Swept by Jays, Phils facing roster decisions
TORONTO -- The Phillies left Canada late Sunday afternoon looking like a dead team walking.
They completed a dreadful nine-game roadtrip with a 6-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. They finished the trip at 3-6 and have lost 12 of their last 15. They are 4-12 in June and are a season-worst six games under .500. In being swept in three games by the Jays, the Phils missed a chance to gain ground on the NL East-leading Washington Nationals, who suffered a weekend sweep themselves at the hands of the New York Yankees.
The Phillies head into Monday’s off day nine games back in the NL East and five back (behind six other clubs) for the second wild-card spot. It’s mid-June. The trading season will soon commence. Will the Phillies be sellers for the first time since 2006?
“We’re in a stretch here where we have to come out and we have to start playing better and winning some games,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “I think that will dictate the things we do. We can’t afford to get much further behind. Those are decisions that have to be made, depending on where [the front office] sees us at.”
And where does Manuel see his team?
“We’ve been in last place since what, the first day of the season or right after that?” Manuel said. “We haven’t climbed any. We’ve been steady falling behind.”
That wasn’t exactly an encouraging appraisal.
But Manuel hasn’t given up hope.
“I’ve seen us make climbs,” he said. “But we have to get healthy. We have to get everybody back.”
Chase Utley could be back in the next couple of weeks, Ryan Howard around the All-Star break and Roy Halladay in late July. The Phillies need to win in the interim or it won’t matter when the trio returns. If they don’t start winning, a number of players could be gone by the time the Phils’ wounded soldiers are whole. You know the names: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, Jim Thome, Joe Blanton. The Phillies would probably listen to offers for any of these guys.
Besides the loss, one of the sobering elements of Sunday’s game at Rogers Centre was that it may have been the last time Thome starts a game for the Phillies. The team will not use a designated hitter the rest of regular season and Thome’s back will not allow him to play first base. So, one of the team’s hottest hitters will go to the bench.
“First base is out of the question,” Manuel said.
Thome had good run in nine games as the DH. He hit .333 (12 for 36) with four homers, 14 RBIs and four walks. His solo homer Sunday was the 608th of his career and his 100th as a Phillie. Thome will now return to a pinch-hitting role. He was 0 for 10 in those assignments earlier this season.
After the game, Thome talked about the Phillies’ struggles.
“You have that thought process of ‘When is it going to turn around?’" he said. “Baseball is a weird game. It’s not for a lack of caring. We have to keep grinding.”
Manuel read his team the riot act in the clubhouse after Saturday’s sloppy, 6-5, loss in 10 innings. Later, he had pointed remarks in his postgame news conference. Sunday, he was more resigned than agitated.
“I basically have said everything I can say or want to say or whatever,” Manuel said. “We’re just going to have to come out and play better. I think we know what we have to do. Getting it done is another thing. We just have to come out and play better, play better baseball, outplay the other team. They outplayed us today.”
The first inning was representative of how the Phils were outplayed. They went down 1-2-3 on a weak ground ball to first by Jimmy Rollins, a strikeout looking by Placido Polanco, and a strikeout swinging at a ball in the dirt by Hunter Pence. The Jays opened the bottom of the first with back-to-back doubles to left-center against Kyle Kendrick.
Kendrick kept the Phils in it until the fifth when he walked leadoff man Brett Lawrie and gave up a two-run homer to Colby Rasmus as the Jays went up, 5-2.
Kendrick has a 7.59 ERA (18 earned runs in 21 1/3 innings) in four starts since shutting out St. Louis on May 26.
“My stuff is the same,” he said. “I’m just not getting the results. I feel like I’ve pitched better than the numbers, but that’s the way the games goes.”E-mail Jim Salisbury at email@example.com