Back when he was the Phillies manager and required to speak after games, Charlie Manuel used to combine two words into one, a written art that was termed a portmanteau by Lewis Carroll after he wrote Through the Looking-Glass in 1871.
Carroll invented words like slithy (lithe and slimy) and mimsy (miserable and flimsy). My favorite Manuel portmanteau during his managing days was “flustrated” (flustered and frustrated), but he had others and it added to his charm. He might not have spoke perfect English, but his words — even his invented ones — were usually filled with wisdom.
It’s too bad Manuel could not have come to the podium late Sunday afternoon after the Phillies’ 3-2 loss to the San Diego Padres brought a sour end to a six-game homestand that started with such promise and enthusiasm — prothusiasm, if you will.
Manuel could have said, “We just can’t maintain our nomentum.”
Instead, it was Gabe Kapler at the podium trying to put a positive spin on a debilitating defeat in the rubber match of the Phillies’ three-game series with San Diego.
“Obviously frustrating to lose today’s baseball game,” Kapler said. “Really proud of the grind in today’s at-bats. Saw 110 pitches off their starter, saw 27 pitches with three outs in the ninth inning. I know sometimes these types of games can be frustrating … but I’m really proud of the way these guys fought today.”
Kapler was not necessarily wrong in what he said. It just was not the time or place to say it. Not after the Phillies managed only four hits and went down in order in the ninth on three strikeouts by Padres closer Kirby Yates. The National League does not offer participation trophies, but it did expand to two wild cards in 2012 and whenever the Phillies lose a series to a team with a losing record at home, they are seriously jeopardizing their chances of getting one of them.
That’s what the Phillies did over the weekend. It was the Phillies’ fourth series loss at home among the seven they have played at Citizens Bank Park since the All-Star break. Their home record during that stretch is 11-11. They only have 15 home games remaining and they will have to do better than 7-8 or even 8-7 if they want to reach the postseason.
First, however, the Phillies must play two games in Boston and three in Miami.
“They’re all big weeks now,” first baseman Rhys Hoskins said after going hitless in four at-bats, including a fly ball that pinned Padres centerfielder Manuel Margot against the wall before he caught it. “I mean, they’re all big weeks all season, but obviously we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty here. I’m sure the atmosphere will be electric in Fenway like it always is, but we’re playing good baseball here. We feel like we are. We hit some balls hard today that found gloves and sometimes that happens.”
Hoskins, of course, has been engulfed in a monumental struggle for some time now. He is hitting .203 since June 1 and .067 with one extra-base hit in his last 14 games.
“Look, I feel great,” Hoskins said. “Obviously it [stinks] to not contribute and not produce, but swing-wise I feel great. I’m seeing the ball fine. Just for whatever reason things are a little off and the last couple weeks when I do [hit] something, it’s right at somebody. That’s baseball.”
As a team, the Phillies appeared to be emerging from a prolonged slump at the start of the homestand, which, coincidence or not, came after Manuel became the hitting coach Tuesday.
The Phillies won four in a row for the fifth time this season and scored 30 runs while doing it. But in their final two games they managed just five runs on 10 hits.
Perhaps the most amazing statistic about the 2019 Phillies has been their inability to win five games in a row. Bryce Harper, in fact, was taken aback a bit when he learned that the last time the Phillies failed to win five in a row over the course of an entire season was 1990. Harper, by the way, had a terrific homestand that was cut short when he left Sunday’s game after five innings because of blurred vision. He was dehydrated.
The Phillies have failed to win five in a row during the course of a season 19 times in the franchise’s first 136 seasons, and if you go back and look at the history you’ll see some very dark days that easily explain why they are the all-time leader in losses. All 19 teams that failed to win five in a row finished well under .500. Fifteen of them finished in last place and 11 of them lost more than 100 games.
“That’s crazy,” Harper said when told this year’s Phillies could become the first ones in 29 years to fail to win five straight. “Hopefully we can break that a little bit and win five in a row. Why not?”