Phillies foiled again in bid to reach .500

Catcher Erik Kratz visits Phillies starter Jonathan Pettibone in the first inning, when he gave up four runs to the Red Sox. Pettibone lasted only five innings and took his first loss.
Catcher Erik Kratz visits Phillies starter Jonathan Pettibone in the first inning, when he gave up four runs to the Red Sox. Pettibone lasted only five innings and took his first loss. (DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 01, 2013

The Phillies have chased mediocrity for a third of this uninspiring season, and a 9-2 defeat to Boston in 3 hours, 15 minutes Thursday epitomized 54 games' worth of frustration. Twice in four days, the Red Sox scratched one of their ace pitchers and won. They split four games with the Phillies.

Inside the clubhouse, talk of a .500 record is met with disapproving nods. It is not about reaching that plateau, rather, the boost it will theoretically provide. Reality says the Phillies have played .500 ball since Sept. 1, 2011. It will require more than a short string of victories to improve this team's fates.

"We didn't muster enough offense," manager Charlie Manuel said. "It's kind of the same thing every day."

The Phillies were last at .500 on April 14, with a 6-6 record. They lost for the fourth time since then when attempting to even their record. They managed three hits after the first inning, an inning that decided this game because a potent Boston lineup jumped 22-year-old pitcher Jonathan Pettibone.

Franklin Morales started for Boston in his season debut because Jon Lester was bumped to face the division-rival Yankees. When Clay Buchholz was substituted Monday in Boston, Alfredo Aceves and his 8.20 ERA confounded the Phillies. Before Thursday's first pitch, Manuel viewed Morales as a favorable adversary. The lefty completed five innings and allowed two runs. What did he do well?

"I don't know," catcher Erik Kratz said. "Umm . . . I really don't know."

Granted, Manuel fielded a lineup missing Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Michael Young and Carlos Ruiz. Domonic Brown singled twice and could not again carry this offense. Delmon Young homered in the first inning and struck out twice.

The Phillies loaded the bases in the fourth with two walks and a Brown single. When Kratz stepped to the plate, the Phillies were 4 for 28 with the bases loaded. Their .376 OPS ranked 28th in baseball.

Kratz bounced into an inning-ending double play. Jimmy Rollins touched home and peered toward second. He slammed his helmet.

"That's a situation where we can turn his night into a terrible night," Kratz said. "Bases loaded, one out. We just didn't do it. I didn't do it."

Pettibone drifted to the Phillies dugout at 7:21 p.m. and trailed by 4-0. Eight Red Sox batted and Pettibone needed 28 pitches for three outs.

The Phillies have lost 13 games by five or more runs. They lost 14 such games in all of 2012. Their immediate schedule is benevolent. They play their next 13 games against basement dwellers Milwaukee and Miami and fourth-place Minnesota. Maybe .500 will happen then. Maybe not.

After many in the crowd of 40,083 left Citizens Bank Park, the game devolved into a bullpen massacre. Chad Durbin was tagged for three more runs, which bloated his ERA to 9.00. The 35-year-old reliever who signed a one-year, $1.1 million deal, with a $1.5 million club option for 2014, is answerless. The scant fans who remained supported him with mocking applause.

Lefthander Jeremy Horst fared no better. Once he permitted a two-out, pinch-hit homer to Jonny Gomes, he plunked Jacoby Ellsbury with a 90-m.p.h. fastball. Both benches were warned by home-plate umpire Bill Miller.

Ellsbury proceeded to steal second and third base. The Boston centerfielder ran all over the Phillies. He stole five bases, establishing a Boston club record. Manuel was peeved at his pitchers for not paying closer attention to him. As the manager spoke, the Phillies gifted Ellsbury second base for his dominance. The quest for a .500 record ambles to another day in a season one-third complete, and that is what defines these Phillies.

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