Phil Sheridan: Sheridan: Phils have rough outing on opening day

Phils starter Kyle Kendrick (38) is lifted in the sixth inning. He had held the Royals scoreless through the first four innings. RON CORTES / Staff
Phils starter Kyle Kendrick (38) is lifted in the sixth inning. He had held the Royals scoreless through the first four innings. RON CORTES / Staff
Posted: April 06, 2013

The sun showed up. That was a positive.

Oh, and Joe Piscopo looks pretty good. Not sure where he's been, but remember when he did that Sinatra impersonation? That was really funny stuff.

None of the paratroopers broke anything.

So the Phillies home opener could have been a lot worse. You know it's a rough day when the lingering highlight is a few thousand ninth-inning wise guys sarcastically waving rally towels as if it were a tight playoff game. Hey, if their team can't entertain them, they'll entertain themselves.

The best thing about it, for all concerned, is that it's over with. Done. There will be no more forced marches through the bleachers and military flyovers and long introductions and baseballs delivered by daredevils and ceremonial first pitches by the ballplayers and SNL cast members of yesteryear.

Opening night in Atlanta is history. The home opener is in the books. Now all that's left on the to-do list is the 158-game remainder of the long, long season.

The bad news: The Phillies didn't exactly overshadow all the pomp of these first few games with their baseball prowess.

"This one's kind of a tough one," Ryan Howard said. "I know it's early, but it's tough. You don't want to lose your opener like that. . . . You get out to a 4-0 start, and you let it go."

The good news: There's still a bit of time - about six months - to make up for it. The Phillies have a long history of hideous home openers. They also have a long history of hideous seasons. But those two things are not inextricably linked. They have looked good in openers and stunk out the ballpark all summer. They have bombed on Day 1 and gone on to have good years.

As openers go, this was an especially grueling one. Howard, who is usually all about keeping things in perspective, seemed particularly annoyed by this loss. And no wonder.

For four innings, it was exactly what any team would want. The Phillies jumped to a 4-0 lead. The triumvirate of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Howard produced the first run with consecutive singles. Dom Brown blasted a home run. Ben Revere made a great diving catch.

Then it was 4-2. Still OK. Then Kyle Kendrick loaded the bases, and Jeremy Horst came in and gave up a three-run triple. Then Horst loaded the bases, and Chad Durbin came in and gave up a three-run triple.

"The first four innings were good," manager Charlie Manuel said. "The last five, of course, they got really ugly and out of hand."

As another Charles might have put it: It was the best of times, it was the Horst of times.

The pitching has been horrendous in three of the four games. The Phillies have lost all three. No shock there. But the bigger issue going forward is the offense. You can expect better outings from Cole Hamels and hope for improvement from Roy Halladay. But a lineup that shrivels up after getting that 4-0 lead, failing to produce a single hit off a series of Royals relievers, is just not going to cut it.

"We've got to finish teams off," Howard said. "We can't let off the gas. I don't want to say we let off the gas. Those guys just came back swinging. Sometimes that happens in baseball. We got beat today."

They left nine men on base, which is a lot considering they had exactly one base runner after the third inning. They left a total of 26 men on base in three games in Atlanta. In their lone, lonely victory, they produced just two runs for Cliff Lee.

The Phillies may not be the run factory they were in 2007 and 2008, but they're going to have to do better than that. That falls on Utley, Howard, and Michael Young, the middle of the order.

At some point, Delmon Young and Carlos Ruiz will be back. That can't hurt. But if Delmon Young is the cavalry, then things really are bleak.

"I like our ball club," Manuel said. "We've got to improve on how we played today, for sure."

Getting worse would take some doing. Fortunately, the schedule provides 158 opportunities to get better.


Contact Phil Sheridan at psheridan@phillynews.com. Follow @Sheridanscribe on Twitter.

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