In two seasons with Joe Girardi as manager, the Phillies have lost more games than they have won. The losses have taken all forms, too, from blowouts to late-inning crushers. Lots of late-inning crushers.
But Girardi has never seemed as irritated as he was Friday night.
“I’m just unhappy with the way we’re playing,” he said, seething after an 11-2 humiliation by the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park. “I don’t really want to get into it publicly, but just not happy with the way we’re playing.”
Was it an offense that sleepwalked through eight innings against Rockies starter Germán Márquez and two relievers? Most likely.
Could it be that the Phillies broke out their “home run hat” in the dugout after Didi Gregorius went deep in the ninth inning of an 11-run game?
“The hat ...,” Girardi said, pausing. “I don’t care about the hat.”
OK, how about a bullpen game in lieu of a No. 5 starter that didn’t go as planned? Or losing back-to-back games to a Rockies team that’s 20-50 on the road? You might say that’s inconceivable, but, well, not after the Phillies got swept last month by the league-worst Arizona Diamondbacks.
Maybe it’s simply that the Phillies’ chances of making the playoffs for the first time since 2011 are slipping away again.
“As I said, I’m not going to get into it publicly,” Girardi said. “We’ll take care of it [internally]. I’m just not happy. I hate to lose.”
The Phillies have lost four games in a row and six of eight. They are 4½ games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves with 21 games remaining. If the Braves go 11-11 down the stretch, the Phillies would have to finish 15-6 just to tie them.
Colorado led 3-0 after the second inning, 4-0 after the fourth, 6-0 after the seventh, and 11-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth. The Phillies had six hits going into their final at-bat. They looked noncompetitive.
So, yeah, Girardi had a lot to be perturbed about.
“It’s definitely warranted,” Bryce Harper said. “We just got beat by the Colorado Rockies. Twice. We got blown out actually today. It’s definitely warranted, whatever he’s feeling. The irritation is there. The embarrassment’s there as well. I think it’s just, it’s not good.
“As a whole, we just need to be better. We don’t have time to sit around and wait and see what’s going to happen. We have to win games. We’ve got to beat teams when they come to our ballpark. We can’t get embarrassed like we did tonight.”
When the Phillies decided last week to stop using No. 5 starter Matt Moore in favor of Johnny Bullpen, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski defended the move by noting that “three of the best teams in baseball do it all the time.”
Somehow, though, it works much better for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Last Sunday, the Phillies deployed a nine-reliever parade and eked out a 10-inning win in Miami. This time, rookie lefty Bailey Falter yielded three runs in the second inning, too much for a snoozing offense to overcome.
The Phillies pieced together nine innings from Sam Coonrod, Falter, Cam Bedrosian, Moore, Ramón Rosso, Enyel De Los Santos, and J.D. Hammer. For a team that is desperate to pile up wins, that pitching lineup isn’t ideal.
Will the Phillies have to reconsider the plan next week?
“I’m worried about tomorrow,” Girardi said. “We’ll rethink it when we have to rethink it.”
It’s a copycat league, but if the Phillies are being honest, they aren’t doing this because they want to be like the Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, or San Francisco Giants. They are doing it because they’ve run out of reliable starting pitching.
Zach Eflin is out for the season after knee surgery. Moore has a 6.55 ERA as a starter. Vince Velasquez, whose ERA as a starter is 5.90, has been recovering from a blister on his right middle finger for six weeks. Chase Anderson isn’t in the organization anymore, getting designated for assignment a few weeks ago.
About that hat ...
Gregorius’ home run kept the Phillies from being shut out for the ninth time this season. And when he came back to the dugout, he got his turn with the “home-run hat” that has become a playful custom over the last few months.
But is it a bad look when the Phillies are trailing by double digits?
“We’ve been doing it all year,” Harper said. “We’re not going to change what we do.”
Harper is human
Harper spun his bat like a toy helicopter and spiked his helmet like a football after chasing a curveball in the dirt and striking out to end a two-on, two-out rally in the fifth inning.
It was a reminder that he’s human after he has carried the Phillies for weeks and barged into the MVP conversation.
“I felt like I needed to get the job done in that situation,” Harper said.
Starting his 51st consecutive game, Harper finished 2-for-4 with a two-out RBI single in the ninth inning. He has driven in at least one run in five of his last six games and hit safely in 15 of his last 16.
Look out below
The Phillies are actually closer to third place than they are to first. They are a half-game ahead of the New York Mets, with a three-game showdown between the teams set for next weekend in New York.
But the Phillies insist they are still focused on the Braves.
“I just think we need to be in striking distance when we get to Atlanta,” Harper said, referring to a three-game series against the Braves from Sept. 28-30. “If we pick up the way that we’re playing right now, we’ll be OK going in there. I don’t fear that.”