Phils are at a loss against AL teams

Posted: May 16, 2014

So let's get the good news from the Phillies' 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim out of the way first.

The Phillies bullpen did a tremendous job Wednesday afternoon of protecting a three-run deficit. You don't get a save or a hold for that, but at least the relievers didn't need closer Jonathan Papelbon to help out, so he should be fresh and ready when they open a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night. You'll also be happy to hear that Antonio Bastardo pitched a scoreless ninth.

And the best news of all: The Phillies do not have to play another American League team until Aug. 5, and even then it's the Houston Astros, a notoriously horrendous squad with National League roots. The Phillies are 16-13 against their own league.

"First of all, we are 1-8 against American League teams, so we need to improve there," manager Ryne Sandberg said.

The one win - a wild 14-10 victory - came on opening day in Texas. Since then, the Phillies have lost eight consecutive interleague games and have been outscored, 45-19. This is not a new trend, but it is a disturbing one. Since the start of the 2012 season, the Phillies are 13-31 in interleague play and have been outscored, 260-166.

If you were looking for explanations, the postgame home clubhouse wasn't the right place to be.

"Teams are getting hot," rightfielder Marlon Byrd said. "We had Toronto, we had Texas, and we had the Angels - all good teams. That's the thing; the next time we get into interleague, we have to figure out how they are pitching us. I've played in both leagues, so I know how they pitch and what they are trying to do. We need a better game plan."

Whatever the game plan was against Angels righthander Garrett Richards, it didn't work, but it would be wrong to not give the 25-year-old righthander some credit. He improved to 4-0 and lowered his ERA to 2.42 by holding the Phillies to five hits over seven scoreless innings.

"He throws 96, 97 [m.p.h.] with movement," Byrd said. "He did a great job. He's just one of those guys who is really coming into his own. When you face a good pitcher . . . you try and battle. It doesn't matter if it's interleague or not."

History shows it does matter. The Phillies have been so historically bad at this interleague thing that they might be able to declare their World Series win over the Tampa Bay Rays a miracle. They are 128-166 all-time in interleague play, including a 1-7 record against the Angels. They have a winning record against only four of the 14 teams they have taken on in interleague play. They have played the Astros only in National League games so far.

Even during the two years they most recently went to the World Series, they were 10-23 in interleague games.

Sandberg pointed out that Tony Gwynn Jr. was the Phillies' only hitter who had faced Richards before Wednesday, which would have made for a nice excuse after his last-place team failed to score for the third time in nine games. The manager made another point after that, however.

"Chase Utley had a good day with two doubles," Sandberg said. "He does a good job with video, and video is available. . . . We have film on [Richards], and guys had a chance to see him."

Mike Trout did his homework. The Angels centerfielder tripled off Mike Adams to open the seventh inning, and if you've never seen the Millville Meteor go from home to third, it's worth the price of admission. In addition to being fast and strong, the kid also pays attention to the scouting reports. He saw that Ben Revere had retrieved the baseball in center field and felt entirely comfortable taking the extra base. It was a little bit of light in an afternoon that desperately needed some electricity.

Jimmy Rollins, with a sixth-inning single, passed Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty for third place on the Phillies' all-time hit list. Only Hall of Famers Richie Ashburn and Mike Schmidt remain in front of him, and he will pass both of them in the near future, too. Utley had a couple of doubles, giving him a major-league-leading 17 for the season. He never crossed home plate, but you can't have everything.

The good news for the Phillies is that they don't have to see the Angels or any other American League team again until August. Now all they have to do is figure out how to fix all their other flaws.


bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob

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