Spiraling Phillies look hapless, helpless and in need of a good kick in the pants

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Spiraling Phillies look hapless, helpless and in need of a good kick in the pants originally appeared on nbcsportsphiladelphia.com

The Phillies are taking it on the chin from all ends of the National League East. They lost two of three against the first-place Atlanta Braves. They were swept by the third-place Washington Nationals. And now they're staring down the barrel of a sweep at the hands of the lowly Miami Marlins.

One can only wonder what will happen when the New York Mets come to town on Monday.

Things are going badly for the Phillies. They fell to 1-7 against NL East opponents over the last nine days when they blew a late lead and suffered a 5-3 loss to the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday.

It was just a terrible day for the Phils. The bullpen couldn't protect a two-run lead in the seventh inning. A 35-year-old guy who'd spent the last 10 years in the minors before being called up Friday had the big hit for the Marlins. Gabe Kapler went off on the umpires, kicked some dirt and picked up his first ejection as a manager.

Oh, yeah, and another Phillie - Cesar Hernandez - did not run hard in a close game in the eighth inning. That set up a double play that didn't help chances of a late comeback. The afternoon ended, mercifully, with Hernandez popping up with the bases loaded an inning later.

Three weeks ago, the Phillies were 10 games over .500 and 3 ½ games up in the NL East. Now they are just two games over .500 and barreling toward third place in the division. They have lost a season-high six straight games, 8 of 9, 10 of 12 and 15 of 21.

Any way you do the math, it stinks. This team looks hapless, helpless and in need of a kick in the pants from the skipper, the general manager, the owner - maybe even all of the above.

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you it doesn't stink. Of course it does," Rhys Hoskins said after Saturday's debacle.

"We're not playing good baseball - period," Kapler said. "There's not a single part of our game that is where it needs to be. It's unacceptable. And we're going to make it better."

The Phillies were a first-place club early last August and suffered a historic collapse down the stretch. With new talent up and down the roster, things were supposed to be better in Kapler's second season. This nosedive has put Kapler and some of his coaches in the crosshairs of those who want blood. At the moment, it does not appear as if changes will be made. There is still a lot of season left and the addition of a pitcher or two - which upper management is working on - could help turn things around, provided this offense wakes up. But the longer this skid goes on, the louder the calls for blood will become.

"Look, I think we're as prepared as we can be," Hoskins said. "I think at some point it falls on us. Obviously, the coaching staff is usually the first to get fingers pointed at, but again, we're as prepared as we can be. I wish I had more. We haven't gotten many timely hits, that stands out. When that happens game after game after game it just stings a little more."

The Phillies are 7 for 44 with runners in scoring position over this six-game losing skid. They had just five hits in the first eight innings on Saturday.

"It's not where you want to be as a club," Bryce Harper said of the team's offense. Hitting coach John Mallee "does a great job of getting us prepared every single day. We just have to go out there and get it done. Have we done that? We haven't, especially with guys on base. Me personally, as well. We have to get better."

Vince Velasquez gave the Phils five good innings Saturday. He'd been used out of the bullpen for most of the last month and that prevented him from going longer. Harper and Hoskins hit back-to-back homers in the third inning and there was a good vibe in the ballpark as the Phils built a 3-1 lead.

Kapler got ejected in the fourth after Scott Kingery was hit by a pitch but not awarded first base because the umpires said he swung. The lead got away with Adam Morgan and Edubray Ramos on the mound in the seventh. Journeyman catcher Wilkin Castillo, in the minors the last 10 seasons, had the big hit against Ramos.

Things stayed ugly in the eighth when Hernandez only got to first on what should have been a double down the left field line. Hernandez did not speak with reporters after the game but told Hoskins he did not see the ball off the bat and thought it would be foul. It was a big play in a close game because it put in place a force at second and Harper promptly hit into a double play.

It was the second time this week a player did not run hard. Jean Segura created a stir when he loafed on a hit in Washington on Wednesday.

Kapler seemed pretty ticked off about Hernandez' not being on second base and said he would be speaking with the player about it. Will there be further repercussions? Stay tuned.

"Those things are definitely things that need to be addressed," Kapler said. "They have to be addressed swiftly. They have to be addressed with authority and they will be."

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