Latest loss might force Phils to be sellers
ATLANTA – This was probably the one. This was probably the game that pushed the Phillies into being trade-deadline sellers.
They fell to 11 ½ games out of the second wild-card spot with a 2-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night (see Instant Replay)
. It was their second straight loss to the Braves and even a gem from Roy Halladay in the series finale Sunday afternoon probably won’t stop GM Ruben Amaro Jr. from shipping off some players to contending clubs before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
Remember, before this series, Amaro spoke about how the Phils needed to win at least two of three to have any hope of making a playoff dash.
Now that playoff dash seems very, very unlikely and the biggest issue surrounding this team is who goes where.
Shane Victorino is the most likely Phillie to be sent packing. Several contenders, including the Giants, Dodgers, Pirates and Reds like him. The Dodgers had two scouts at Saturday night’s game. The Reds had one at the game. The Giants have seen Victorino a lot lately and their manager, Bruce Bochy, is a fan of his. The Pirates have also scouted Victorino lately.
Hunter Pence remains a possible subtraction, but the Phils would have to be blown away to deal him. Juan Pierre could be on the move. The Reds have long liked him.
The Phillies have made Joe Blanton available for a trade each of the past two winters and again this season. The man is practically a walking trade rumor. The rumor might soon be fact. Blanton turned in his third straight strong start in a losing effort Saturday night and it might have won him a ticket to a pennant race somewhere. The Cardinals, Orioles and Blue Jays are all looking for pitching and might be fits for Blanton, who, like Victorino, will be a free agent at season’s end.
“I’ve been mentioned in trade rumors for so long that I really don’t pay attention,” Blanton said. “My focus is just on playing and trying to win. I’m happy here, but I realize it’s a business and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Blanton pitched seven innings of two-run ball, walked one and struck out seven. He allowed just four hits. All were singles. One was an infield hit. In his last three starts, he has allowed seven runs in 23 innings while walking two and striking out 20.
Blanton has found command of his fastball and peaked at the right time. His next start could be in another uniform.
It was a trade, in the championship season of 2008, that brought Blanton to Philadelphia. If this was his last tango with the Phils, he will leave with fond memories.
“Phenomenal,” he said of his five seasons with the Phils. “I came over, we won a World Series and we’ve been to the playoffs every year. It’s one of the best places to play with the fans and everything.”
It doesn’t appear as if there will be any playoffs this season for the Phils, who are a disappointing 45-56.
Blanton admitted that things have felt kind of foreign this year.
“A lot of guys have been thrown off by it, trying to figure out why,” he said of the losing. “When you’ve won a lot and find yourself in the situation we’re in, it makes your mind spin a little bit.”
The minds of Phillies’ hitters were spun a little on Saturday night. As well as Blanton pitched, Atlanta lefty Mike Minor pitched better. He went eight innings, allowed four hits and a run. He walked none and struck out seven. Not bad for a guy who entered with an ERA of 5.49. Phillies hitters have a way of helping struggling pitchers get right.
Craig Kimbrel closed out the game by retiring the top of the Phillies’ batting order, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley, two on strikeouts.
“Their guy threw a lot of strikes,” manager Charlie Manuel said of Minor. “I felt like we took a lot of strikes. We got four hits. That ain’t going to win. It all gets back to we didn’t do enough to win.”
That’s a familiar refrain in this disappointing season.
And now several Phillies could be on their way out the door as team officials begin retooling for 2013.
“I don’t know,” Manuel said when asked if he believed Amaro would start trading off pieces. “I’ve heard it for so long that I’ve kind of gotten immune to it. It feels like I’ve been hearing it for 10 years.”E-mail Jim Salisbury at email@example.com