Phillies losing streak at eight after Mets sweep doubleheader

Posted: September 24, 2011

NEW YORK - With four regular-season games remaining before Saturday's start of the National League division series at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies are running out of time in their attempt to crank up the offense, which managed a grand total of three earned runs in a sweep by the Mets, 2-1 and 6-3, of a day/night doubleheader on Saturday at Citi Field.

Apparently, they're also raising concerns among some of their pitchers.

A few days ago, Roy Oswalt delivered a message that was hardly subtle when he warned that the hottest team going into the postseason is usually the most difficult to beat.

It was Cole Hamels' turn to express a little angst after the Phillies went down to their seventh straight loss, 2-1, in the first game.

"I know the pitchers . . . we're ready to go," said Hamels, who pitched seven strong innings with the only pockmark on his line a two-out homer by pinch-hitter Valentino Pascucci with two out in the seventh. "We're gonna go out there and try to throw nine-inning shutouts. I know it's not possible, but that's our plan, so everybody just needs to get on board."

The Phillies now have to win their four remaining games to break the club record for most wins in a season, which a week ago seemed like a foregone conclusion.

In the second game, there were signs of life from some core players, even though the Phillies' losing streak reached eight for the first time since 2000 with a 6-3 defeat.

Jimmy Rollins, who batted .083 (2 for 24) in the previous seven games, had three singles. Shane Victorino, who began the long day also batting .083 (2 for 24) in his prior six games, had a hit in each game. Chase Utley, who'd been batting .194 (6 for 31) with neither a homer or RBI since he was beaned Sept. 7, hammered a double off the center-field wall in the second game.

Those three make up the top of the Phillies lineup, and, if they don't get going, the World Series parade that's been so wildly anticipated isn't going to happen.

"We've got to find a way to score some runs," manager Charlie Manuel said.

The Phillies played 18 innings and scraped together only three earned runs. They have scored three or fewer runs in 14 of their last 16 games.

For Phillies fans whose knuckles are slowly turning white because of the futility at the plate, here's something to consider: In 2000, the Yankees lost 13 of their last 15 regular-season games and scored 11 runs in the final six, yet went on to win the World Series. On the other hand, the 2001 Seattle Mariners club that won 116 games ended the season by winning 10 of 12 and didn't make it to the World Series.

Largely because of injuries to Ryan Howard and Hunter Pence, the Phillies have not had their starting lineup on the field since they nailed down the division. But Manuel wants his team to begin getting in serious playoff mode beginning Sunday in the series finale against the Mets before they move on to Atlanta for three games. If everyone's available, he said he'll probably start his playoff lineup.

"These next four days we need to start hitting some balls hard," Manuel said. "Every day gets a little closer [to the postseason]. But I've seen teams have a hard time finishing the season and once they get in the playoffs they go, and I've seen it the other way, too."

Howard played for the first time since the division clincher eight days ago and drove in the Phillies' lone run in the first game with a single, his 114th RBI. Pence pinch-hit in the first game and started the second, his first action after missing three games with a strained patellar tendon in his left knee.

Pence factored significantly in the Game 2 defeat when a long drive by the Mets' Willie Harris clattered off his glove with two out in the third, an error that resulted in four unearned runs off David Herndon. The Phillies had seven hits the first three innings before they went back to sleep.

For the Phils, the second game was like a workshop for relievers. Joe Blanton, out most of the season with elbow problems, made his first start since May 14 and turned in two solid innings with three strikeouts. Still, it seems Blanton's only chance to make the 25-man postseason roster is if the Phillies decide to carry 11 pitchers.

A positive for the Phillies bullpen was two strong innings by Mike Stutes in the second game. The rookie righthander had been scored on in his previous two appearances, but three days of rest may have helped him regain command of his slider.


Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at rparrillo@phillynews.com or @rayparrilloinq on Twitter.

 

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