‘Flus­trat­ing’ Phillies need to re­gain mo­men­tum with time run­ning out

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Bob Brookover

Back when he was the Phillies man­ager and re­quired to speak af­ter games, Char­lie Manuel used to com­bine two words into one, a writ­ten art that was termed a port­man­teau by Lewis Car­roll af­ter he wrote “Through the Look­ing-Glass” in 1871.

Car­roll in­vented words like slithy (lithe and slimy) and mimsy (mis­er­able and flimsy). My fa­vorite Manuel port­man­teau dur­ing his man­ag­ing days was “flus­trated” (flus­tered and frus­trated), but he had oth­ers and it added to his charm. He might not have spoke per­fect English, but his words — even his in­vented ones — were usu­ally filled with wis­dom.

It’s too bad Manuel could not have come to the podium late Sun­day af­ter­noon af­ter the Phillies’ 3-2 loss to the Padres brought a sour end to a six-game home­s­tand that started with such prom­ise and en­thu­si­asm — pro­thu­si­asm, if you will.

Manuel could have said, “We just can’t main­tain our no­men­tum.”

In­stead, it was Gabe Kapler at the podium try­ing to put a pos­i­tive spin on a de­bil­i­tat­ing de­feat in the rub­ber match of the Phillies’ three-game se­ries.

“Ob­vi­ously frus­trat­ing to lose to­day’s base­ball game,” Kapler said. “Re­ally proud of the grind in to­day’s at-bats. Saw 110 pitches off their starter, saw 27 pitches with three outs in the ninth in­ning. I know some­times these types of games can be frus­trat­ing … but I’m re­ally proud of the way these guys

fought to­day.”

Kapler was not nec­es­sar­ily wrong in what he said. It just was not the time or place to say it. Not af­ter the Phillies man­aged only four hits and went down in or­der in the ninth on three strike­outs by Padres closer Kirby Yates. The Na­tional League does not of­fer par­tic­i­pa­tion tro­phies, but it did ex­pand to two wild cards in 2012, and when­ever the Phillies lose a se­ries to a team with a losing record at home, they are se­ri­ously jeop­ar­diz­ing their chances of get­ting one of them.

That’s what the Phillies did over the weekend. It was the Phillies’ fourth se­ries loss at home among the seven they have played at Cit­i­zens Bank Park since the All-Star break. Their home record dur­ing that stretch is 11-11. They only have 15 home games re­main­ing and they will have to do bet­ter than 7-8 or even 8-7 if they want to reach the post­sea­son.

First, how­ever, the Phillies must play two games in Bos­ton and three in Mi­ami.

“They’re all big weeks now,” first base­man Rhys Hoskins said af­ter go­ing hit­less in four at-bats, in­clud­ing a fly ball that pinned Padres cen­ter­fielder Manuel Mar­got against the wall be­fore he caught it. “I mean, they’re all big weeks all sea­son, but ob­vi­ously we’re get­ting down to the nitty-gritty here. I’m sure the at­mos­phere will be elec­tric in Fen­way like it al­ways is, but we’re play­ing good base­ball here. We feel like we are. We hit some balls hard to­day that found gloves and some­times that hap­pens.”

Hoskins, of course, has been en­gulfed in a mon­u­men­tal struggle for some time now. He is hit­ting .203 since June 1 and .067 with one ex­tra-base hit in his last 14 games.

“Look, I feel great,” Hoskins said. “Ob­vi­ously it stinks to not con­trib­ute and not pro­duce, but swing-wise I feel great. I’m see­ing the ball fine. Just for what­ever rea­son things are a lit­tle off and the last cou­ple weeks when I do hit some­thing, it’s right at some­body. That’s base­ball.”

As a team, the Phillies ap­peared to be emerg­ing from a pro­longed slump at the start of the home­s­tand, which, co­in­ci­dence or not, came af­ter Manuel be­came the hit­ting coach Tues­day.

The Phillies won four in a row for the fifth time this sea­son and scored 30 runs while doing it. But in their fi­nal two games they man­aged just five runs on 10 hits.

Per­haps the most amaz­ing statis­tic about the 2019 Phillies has been their in­abil­ity to win five games in a row. Bryce Harper, in fact, was taken aback a bit when he learned that the last time the Phillies failed to win five in a row over the course of an en­tire sea­son was 1990. Harper, by the way, had a ter­rific home­s­tand that was cut short when he left Sun­day’s game af­ter five in­nings be­cause of blurred vi­sion. He was de­hy­drated.

The Phillies have failed to win five in a row dur­ing the course of a sea­son 19 times in the franchise’s first 136 seasons, and if you go back and look at the his­tory you’ll see some very dark days that eas­ily ex­plain why they are the all-time leader in losses. All 19 teams that failed to win five in a row fin­ished well un­der .500. Fif­teen of them fin­ished in last place and 11 of them lost more than 100 games.

“That’s crazy,” Harper said when told this year’s Phillies could be­come the first ones in 29 years to fail to win five straight. “Hope­fully we can break that a lit­tle bit and win five in a row. Why not?”

Well, be­cause they can­not sus­tain any “no­men­tum.” It sure is “flus­trat­ing” to watch.

MATT ROURKE/AP

Ja­son Var­gas did not pitch poorly against the Padres on Sun­day, but the Phillies dropped the se­ries with a 3-2 loss.

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