SAN FRANCISCO — Jean Segura froze halfway between home plate and first base. He had just hit a missile that was ticketed for the outfield grass but instead was speared out of mid-air by diving Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. Now all Segura could do was stand there and stare out at the field.
Pause the image there.
See that blank look on Segura's face, that droop in his shoulders? It's the default expression of the Phillies right now. They lost again Thursday night, 5-0 here at Oracle Park, and the chill coming off San Francisco Bay was nothing compared to the icicles hanging from their bats.
One night after being held to one hit through five innings by a rookie starter for the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Phillies mustered only one hit overall, a pinch single by Cesar Hernandez with one out in the sixth inning. Otherwise, gooseggs. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothing against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, who was brilliant for seven innings. Nothing against two Giants relievers.
The Phillies fell for the third straight night. They lost for the fifth time in seven games. They have scored a total of 23 runs in that stretch. They have gotten 59 hits, only nine off the bats of Rhys Hoskins or Bryce Harper.
And they have fumbled possession of the second wild-card spot in the National League. They are a half-game behind the Milwaukee Brewers and locked in a three-way tie with the St. Louis Cardinals and surging New York Mets. Even the Diamondbacks, who shipped off ace Zack Greinke at the trade deadline, are only 1½ games behind the Phillies now.
“It’s tough not to press,” infielder Scott Kingery said. “You’re in a little funk and you’re trying to get hits, sometimes you get away from your plan a little bit. The only thing you can do is to come in, stick to your routine, and try to keep your approach at the plate and try to stay with it the whole way.”
Kingery spoke from within a quiet clubhouse. As they showered and dressed and headed into the Bay Area night, the Phillies might have wondered how it got to this. But they don't have time for that. They must figure out how to awaken an offense that's in a deep slumber. Manager Gabe Kapler keeps saying they're close to breaking out. He keeps leaning back on the track records of Hoskins and Harper, Segura and J.T. Realmuto.
Kapler put speedy Roman Quinn at the top of the order to try to get something going. The Phillies welcomed back left fielder Jay Bruce from the injured list and put him right in the middle of the order in the No. 5 spot. It didn’t make a difference.
“These guys know how good they are,” said Kapler, who stressed a need to keep the mood “light but focused” in the clubhouse in order to prevent the Phillies from plunging into an even deeper funk. “We know that their true talent is going to rise to the top.”
Not even Aaron Nola could halt this slide. Never mind that the Phillies had won seven of their ace's last eight starts, or that they were 5-2 in that stretch when Nola started after a loss.
When you don’t score runs, what good is a stopper?
Bumgarner set down 13 consecutive batters before yielding a one-out walk to Hoskins in the fourth inning. But Harper grounded out and Segura flew out to waste one of the Phillies' few opportunities.
The Giants ace breezed through the fifth inning, too. He got Andrew Knapp to fly out to open the sixth. Trailing 3-0, Kapler had no choice but to send up a pinch-hitter for Nola, and lo and behold, Hernandez flared a single into center field to spare the Phillies from possible ignominy.
"Bumgarner had a fastball that wasn't a high-velocity fastball but it certainly was heavy, and he was able to put the ball where he wanted to put it," Kapler said. "On the flip side, we didn't make him work hard enough. It's as simple as that. We have to make good pitchers work hard and fight for every inch."
Indeed, Bumgarner threw only 84 pitches in seven innings. He got 21 called strikes, 12 with a fastball that averaged 90.7 mph and topped out at 92. It would seem the Phillies were too passive.
As usual, though, Kapler defended hitting coach John Mallee. Asked if Mallee's message is getting through to the hitters, Kapler answered flatly, "Yes."
The Giants jumped to a three-run lead with four consecutive hits against Nola to open the third inning. The key at-bat: Bumgarner, a good-hitting pitcher, waged a nine-pitch duel with Nola that ended with a single to left field and preceded Brandon Belt's RBI single and a two-run double off the base of the left-field wall by Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski.
Nola lamented the lack of "bite" on his signature curveball. Nevertheless, he kept the deficit at 3-0 until the Giants tacked on runs in the sixth and seventh innings against reliever Nick Pivetta.
Really, though, it wasn’t necessary to pad the lead. Not with the way the Phillies are going.