They knew they would need to play crisp and clean baseball in 2014 to have a chance to win, but their past two losses have been anything but spotless. They allowed three home runs to Ryan Braun, three unearned runs and committed three errors in Tuesday's 10-4 loss to the Brewers in their home opener at Citizens Bank Park.
"We didn't execute in a lot of ways," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.
Their poor play on Tuesday followed one error and four unearned runs in Sunday's five-run loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
"Well, we'll continue to work," Sandberg said. "In a lot of ways, we have been playing good defense. Hopefully this is a one-game thing. It's not a good way to have an Opening Day, that's for sure. It was sloppy."
Sandberg rattled off examples of the sloppy play he worked so hard to prevent in Spring Training: Kyle Kendrick could not execute a sacrifice bunt in the second; errors from Kendrick and Cody Asche in the third led to four runs, handing the Brewers a 5-1 lead; Asche could not turn a double play in the fifth; Ben Revere dropped a catchable ball in center field for the second time in two games, giving the Brewers a 7-4 lead in the seventh.
But Braun torched the Phillies.
He started it with his glove, too. The Phillies had runners on first and second with two outs in the second when Braun made a fantastic diving catch in right field to end the inning.
"It was huge," Ryan Howard said. "Obviously, it kind of changed the momentum. That ball gets down, or gets past him, two runs possibly score on that. And then we also have an opportunity to get even more."
Phillies fans booed Braun heavily during pregame introductions and every time he stepped to the plate. Major League Baseball suspended Braun for the final 65 games of the 2013 season for his connection to Biogenesis.
Maybe Phillies fans should stop booing.
"I love it," Braun said. "It's great. Seriously. As a competitor, I really do enjoy it. For all of us, it's a challenging game, a long season, and playing in an atmosphere and environment like this is certainly something that's motivating."
Braun hit a three-run home run to left field in the third inning on a sinker down in the strike zone to give the Brewers a 4-1 lead. He smacked a solo home run to right field in the fourth to make it 6-1. His three-run homer against right-hander Brad Lincoln in the eighth turned a three-run deficit into a blowout.
"Obviously, today was his day," Kendrick said.
Braun, who set a career high with seven RBIs, entered the game with an inflamed nerve between his right thumb and forefinger. It has caused pain for nearly a year, but recently has turned into numbness throughout the rest of the thumb. Braun entered the series hitting .150 (3-for-20) with one walk and three strikeouts in five games, but he looked perfectly healthy against the Phillies.
"I think it's motivating for me to get that adrenaline going, helps make the thumb feel better," Braun said of the hostile reception.
The Phillies tried to chip away at the early five-run deficit. Jimmy Rollins doubled off the top of the right-field wall in the fourth to score Revere. Asche's two-out single to right-center in the fifth scored Domonic Brown to make it 6-3. Revere tripled and scored on Rollins' single to left in the sixth to make it 6-4.
But Revere dropped the ball at the wall to allow a run in the seventh, which halted the Phillies' comeback.
"It definitely got up in the jet stream a little bit," Revere said. "It was doing some funny stuff in the sky. I was about to catch it right when I smashed into [the wall]. I hit right onto the chain link [fence]. I saw how the old boy [former Phillies center fielder Aaron Rowand] broke his nose on that thing a long time ago."
The Phillies played pretty solidly in their first five games, taking a 3-2 record into Sunday's series finale against the Cubs. Since then it has been the opposite. They hope Phillies right-hander Roberto Hernandez can turn the tide on Wednesday.
"There are going to be mistakes," Howard said. "Everybody makes mistakes. Generally we've played well. Today just didn't go our way."