Nationals pound the flailing Phillies, 7-0

Phillies starting pitcher David Buchanan. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Phillies starting pitcher David Buchanan. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Posted: June 05, 2014

WASHINGTON - David Buchanan's No. 55 jersey hung above an unused locker at the corner of the visitors clubhouse at Nationals Park as Ryne Sandberg spoke to his team.

Buchanan entered the room Tuesday about 30 minutes later, as is customary for the day's starting pitcher, and prepared for his third major-league start.

The meeting, called by Sandberg at 3:45 p.m., was succinct. He deemed it "necessary," although the manager did not speak for more than a couple of minutes before another Phillies debacle, this one a 7-0 loss to the Washington Nationals.

The urgency that Sandberg described, the burden of a flawed $189 million payroll, was shouldered by the 25-year-old rookie Buchanan.

"It was a serious meeting," Sandberg said. "It was a sense of urgency for right now. It's important right now."

At 7:57 p.m., Jayson Werth crushed a bases-loaded double that bounced into the Phillies bullpen. The beating continued for another hour. Anthony Rendon mashed a 90-m.p.h Buchanan fastball to deep center for a two-run shot at 8:58 p.m. that finally broke Buchanan.

The righthanded pitcher bent over. The damage was too great to watch. Sandberg stood from his perch in the dugout and did not flinch. Buchanan endured a Nationals onslaught: seven runs on 10 hits and two walks over 112 pitches in six innings. It was a most painful lesson.

The Phillies were blanked for the seventh time in their last 27 games. They had one extra-base hit, a fifth-inning Reid Brignac double. They are lifeless at a most crucial moment. It is dangerous to label a stretch in early June - just past the one-third mark of the season - as decisive. But Sandberg established that tone.

"It's time right now to do something about it," he said.

Jordan Zimmermann, the first in a slew of great pitchers to confront the Phillies, dominated for eight innings. Next is Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday, followed by Washington's Doug Fister and Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto, Alfredo Simon, and Homer Bailey.

The Phillies mustered two hits in the game's first seven innings. They tied three singles together in the eighth and were still held scoreless once Marlon Byrd hit a ground ball to shortstop.

Sandberg had attempted to alter fate with another new lineup combination. He aligned Jimmy Rollins at the top, put Chase Utley second for the first time this season, and bumped Byrd to third.

"Just to try something different," Sandberg said.

That did not work, either.

"The ball's not falling our way," Buchanan said, "but I don't see any panic."

Ryan Zimmerman, who returned from a 34-game absence caused by a broken thumb, doubled twice. Sandberg chose to intentionally walk Adam LaRoche ahead of Zimmerman in the fifth. Zimmerman's second double made it 4-0. The Phillies, at least, can boast this: They lead the majors with 22 intentional walks.

They are eight games under .500, and with every new failure, questions persist about the future of the franchise. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will face a crossroads at some point. He will have to decide whether it is wise to trade whatever assets the Phillies possess and begin a rebuilding project. That process, of course, could be guided by a new general manager.

"On my end, I think it's too early yet for that," Sandberg said. "I'm waiting for a hot streak. We haven't had a hot streak yet. I'm waiting for more consistent production in all areas of the game to allow us to have a hot streak. That's been the mentality since we left spring training - for everyone to step up and push."

The Phillies, though, are a year removed from their last winning streak of more than three games. That happened June 2-6, 2013. It was a five-game winning streak, immediately followed by a five-game losing streak.

No meeting will cure this malaise, a reality that must alarm Sandberg.


mgelb@phillynews.com

@magelb www.inquirer.com/

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