MIAMI — The Phillies enjoyed a three-week stretch before the All-Star break when they were the best hitting team in baseball.
In the final 19 games before the break, they hit .308 with a .871 OPS. Both marks were tops in the majors over that span. They averaged 5.63 runs per game in that stretch.
The run of sturdy offense created some excitement and anticipation heading into the second half of the season. But that excitement and anticipation has now dissipated. Since coming back from the break, the Phillies’ offense has retreated back to invisibility.
The Phils were blanked, 5-0, by the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night, wasting a terrific start from Jerad Eickhoff (see Instant Replay).
After the game, manager Pete Mackanin was peeved.
“The only thing positive I can say about this game is Eickhoff,” Mackanin said. “He was outstanding. He had a great curveball, hit his spots, pitched well. It was a pitchers' duel up until the end. I’m real happy about that.
"But that’s about all I’m happy about.”
Marlins starter Tom Koehler and a trio of relievers held the Phillies to just four singles.
Phillies hitters struck out 10 times. They have averaged 9.5 strikeouts in 12 games since coming back from the break and hit just .208. They are averaging just 2.75 runs in the 12 games since the break and carrying a 4-8 record.
“Poor plate discipline,” Mackanin said. “Poor plate discipline. Swinging at too many bad pitches. We get ourselves out too often. That’s about all I can think of.
“Koehler pitched well. But we helped him out a lot. We didn’t give him a chance to walk us. We swung at too many bad pitches. That’s our problem. We just get ourselves out too often. That’s what it boils down to.
“If you’re a free swinger who’s going to hit 30-plus home runs and drive in 100 runs, that’s acceptable to me. But if you’re not a power hitter, it’s unacceptable. You’ve got to make adjustments. You’ve got improve on it. You’ve got to work on it.”
Peter Bourjos offered his thoughts on the Phillies’ offensive struggles since the All-Star break.
“It's almost like it was probably bad timing for that break,” he said. “Everything was rolling. We were swinging the bats really well. Everyone looked comfortable in the box and feeling good and it's tough right now. You can see what there was with the offense. I think it's going to come back. We just need to get back into the rhythm that we had and everything's going to be all right.”
Eickhoff scattered five hits and a run over seven innings. He walked one and struck out eight, a big improvement over his previous start when these same Marlins tagged him for nine hits and six runs in five innings.
“I was more aggressive,” Eickhoff said. “It’s amazing what being aggressive will do for your game and how hitters will react. I threw my fastball inside and that set up my curveball so much more.”
The poor run support was nothing new for Eickhoff. He entered the game receiving an average of just 3.53 runs per game, 10th worst in the majors.
It was a scoreless game until there were two outs in the sixth. That’s when Giancarlo Stanton swatted a two-out RBI single to right, scoring Martin Prado from second. Stanton’s hit rolled untouched through the second base area because the Phillies’ defense was shifted to the pull side.
“We’ve got to play a shift on him,” Mackanin said of baseball's most fearsome power bat.
The game got out of hand when the bullpen was tagged for four runs in the eighth. Ichiro Suzuki stroked career hit No. 2,997 to get the Marlins’ late rally started.
In the first inning, Suzuki launched a long drive to the gap in right-center. Rightfielder Bourjos ran the ball down and made a terrific catch while crashing into the wall. He left the game with a jammed right shoulder and could miss some time (see story).