Phillies vs. Orioles: Phils shut out by MLB's worst team

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Phillies suffer bad loss as baseball’s worst team comes into town and shuts them out originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Before you ask ...

It's baseball.

And these are the 2021 Phillies.

That's how it happens.

That's how the worst team in baseball, the 55-games-under-.500 Baltimore Orioles, can come into Citizens Bank Park and steal the Phillies' lunch money in one of their most crucial games of the season.

A superior team on paper and in the standings, the Phillies, with lots to play for, suffered one of their most damaging losses of the season Monday night when they were beaten, 2-0, by an Orioles team playing for nothing more than pride and the top pick in next year's draft.

"It's frustrating," manager Joe Girardi said after the loss. "It's not how you want to start off the homestand, but it doesn't tell the whole story."

Girardi tipped his hat to Baltimore starter John Means, who held the Phils to four singles, the only hits they got in the game, over 6⅔ innings.

Means pitched a no-hitter against Seattle in May.

"I thought he threw a good game," Girardi said. "He seems to be able to throw all of his pitches over. He seems to give you a different look every time. The changeup gave us trouble tonight. 

"When we did hit balls hard, they were standing in the right spot. He was good. I thought once we got him out of the game maybe we'd have a chance but we just weren't able to come up with a big hit."

The loss was the Phillies' second in a row and it dropped them three games off the pace in the NL East with 12 games remaining in the season.

Meanwhile in Arizona, the first-place Atlanta Braves took care of business and beat a Diamondbacks team that has the worst record in the NL. 

The Braves have 14 games remaining. If they simply play .500 ball in those games, the Phillies would need to go 9-3 over their final 12 just to tie. 

From offensive inconsistency to poor defense to shaky bullpen work, this Phillies team has had its share of shortcomings this season. 

The team's performance against left-handed starting pitching is another weakness. Means walked one and struck out six in his 6⅔ innings of work.

The Phillies are 21-27 against left-handed starters this season and 1-5 against them this month. Clearly, the Phils have missed Rhys Hoskins' right-handed bat in the middle of the lineup.

The Phillies sent their own lefty, Ranger Suarez, to the mound and he pitched six innings of two-run ball, certainly good enough to put his team in position to win.

Suarez had command issues early in the game and allowed four singles and two runs in the first inning. He settled down nicely and did not allow a run the rest of his stay, but the bats couldn't overcome the early deficit.

"Ranger kept us in the game," Girardi said. "I give him credit because that game could have gotten away from him and it didn't."

The Phils had just one hit through the first five innings. Bryce Harper, who has carried the team in recent weeks and become one of the favorites for the NL MVP award, went hitless for the second straight game, both losses. He has gone hitless in two straight games for the first time since August 18-19.

Harper led off the bottom of the ninth and hit a skyrocket to the wall in dead center. It died in Cedric Mullins' glove, 400 feet from home plate.

The attendance was just 21,440. Clearly, many Philadelphia fans have inoculated themselves against playoff fever.

And clearly, the Orioles, despite a 48-102 record, have come to play.

"It's a really good team with a really big payroll, got a ton of veteran players," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said of the Phillies. "I think we're playing like we've got nothing to lose, like we should, but we're playing postseason-type rosters. We're very, very inexperienced. We've struggled on the mound. Tonight, we had a good pitching performance and scored a couple of runs early."

The two teams play again on Tuesday night. Neither has named a starting pitcher and both intend to use their bullpens to get through the game.

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