Phillies' losing streak at eight after Mets sweep doubleheader

Manager Charlie Manuel is still waiting for the Phillies offense to break out of its funk.
Manager Charlie Manuel is still waiting for the Phillies offense to break out of its funk. (PATRICK McDERMOTT / Getty Images)
Posted: September 25, 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 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 going to 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 have lost eight consecutive games for the first time since 2000. They 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.

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 nor RBI since he was beaned Sept. 7, hammered a double off the center-field wall in the second game.

But those hits from top-of-the-lineup players weren't enough to satisfy manager Charlie Manuel, who began his postgame assessment by saying he didn't know what to say - and then he said a lot about why the Phillies have done nothing but lose since clinching the division.

He said his team is out of sync because of all the lineup changes. He said they've lost their focus, their mojo, and he challenged the players to turn things around before it's too late. The games since the division-clinching may be meaningless, but Manuel abhors the thought of the Phillies' going into the postseason wobbling as they are.

"Do we have time? We'll see. It'll be a test of how good we are," Manuel said. "This is the first time this year that we've actually gone bad. It's not a real good time to go bad. At the same time, this will be a good measuring stick for us. We created this ourselves, so we'll see."

The Phillies 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. If everyone's available, he'll start his playoff lineup.

"I've said this over and over, when you start messing with your lineup . . .," he said. "All of a sudden we wanted guys who are hurting to get well, and we start giving them two, three days off, and then you look around and all of a sudden you lose your mojo. You lose your timing. You lose your rhythm. I know what I'm talking about. I've been in the damn game for 50 years. I know exactly what I'm talking about. We're out of sync. We're out of focus. We're searching and nothing's going right."

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.


Who's On Deck?

The Phillies, who have clinched the National League's best record, do not know who their opponent will be in the National League division series. If the Braves win the wild card, the Phils will play the division winner with the worst record. Milwaukee, at 93-65, is the Central champion, and West champion Arizona is 92-66. If they tie, the Phils will play the Brewers. If the Braves miss the playoffs, the Phillies will play the wild-card winner.

   W   L   GB   REMAINING   

Atlanta    89   69   -   1 at Nationals, 3 vs. Phillies    

St. Louis   87   71   2   1 vs. Cubs, 3 at Astros   

 


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

 

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