"Yeah," the Phillies manager said. "It's possible early-season stuff, but we're still in the process of ironing that stuff out and continuing to work at it and stress it, that's for sure."
The Phillies have lost three consecutive games to fall to 3-5. They have allowed 10 unearned runs in those losses, which are the most allowed in Major League Baseball this season. A team with a small margin for error simply has given games away this week.
It showed in various ways in the eighth on Wednesday, when Phillies left-hander Antonio Bastardo stepped onto the mound in a tie game. He got Brewers first baseman Mark Reynolds into a 0-2 hole, which was a great spot to be. No hitter in baseball has struck out more than Reynolds since the beginning of the 2008 season (1,156 strikeouts), but he walked on seven pitches to set the stage for a sloppy inning.
Reynolds also has been one of the least successful base-stealers in the game since his rookie season in 2007. He entered the night with a 68.8 stolen base percentage, which ranked 107th out of 117 players with 75 or more stolen-base attempts in that span. But he stole second to put the winning run in scoring position with nobody out.
The killer there is that throughout Spring Training, the Phillies stressed to their pitchers the importance of defending the running game. They showed signs of progress, too.
"They had two stolen bases," Sandberg said, referring to Aramis Ramirez's stolen base against Phillies left-hander Jake Diekman in the seventh. "It looked like they went on the first move, off of both lefties. We work with our lefties, with the baserunner right in front of them. Both of them had good jumps and they picked the right pitch to go first move."
A sacrifice bunt moved Reynolds to third, then Logan Schafer hit a ball down the first-base line. Ryan Howard appeared to have a play, but it got past him to score Reynolds to make it 5-4. It might have hit Howard's glove, and Sandberg said afterward the Phillies at least should have had a play at first base, but he also believed there could have been a play at home, too.
It was ruled an error.
Howard left the clubhouse before it opened to reporters, so he could not comment on the play. But Bastardo changed, walked past reporters and declined comment.
Bastardo hit Jean Segura with a pitch and Ryan Braun, who had struck out in his previous three plate appearances, ripped a triple to center field to score two runners to make it 7-4.
A walk after being ahead 0-2.
A stolen base to a less-than-prolific baserunner.
A hit by pitch.
A bases-clearing triple to a hitter who hit three home runs Tuesday.
"I think we've just got to bear down and make a couple plays and that's really it," Domonic Brown said. "There's been some changes in the ballgame with those plays, but that's a part of the game as well and we got to keep our head up and keep battling."
The Brewers scored two runs in the first inning with the help of an error by Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. The Phillies answered with three runs in the bottom half to take a 3-2 lead.
Milwaukee tied the game in the second with back-to-back doubles from Carlos Gomez and Segura, and Gomez helped the Brewers to a 4-3 lead in the fourth when he hit a solo home run to left field against Phillies right-hander Roberto Hernandez.
Hernandez allowed seven hits, four runs (three earned runs), one walk and one home run in five innings. He also struck out nine Brewers, picking up eight with his changeup. The nine strikeouts tied for the second-most of his career.
He struck out a career-high 10 on Aug. 15, 2007.
"I felt great," Hernandez said. "I tried to keep the ball down."
The Phillies tied the game in the fifth when Carlos Ruiz doubled, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Marlon Byrd's single up the middle.
But the Phillies bullpen could not hold it, although it gave an effort for a couple innings. Jeff Manship threw a scoreless sixth and Diekman struck out the side in a scoreless seventh before Bastardo lost Reynolds to start the eighth.
"We definitely have to tighten that up," Sandberg said of his team's errors. "I don't know what to say about it. We work at it, we talk about it. Some of the plays are routine, and we have to make the routine plays."