PHOENIX — A trip out here this week was supposed to awaken the Phillies’ offense. The Diamondbacks, after all, have given up more runs than any team in the National League. Could there be a better elixir for a bunch of snoozing hitters?
Instead, the Phillies went 0-for-Arizona.
That’s “0” as in zero wins. None. Zilch. The Phillies got swept in a three-game series that concluded Thursday with what could be described only as a humiliating 6-2 loss to a team that is on pace for 107 of them.
But it may as well have been “0” as in runs. The Phillies pushed across one in the eighth inning and another in the ninth to avoid being shut out for the eighth time this season. But don’t be fooled. They were flummoxed by faded ace Madison Bumgarner, who held them hitless for a span of 23 plate appearances between Jean Segura’s leadoff double in the first inning and Ronald Torreyes’ in the eighth.
“We’re frustrated,” said starter Zack Wheeler, who gave up one run through six innings and five in the seventh but could have been near-perfect and still lost given the lack of offense. “This is a team that you don’t want to get swept by. That’s just true. We need to take that personal.”
There will be time for that next week when the Diamondbacks visit Philadelphia for four games. For now, there’s the matter of seven losses in nine games after an eight-game winning streak. In the span of 10 days, the Phillies have gone from leading the NL East by two games to trailing the Atlanta Braves by four.
The gap could get even wider this weekend. While the Phillies play three games in San Diego, the Braves will take a six-game winning streak into a series with the Baltimore Orioles, who only have the worst record in baseball.
“I don’t necessarily fear [the Braves] could run away with it. I worry more about what we’re doing and the fact that we’re not playing well,” catcher J.T. Realmuto said. “If we don’t win ballgames, four teams could run away with it, not just the Braves.”
Playing better means shaking a team-wide offensive malaise. After getting three hits in the series opener against the Diamondbacks, the Phillies had four Wednesday night and seven in the finale, all but one of which came in the final two innings. They went 14-for-94 (.149) with two home runs in the series and led at the end of a grand total of four of 27 innings.
Did they overlook the lowly Diamondbacks?
“No, no, no, no, no,” manager Joe Girardi said, noting that Arizona won three out of four games last week against the Padres. “We haven’t been hitting for 10 days. This is not just something that just came up today or yesterday.”
Said Realmuto: “When a team across from you isn’t trying to win, those games seem a little more winnable. But there’s still really good players over there, and we didn’t focus enough or we didn’t get the job done and they kicked the crap out of us.”
Indeed, it was a continuation of a nearly two-week stretch in which the offense has been muted. A few of the ghastly numbers:
-- In the last nine games, the Phillies are batting .181 (51-for-282) with five home runs. They have scored a total of 21 runs.
-- The heart of the order -- Bryce Harper (4-for-27), Realmuto (3-for-25), and Andrew McCutchen (3-for-29) -- is a combined 10-for-81 (.123) in the nine-game stretch.
--Segura, who often bats at the top of the order, is in a 3-for-28 rut.
“I feel like right now guys, as a group, are just trying to do too much up there and putting ourselves in holes and not getting the job done,” Realmuto said. “When that happens, it’s kind of a domino effect that spreads to your teammates.”
Sounds hopeless, doesn’t it?
“It’s just baseball,” Realmuto said. “Tomorrow we could go out and score 12 runs and be out of this funk.”
They have 41 games to figure it out.
J.T.: Swing is thing
Realmuto believes the source of his slump is out-of-whack swing mechanics, not the physical toll of starting 28 of 32 games behind the plate.
“This team needs me to hit,” he said. “Until I do, we’ll probably just keep treading water.”
But the Phillies could overcome Realmuto’s struggles if, say, Harper and McCutchen were carrying the offense. Or if Segura and Didi Gregorius were hot. Or if Rhys Hoskins wasn’t still hobbled by a groin injury that has caused him to miss 12 consecutive games. Asked if Hoskins will be ready to play Friday night in San Diego, Girardi said, “We’ll see.”
As Wheeler walked off the mound in the seventh inning, he stared down -- and then barked at -- home-plate umpire Tom Hallion over a few close ball-strike calls that went against him.
“I threw a couple of pitches down, a couple of pitches up I thought he missed. It’s kind of like, where do you want me to throw it?” Wheeler said. “But I have to take accountability for that. I have to throw better strikes. I have to make better pitches when I have two strikes on a guy.”
Herrera, Didi drilled
The Phillies were awaiting the result of X-rays on Odúbel Herrera’s right elbow after he got drilled by Bumgarner in the eighth inning. Despite appearing to be in extreme pain, Herrera initially stayed in the game before being replaced in center field by Travis Jankowski.
Gregorius got on the left elbow in the fifth inning. He spiked his bat as he went to first base but didn’t leave the game. The shortstop has been hampered by injuries, most notably a condition called pseudogout that caused swelling in his right elbow.