Phils lose 8th straight, longest skid in 11 years
NEW YORK (AP)—With nothing left to play for in the regular season, the Philadelphia Phillies are playing as if they have nothing left.
Manager Charlie Manuel isn’t sure how to fix it.
There’s no reason to panic, his players say.
Hunter Pence(notes) dropped a deep fly ball for an error that led to five unearned runs, and the New York Mets completed a doubleheader sweep with a 6-3 victory Saturday night that handed the NL East champions their eighth straight defeat.
Having already secured home-field advantage throughout the postseason, the sluggish Phillies remained winless since clinching their fifth consecutive division title last Saturday. The losing streak is their longest since an eight-game skid late in the 2000 season, when they finished 65-97 and last in the NL East under manager Terry Francona.
“I’m sitting there watching it. Don’t know what I can do about it,” Manuel said. “If you want to know the truth, our team’s out of sync, definitely out of focus, and we’re not playing. You guys see how we’re playing. The teams that we’re losing to, we stop and look at our record against them this year and everything. There ain’t too much going our way right now.”
In the afternoon opener, R.A. Dickey(notes) took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning and David Wright(notes) hit a tiebreaking double in the eighth as New York won 2-1. Shane Victorino(notes) doubled with one out in the seventh for Philadelphia’s first hit, and Dickey wound up with a no-decision.
Pitching a parade of relievers in a bullpen tuneup for the playoffs, the Phillies jumped out to an early 3-0 lead against rookie Dillon Gee(notes) in the nightcap. But things quickly unraveled in the third.
With two on and two outs, Willie Harris(notes) hit a long drive to right and Pence, making his first start since missing three games with a strained left knee, took an awkward route to the ball. It glanced off his glove on the warning track and both runners scored on a three-base error.
“I saw it. I just missed it,” Pence said. “It’s a play that’s got to be made and it cost us big-time.”
David Herndon(notes) (1-4) then issued his second walk of the inning, drawing the ire of a visibly irritated Manuel. He yanked the right-hander in favor of Kyle Kendrick(notes), who gave up an RBI double to Nick Evans(notes) and a two-run single to Josh Thole(notes).
Batting cleanup, Pence also grounded into a 1-2-3 double play with the bases loaded and nobody out in the first. Gee (13-6) escaped unscathed and recovered to allow three runs—two earned—and nine hits in six innings.
It was the first win in five starts for Gee, roughed up by Philadelphia twice this season.
“With what’s happened with us as of late, to beat that team, as good as they are, I don’t care who else is on the field, it’s big for us,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “We need the confidence that we can compete. So again, I’m really proud of the way our guys played today.”
After a rainout Friday night, the Phillies played their third doubleheader in 10 days. The wet weather gave them their first day off since Aug. 28, when they were rained out by Hurricane Irene.
Loaded with pitching, the Phillies look worn out at the plate. They are averaging just 2.41 runs while going 5-12 in their last 17 games. They have four games remaining before the playoff opener next Saturday, and Philadelphia is expected to be a heavy favorite in the NL.
“Of course, yeah, you lose eight in a row, people are going to panic,” center fielder Shane Victorino said. “But I’m not worried. We haven’t had our full lineup out there guys, relax. We haven’t had one through eight.”
Manuel thinks all the tweaking he’s done to the lineup to rest banged-up players has contributed to the slump.
“Pretty soon you lose your mojo. You lose your timing, you lose your rhythm. I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been in the damn game for 50 years,” he said. “I preach about it every day. People hear it but they look at me like I’m stupid or crazy. Maybe I am. But that’s what’s happening. That’s what you’re seeing. We’re out of sync, we’re out of focus, like we’re searching. And nothing’s going right.”
“I don’t think there’s a lack of focus. I think we just need to execute. Right now as a team we just hit a little bit of a wall,” slugger Ryan Howard(notes) said. “Yeah, the intensity could probably be a little bit better.”
As for the concerned fans back in Philadelphia?
“If we’re not panicking, they shouldn’t panic,” he said.
Cole Hamels(notes) pitched seven sharp innings for the Phillies in the opener, allowing only a pinch-hit homer by Valentino Pascucci that tied the score in the seventh. The left-hander, 3-10 in 17 starts against the Mets, yielded four hits and struck out seven.
Hamels said he’ll start again on three days’ rest Wednesday night in Atlanta, using the regular-season finale as his final tuneup for the playoffs. He said the losing streak has been “depressing and angry.”
“I know we’re a good team and we’re not winning,” Hamels said. “So it’s becoming very frustrating because you expect more out of everybody, and we’re not able to do it.”
A switch-hitter, Victorino batted right-handed to get a better look at Dickey’s knuckleball. He snapped an 0-for-20 slide with his seventh-inning double and scored when Howard followed with a single.
The Mets have never thrown a no-hitter. Born in 1962, they are closing in on 50 full seasons without one.
“I had the type of knuckleball today where I thought I had the chance, and I don’t often say that,” Dickey said.
“When you lose focus and you get out of sync, then you’ve got to get it back. Now do we have time? I don’t know, we’ll see,” Manuel said. “It’ll be a test to how good we are. How about that? This is a real good test. This is the first time this year that we’ve actually gone bad. And it’s not a real good time to go bad, but at the same time we’ll see. This is a good measuring stick for us. We might not like it, but it is. We created that ourself. So we’ll see. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
NOTES: Howard returned to the lineup in the opener after missing six games with a sore left ankle. He received an anti-inflammatory injection Monday to relieve the pain. He walked as a pinch-hitter in the nightcap. … Collins indicated that RF Lucas Duda(notes) and reliever Jason Isringhausen(notes) (back) probably will miss the rest of the season. Duda was still having headaches after crashing into the outfield fence Wednesday in St. Louis. … New York CF Angel Pagan(notes) sat out both games. Pagan has been experiencing headaches since hitting himself in the back of the head on a backswing Thursday.