Seeking a spark, Phillies look to '22 for template

June 1st, 2023

NEW YORK -- In the weeks and months leading up to Opening Day, Phillies manager Rob Thomson spoke about his players and how he felt completely confident they would not expect good things to happen to them this season, just because they happened last season.

No chance, he said.

The Phillies are not a complacent bunch, Thomson reiterated on Thursday, but they continue to lose. They lost 4-2 to the Mets on Thursday afternoon at Citi Field. New York swept the three-game series to drop the Phillies to 25-31. They are just one game ahead of the last-place, rebuilding Nationals in the National League East. But because of parity, they are only 3 1/2 games out of the third NL Wild Card.

These are not good times. They could be worse.

The Phillies want you to know they are frustrated, disappointed and upset. They are all those things. They know they should be better than this.

“There’s no blasé,” Phillies left fielder said. “It comes down to us. For us, at the end of the day, it’s going to be on us. I’m telling you, we’re not panicking. But I’m saying there is a sense of urgency. Just because we had the experience last year, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

“Do we want to have this same thing we had last year? No. But for us to have the experience of it, it can make -- I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, it’s not easy -- but you’ve gone through it once. We’ve just got to have a consistent mindset and a steady mindset and keep going. We’re going to make adjustments and do what we need to do.”

The experience last year, of course, was the Phillies’ dramatic turnaround from a 22-29 start, when they fired Joe Girardi on June 3 and named Thomson as his replacement. The Phillies finished 65-46 (.586) then rolled through the NL and into the World Series.

“I think if you’d look in the clubhouse you’d see the urgency,” Schwarber said. “We’ve got to keep going. No one is feeling sorry for us.”

The Phillies have a myriad of issues. They have no No. 5 starter, which is why they will have a bullpen game on Saturday at Nationals Park. The high-priced, high-octane offense has sputtered. The Phillies entered the afternoon ranked 23rd in baseball averaging 4.15 runs per game. They scored just three runs this week against the Mets. They struck out 33 times. They walked only three times. They had a .440 OPS.

No question they miss Rhys Hoskins and Alec Bohm, who just went on the 10-day injured list on Thursday with a strained left hamstring. But they still have a ton of talent in the lineup.

“They’re grinding, they’re working, they’re preparing,” Thomson said. “I think to a man everyone knows the last three National League champions had the same type of start, but it doesn’t happen every year. So they know what reality is.”

Phillies right-hander ’s up-and-down season has been an issue. He fell to 4-3 with a 5.65 ERA after lasting only four innings on Thursday. He allowed two hits, three runs, three walks and one home run while striking out two.

Walker got pulled because the Phillies could see he didn’t have it. His four-seam fastball averaged 92 mph, down 1.1 mph from his 2023 season average and 1.7 mph from his 2022 season average. He threw only one pitch 93 mph or harder against the Mets. Previously, he had never thrown fewer than four in any start in his career, and the one time he threw four on May 6, 2016, he left that game after two innings because of neck spasms.

Walker and Thomson said he is healthy.

“I mean, honestly, I just couldn’t get it going,” Walker said. “Yeah, morning game. I’m not trying to make any excuses, but my body wasn’t going for me.”

Nothing has been going for the Phillies this season, other than perhaps the bullpen.

But now it’s off to Washington, and to a series they must win.

“Complacency, I don’t think that has anything to do with it,” Thomson said. “I really don’t. I just don’t think they’ve put it all together yet. But I have full confidence that we will. I have full faith in the clubhouse with the talent and the character that we have. I truly believe that we’re going to find it.”