Phillies fall 2 1/2 games back: 'We didn't hit'

August 18th, 2021

PHOENIX -- Phillies manager Joe Girardi issued something of a warning Sunday when somebody asked him about the club's favorable schedule.

Girardi said he did not want to hear it. He said he did not want his players to hear it, either. He did not want the Phillies to think that just because they have a relatively easy schedule the rest of the season -- it is the second-easiest in baseball, according to FanGraphs -- that they would win and cruise to their first National League East title in a decade. His concerns were validated in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss to the D-backs at Chase Field.

Arizona is on pace to lose 109 games, but it dropped the Phillies 2 1/2 games behind the Braves.

"I don't want to hear about the schedule -- no more," Girardi said. "I don't want to hear it, right? We played Arizona. We got beat because we didn't hit. No matter who you play, if you don't hit, if you don't pitch, if you don't run the bases, if you don't play defense, you're going to lose in this league. That's the bottom line."

The bottom line lately is that the Phillies are not hitting. They crushed the baseball earlier this month when they won eight consecutive games to turn a 4 1/2-game deficit in the NL East into a two-game lead. They batted .289 with a .901 OPS in that stretch. They hit 16 homers and scored 55 runs (6.9 per game).

The Phillies have lost five of seven since then. They are batting .183 with a .556 OPS. They have hit just four homers and scored only 17 runs (2.4 per game).

"When we're not firing on all cylinders like we were during the eight-game win streak, you're begging for everything," Phillies first baseman Brad Miller said. "I think we've pitched pretty well. We made some plays. It just seemed like we couldn't get anything going. We couldn't break through."

Bryce Harper hit a solo home run to right field in the third inning to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. It was his 22nd homer of the season as he pushes himself into NL MVP Award consideration. Didi Gregorius followed with a single, but the Phils did not pick up another hit until Miller's one-out double in the ninth.

Most of Philadelphia's lineup is in some sort of funk right now: Jean Segura (1-for-21), J.T. Realmuto (4-for-27), Gregorius (1-for-11), Andrew McCutchen (2-for-22), Miller (2-for-24) and Travis Jankowski (3-for-29). Harper has five hits in his last 25 at-bats, but he also has a .417 on-base percentage and .640 slugging percentage.

Some of the balls the Phillies hit on Tuesday were hit hard, but lineouts and flyouts to the warning track don't translate into runs.

It is frustrating.

"Tonight, we were kind of coaching each other up and just encouraging everybody," Miller said. "Just like, 'Yo, you've got another one coming.' Because if you don't have that, you kind of drive yourself crazy. So, I think you can't press and make it more, because we all care and we all know this is crunch time. We want to win every game. We don't care. We want to win every game, but I think that's how we're going to get through this. Just moving on to the next pitch and trying to contribute somehow, whether it's making a diving play or making the routine play or moving onto your next at-bat."

Phillies right-hander Kyle Gibson allowed three runs in six innings. Josh VanMeter hit a 2-2 slider for a two-run homer in the sixth to give the D-backs a 3-1 lead. Gibson joined the Phillies following the July 30 trade with the Rangers. He has seen the offense click during the eight-game winning streak and struggle during the 2-5 stretch.

"It's always tough as an offense when you have more than a couple guys in a slump at the same time," Gibson said. "I feel like were hitting balls hard. I know that doesn't make everybody feel better when you're not getting results. At some point they're going to fall through. … I think for me the frustrating part is this is a game where if I limit that sixth inning to a zero it ends up being a different game. I had an old pitching coach tell me, 'Every now and then you've got to throw a shutout to win.'"

The Phillies have Ranger Suárez on the mound Wednesday. He has allowed one run in 10 innings in three starts since he rejoined the rotation earlier this month. They might need more of that from him until the bats get going.