SAN FRANCISCO -- It felt like the perfect moment for Trea Turner to exorcise a season’s worth of frustrations.
He thought the same thing, too.
Turner stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning in Wednesday afternoon’s 7-4 loss to the Giants at Oracle Park. He had a couple of hits earlier in the game, but it is no secret he has not been playing like he or others have expected. A loud, game-changing hit in San Francisco could be the tonic he has needed to get going.
Turner struck out swinging on four pitches to end the game, sending the Phillies to their fourth consecutive loss to fall to 20-23.
“It’s tough,” Turner said. “This game’s not easy. It’s really humbling. You come into the year thinking you’re on a high from last year, we’ve got some new pieces, it’s going to go great, but it kicks you right in the mouth. We’ve got to figure it out.”
Hot, cold, hot, cold. It is the story of the 2023 Phillies. They preceded this four-game losing streak with a five-game winning streak, a six-game losing streak and a four-game winning streak.
It cannot continue like this.
“It’s a million things,” Turner said. “You can point at individual play or offense or defense or whatever it is. But at the end of the day, you’ve just got to find ways to win games and be more consistent. We have the talent. We have the mentality. It’s just a matter of actually doing it. Stop talking about it and start doing it. I feel like we’ve been talking, talking, talking, the first 40 games. It’s time to play better.”
Taijuan Walker allowed four hits, two walks and four runs in the first inning before Phillies manager Rob Thomson pulled him after 40 pitches. The Phillies on Monday could not get opener Connor Brogdon through the first inning, either. It is the first time two Phillies starters pitched less than an inning in the same series since Sept. 7-8, 1964, when Rick Wise and Art Mahaffey could not escape the first inning in consecutive games in a series against the Dodgers at Connie Mack Stadium.
(Those starts came 13 days before the ’64 team’s epic collapse.)
There is no question Walker (3-2, 6.53 ERA) needs to pitch better, but perhaps the most puzzling thing about this team’s play through 43 games is the inconsistency of the offense. Entering the season, almost everybody expected the Phillies to punish opposing pitching on an almost daily basis. Some days they have. Blue Jays ace Kevin Gausman said just last week that the Phillies have the deepest lineup in the National League.
But in the last four games they went 2-for-39 with runners in scoring position.
“It’s not good, that’s for sure,” Thomson said. “But I think that stuff evens out eventually.”
Thomson said he has reminded players to not try to do too much.
It might be easier said than done, of course. Turner signed an 11-year, $300 million contract in December. He entered the season with a career .302/.355/.487 slash line and a 122 OPS+. He finished Wednesday with a season .262/.308/.399 slash line. His .707 OPS is his lowest mark through 43 games to start a season in his career.
“It’s not doing too much,” Turner said. “I know I’m a good player, but it’s things I’ve been good at in the past I’m not doing well. Two-strike hitting. I’m striking out way too much. It’s little things. It’s more annoying than anything for me individually.”
Last September, the Phillies came to Oracle Park and got swept in a three-game series. They lost six of seven games at that point to fall into the third NL Wild Card spot. Reporters entered the clubhouse afterward. Kyle Schwarber saw them and motioned to them that everything would be OK.
He said he felt the same way Wednesday.
“There’s obvious frustration,” Schwarber said. “We obviously want to play better, but there’s still so much more to go. We feel like we haven’t really hit the stride yet. We’re going to get to that point. But we’ve got to keep fighting. We’ve got to keep figuring out a way to get there. Is it frustrating? Sure. Was it frustrating last year? Sure. It wasn’t like it was all peaches and cream and we were happy. But our job is to find a way to get there.”
They will try again beginning Friday night against the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park.