Punchless Phillies get swept by Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates' Russell Martin (55) drives in two runs with a double off Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher A.J. Burnett in the first inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, July 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Pirates' Russell Martin (55) drives in two runs with a double off Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher A.J. Burnett in the first inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, July 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) (AP)
Posted: July 08, 2014

PITTSBURGH - Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg is at wit's end, and anyone who has seen his sagging offense can understand why.

Sandberg called for a few volunteers to jump on the offensive wagon Sunday after the Phillies were swept in their three-game series by the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 6-2 loss at PNC Park.

The Phillies have lost nine of 10 and 13 of 16 to drop to 37-51, a season-high 14 games under .500. They are hitting .206 and have scored 41 runs in the last 16 games. They have struck out 122 times in that span.

"There is more potential there, in my opinion, than what we have shown," Sandberg said.

Sandberg praised Marlon Byrd, who hit his second home run in two days and has a team-high 18 for the season. The manager is desperate to find others to follow his lead. Byrd is 6 for 24 with three home runs and three RBIs on this trip, in which the Phillies are 1-5.

Byrd's homer came off starter Jeff Locke, who turned in eight strong innings for his second win.

"Once again, Marlon, being the most consistent guy, [has been] pretty steady all year," Sandberg said. "We need more guys to chip in more consistently."

This series showed two teams headed in different directions. The Pirates (47-41) have won six of their last seven and 12 of 15.

They have an offense that is filled with speed at the top and a devastating anchor in reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen, who destroyed the Phillies this weekend.

Now batting .324, McCutchen went 7 for 13 with a home run, two triples, two doubles, five RBIs, and four runs scored.

Sandberg can only look in envy at McCutchen and a youthful Pirates team that had just one starting position player older than 28 on Sunday.

The Phillies, meanwhile, have scored two or fewer runs in 35 games.

"We have had guys who were on early and now we have had guys taper off and we need other guys to pick it up and get hot along with Byrd," Sandberg said.

The Phillies took their only lead of the series in the first inning when Jimmy Rollins reached second on a two-out throwing error by third baseman Pedro Alvarez and Byrd knocked him in with a single to left.

Phillies starter A.J. Burnett took the mound to a warm reception by the fans, who showed their appreciation for his previous two years pitching for the Pirates.

The Pirates weren't so cordial, regaining the lead for good with two first-inning runs. With two outs, McCutchen hit a sharp grounder that third baseman Cody Asche gloved on a diving stop to his left. Most runners would have been thrown out, but the fleet McCutchen was safe on an infield hit. After a single by Neil Walker, Russell Martin hit a two-run double off the right-field wall.

"The ball caught a little more of the plate to Russell and he put a good swing on it," Burnett said of his 95-m.p.h. fastball on a full count.

Josh Harrison led off the Pirates third inning with a triple to right-center field. He scored on a one-out sacrifice fly to shallow center by Walker. Harrison, as have many Phillies opponents, took advantage of Ben Revere's weak arm.

That was it against Burnett, who allowed three earned runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and two walks in seven innings. The Pirates added three runs in the eighth against relievers Justin De Fratus and Jake Diekman.

This was not what Burnett signed up for when he joined the Phillies as a free agent in February.

"We have a lot of talent in this room beyond what we are doing, no question," Burnett said. "We have to find a way to keep plugging. And I say that every time I start, but that is the truth."


1

Phillies win in their last 10 games.

14

Games under .500, the Phillies' low point this season.

12

Games behind first-place Atlanta. The Phillies were 31/2 games out on June 20.


mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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