of a chicken-or-egg thing. Is there added energy because he and so many other guys started hitting, or are they hitting because there's a more positive vibe in the clubhouse and dugout?

"I like to do whatever I can to start the momentum or get guys going," Williams said. "If I do something exciting, they're like, 'Oh, he's playing hard.' But everyone's been hitting and everyone's been just playing the game right and just doing all the little things and that's how we've been able to come out with some victories.

"In close spots with the hitting, we've been able to knock a lot of guys in. It's just that hitting's contagious. I always say when one guy does it, why can't the next? That's how I think of it."

The biggest spot in Sunday's game came with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth inning. With the game tied, the Brewers switched pitchers and Kendrick quickly found himself down 0-2 before singling up the middle to score two runs.

Kendrick has missed 60 games this season and it's been frustrating for him because he's been so locked-in when he's played. After picking up two more hits Sunday, he's up to .353 with an .873 OPS. His numbers are rarely sexy because he averages about 10 home runs per season, but a versatile, perennial .290 hitter has value. It's why the Phillies' offseason acquisition of Kendrick made sense and it's why he figures to have some trade value even though Sunday was just his 36th game of the year.

"Not only is he a good hitter but he plays solid defense out there," Mackanin said. "He doesn't have the greatest range but it's not bad. He's average to maybe a tick above average. 

"I'm sure there's a lot of interest in a lot of our guys, (Pat) Neshek, [Kendrick], even (Joaquin) Benoit, (Daniel) Nava. We'll wait and see."

The non-waiver trade deadline is just eight days away and general manager Matt Klentak expects there to be some movement. The Phils' two best trade chips are Kendrick and Neshek and both had productive weekends. Neshek pitched a scoreless seventh inning to lower his ERA to 1.12. He's allowed runs in just two of 43 appearances.

And Kendrick has picked up right where he left off, going 4 for 10 since returning Friday from a hamstring strain.

"If I were scouting for another organization I'd recommend him," Mackanin said of Kendrick. "I'd put an acquire (label) on him."

We'll soon see what that acquire label nets the Phillies. The return won't be huge, but trading Kendrick will allow the Phils to add another young player with upside and open a spot back up for Aaron Altherr, who could return from the DL as early as Wednesday.