Just when it looked like the Philadelphia Phillies were gaining some momentum, a doubleheader sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays set the team back again. For one day, the Phillies were out of the cellar in the NL East. With aces Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee on the mound for the doubleheader, it looked like there was a real chance for the team to make a statement. Unfortunately, that statement never came and the Phillies look to be just as lost as they were a week ago.
As a fan, the two losses against the Rays were painful to watch.
Here is a look at what went wrong for the Phillies:
The bullpen is a disaster
The bullpen has been terrible all season for the Phillies, and that was on full display against Tampa Bay. After Cole Hamels worked seven wonderful innings in which he allowed no runs and three hits, he gave way to the bullpen to hold a 1-0 lead. Antonio Bastardo came in and it was over just like that. Bastardo let two men get on base before giving up a three-run home run to Carlos Pena. That was all she wrote in the first game.
The bullpen wasn't much better in the second game. With the team trailing 5-3 in the eighth inning, any chance of a comeback was lost when B.J. Rosenberg allowed two runs to let the Rays pull away. Things have become so bad that fans like me are starting to assume the worst whenever a relief pitcher comes into the game. Say what you will about injuries and offensive inconsistency, but the performance of the bullpen is the most troubling thing I have seen this season.
Cliff Lee struggles again
Despite a few good outings this season, Lee only has himself to blame for being winless through late June. He allowed five earned runs for the second straight start, but his struggles go beyond that. Lee's ERA has ballooned to 3.72 on the season. He is starting to walk more batters and strike out fewer. When looking at his last three starts, you can't blame the offense for his lack of wins. I'm not sure if the strange season is really getting to him or what, but Lee has no excuse for enduring a slump like the one he is in right now.
Inability to bring runners home
It was starting to feel like the Phillies were getting things going offensively. They had scored at least six runs in three of their last four games heading into the doubleheader. However, any progress they had stalled when the same old problems resurfaced. In the first game, the Phillies left 10 men on base. No situation was more painful than when they failed to bring home two runners in scoring position in the eighth inning. The inability to produce when runners can score has been a black mark all season for this team. Guys like Michael Martinez and John Mayberry were particularly bad in these two games. At this point, most players on this team strike no fear in opposing pitchers. That's a scary sign for fans.* - Mark Paul is a Philadelphia resident and lifelong Phillies fan.