Phils hit the road for a make-or-break trip

Posted: June 25, 2013

Those of you wishing the Phillies would just go away can smile a bit wider today. Your favorite baseball fundamentalists should be a continent away by the time you read this.

Regrettably, they will be back. But not until July 5, after 11 days and 10 baseball games. Many of those games will start late enough at night that most fans should be able to take an extended break from watching the fundamentalists ply their craft.

A little separation can be good for a relationship. This one is well timed.

The Phillies leave here with a 36-40 record. They are, to be kind, not an especially good baseball team right now. Worse, they can be downright grueling to watch.

On Sunday, with Matt Harvey on the mound for the Mets, the Phillies had zero chance. They were not competitive. They showed no fight.

"We were 3-3 on the homestand," manager Charlie Manuel said. "That feels to me like that's how we play. If you watch us play all year long . . . that's kind of how we play. We've got to play better baseball."

The low point was Ben Revere's nonchalant ballhandling. The centerfielder dropped a routine fly, turning an out into a three-base error that jump-started the Mets' three-run fifth inning.

Replays showed Revere dropped the ball after the catch, while transferring it to his right hand. But the umpires couldn't see the play in slow motion. In real time, Revere's carelessness gave the Mets a leadoff runner on third and Phillies starter John Lannan an extra out to earn.

Revere spent the rest of the afternoon playing caroms off the outfield wall. When a lazy fly ball landed in his glove in the ninth, the few-thousand souls remaining in the park showered him with richly deserved ironic applause.

Worse, the game was over after that sloppy fifth inning. There is no sign of the Phillies team that made itself into a perennial contender by playing no-prisoners baseball until the 27th out was recorded.

There are players here from those heady days, but that team - the one that restored baseball to its proper place in the hearts of Philadelphia fans - has disappeared without a trace.

"When you see us play today, the way Harvey handled us, then all of a sudden we get sloppy at the end, doubts start creeping in your mind," Manuel said. "It gets down to how bad you want it. Attitude can take you a long ways. . . . How many of those guys [we have], I don't know."

It's tempting to suggest the team could use a break from its restless fans, as well. Considering the fundamentalists went 3-7 on their last road trip, that's probably not the case.

This time around, the Phillies will play three in San Diego, four in Los Angeles, and then finish the trip with three in Pittsburgh. The last of those is scheduled for the Fourth of July, and that's fitting.

If this team goes .500 or worse on this trip, we can safely declare our emotional independence from the 2013 Phillies. Look at the math: If the Phillies go 4-6, they will come home with a 40-46 record. To get to 90 wins, a reasonable benchmark for a playoff berth, they would have to win 50 of their remaining 76 games.

That's a winning percentage of .658 for a team with a winning percentage of .474. Cinderella's fairy godmother didn't work that kind of transformation, and no one here seems to have a magic wand.

Or even a hot bat.

The team that boarded the charter to San Diego is as close to a full squad as the Phillies have had this year. Chase Utley is back. Carlos Ruiz is back. Lannan is pitching every fifth day. If that squad can't go 7-3, can't create a little momentum for itself, then it can't expect anyone else to believe, either.

"I wonder if we can do that, yes," Manuel said.

The point is, let the fundamentalists go about this on their own. Give them this 10-game stretch and then see where they stand when they get home. If they can play their way back into relevance, you can resume caring. If they can't, that's on them.

Eagles training camp opens July 22.

Contact Phil Sheridan at Follow @Sheridanscribe on Twitter.

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