OK, we have some good news and we have some bad news for Phillies fans. However, as it has been the case as of late, the not-so good news outweighs the rest.
The good news? For starters, the Phillies actually got a few hits with runners in scoring position against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night at the Bank. Ben Francisco, Raul Ibanez and John Mayberry combined for eight hits as the club went 4 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
However, the Phillies pitchers could not stop the Nats from scoring in the 7-5 defeat. (See game breakdown.) Because of that, the Phillies losing streak reached five games for the first time since May 22-27, 2010.
Though Francisco, Mayberry and Ibanez had their way with the Nats pitching, the rest of the Phillies lineup did not. In fact, the top four hitters in manager Charlie Manuels lineup went 0 for 16. But thats not the most worrisome aspect of the fifth straight loss for the Phillies. After all, with Ryan Howard and Hunter Pence out of the lineup until the weekend, one has to think that the offense will get it together at some point.
Im concerned about it, yeah. But at the same time, Ive seen them hit. I think that theyll hit, Manuel said. I dont know what youre going to do about it. Thats kind of how it goes.
Jimmy Rollins, who went 0 for 5 in the leadoff spot on Wednesday night and is 2 for 18 during the losing streak, says the energy level of the team waned for a bit after the clincher. However, by the time the Phillies hit New York on Friday and Atlanta next Monday, Rollins expects the Phillies to begin picking it up.
Naturally, there is a letdown after clinching, Rollins said. In the first game back you pretty much dont have a chance. You still have the celebration going on, but then you want to find ways to win and start playing good baseball again. Weve been sloppy, defensively. The other team has been getting hits when we usually shut them down, and were not getting hits when were used to. The silver lining is that we put up five runs and hopefully the five runs turns into a win.
Rollins says he expects the Braves to have to beat the Phillies in order to win the wild card. Those games, he says, should be motivators for the team.
Thats when you definitely want to turn it on, Rollins said. Not that its turned off, but the excitement of having to win comes back because its another team potentially in the playoffs needing to win and they will be giving it their all. It kind of brings out the best in you.
Meanwhile, lefty Antonio Bastardo continued to perplex Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee with yet another shaky outing in relief.
Bastardo came on in the eighth inning after September call-up Justin De Fratus put the first two hitters he faced on base via a hit-by-pitch and a walk. From there he promptly fired a ball into left field in attempt to cut down a runner at third on a bunt. Then, Bastardo went single, sacrifice fly, single before he wiggled out of the inning.
And yet now fans continue to wonder about the Phils late-inning relievers after Bastardos latest clunker. How out of form has he been? Try this out in his last 3 13 innings covering six appearances, Bastardo has allowed six earned runs. Before that, the lefty had allowed just five earned runs over 35 13 innings covering 37 appearances.
Whats going on with Bastardo?
I think his confidence is down some. I think he has to have a couple good innings. I think he has to go out there and have a couple clean innings. I think if he does that hell be all right, Manuel said. The only thing I can tell you from watching him tonight, he threw some good sliders down and they were right on them. They stayed right on them. It looked like they knew what was coming or something, I dont know. He was throwing the ball fine, but he was getting hit.
The plan was to have Bastardo get that easy inning on Wednesday night. Obviously, thats not the way it went down.
Tonight we wanted to see De Fratus face a couple hitters and bring him in on the Nats Rick Ankiel, but when we brought him in he had two guys on base, Manuel explained. I want to put him in position where he can get some guys out and feel good about himself and run him out there a few times. Thats what well try to do with him.
Regardless, the Phillies are going to be alright, says Manuel and Rollins. But then again, if this was October
I think if this is happening in October Ill probably be packing my car," Manuel said. "But its not October."
Oh, but it's just around the corner.
E-mail John R. Finger at firstname.lastname@example.org.