There were times over these last few weeks when the Phillies lost on a walkoff hit. There were times when they got blown out. There was even that time when they lost both games of a doubleheader.
And then there was Sunday, when it felt as if they might never win again.
The Phillies haven’t hit well for the better part of a month. They haven’t pitched well either. They certainly haven’t hit and pitched well in concert, and, often, as in the sweep-completing 6-4 loss to the league-worst Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park, they did neither.
Make it seven losses in a row — and 16 in 22 games — for the plummeting Phillies. They have been outscored, 43-15, since their last victory and have led at the end of only five of the last 63 innings. They have slid all the way to one game over .500 and lost 10 games in the standings in 26 days.
“It’s not good,” Bryce Harper said.
Also, it’s not what John Middleton paid for.
In spending nearly half a billion dollars in the offseason, the Phillies' owner authorized an end to seven years of losing. Rebuilding and incremental progress went out the window in February when general manager Matt Klentak traded top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez for two years of club control over catcher J.T. Realmuto.
The Phillies are supposed to make the playoffs. Anything less will be regarded as a disappointment — by the fans, as well as the owner — and after getting swept at home by the 30-46 Marlins, it might be time for DEFCON-level action, even if the players and coaches are projecting calm.
“We win and we lose as a team. We don’t single anybody out,” manager Gabe Kapler said in response to the latest question about the job security of his staff members, namely hitting coach John Mallee. “It’s not how baseball is played. It’s not about one person in isolation. We do this as a group, as a unit.”
Injuries have ravaged the roster. Sunday, Kapler sent three pitchers to the mound — Enyel De Los Santos and relievers Edgar Garcia and Ranger Suarez — who have spent most of the season in triple A. The Phillies’ roster depth is being tested in extreme ways, and it isn’t sufficient. Not even close.
But the Phillies’ best players haven’t been their best players. A lineup built to mash hasn’t produced three runs in an inning since June 15 or four since June 11. In the first inning against the Marlins, Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, and Scott Kingery each walked to load the bases with nobody out. But with veterans Jay Bruce, Jean Segura, and Cesar Hernandez up next, the Phillies settled for a two-run single by Segura.
Including their four hits against the Marlins, the Phillies are batting .203 and slugging .320 during the seven-game losing streak; .222 and .396 over the last 22 games. An offense built on home-run power now runs in dribs and drabs, when it runs at all.
Middleton didn't pay for that.
“We’re struggling to find that big inning right now, for sure,” Kapler said. “It’s a problem. It sucks. But it’s not something we can’t get past.”
The home runs certainly come in bunches against the Phillies. J.T. Riddle hit a two-run shot against De Los Santos, who allowed 10 of 18 batters to reach base, and Garrett Cooper and Brian Anderson went back-to-back in the fifth inning against Garcia, bringing the homer total against the Phillies to 129. Entering play Sunday, no other National League team had given up more than 111.
Middleton didn't pay for that either.
“We just haven’t been playing well. That’s the bottom line,” Bruce said. “There’s no sense of sugarcoating it or trying to figure out exactly what it is or why it is. We just haven’t played well. We’re much better than we’ve played.”
So, what happens now?
Klentak has pulled off two trades within the last month, acquiring Bruce and utilityman Brad Miller. He undoubtedly would make a few more if he could, but the trade deadline is still five weeks away and most teams have not decided whether they will be buyers or sellers.
The Phillies point out that they still have 85 games to solve their problems. But they must go 51-34 just to finish with 90 wins, never mind that the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves are on pace for 94.
Meanwhile, the losses pile up.
“We’re just getting beat on both sides of the ball — pitching, hitting, everything,” Harper said. “You do that, you’re going to lose games. Myself included, we’ve got to be better. We don’t want to be here in this situation of losing games. We want to win games. Play hard, and we can do that.”
That’s what Middleton paid for. Nothing less.