DENVER - This winter, the Rockies demolished about 4,000 seats in Coors Field's upper deck. They installed a bar with 52 beer taps and numerous restaurants. Ryne Sandberg noticed it when the Phillies took early batting practice Friday afternoon. Fly balls, he said, did not travel deep to right like they are known to at high altitude. The Phillies manager wondered if that trend would translate into the games.
Two days later, he still does not know because the Phillies offense is dead - even at a place where lineups come to feast. They lost Saturday, 3-1, to Colorado and did not record an extra-base hit for the fourth straight game. The Phillies have scored three runs (two unearned) in their last four games.
"We're just needing a big hit or an extra-base hit in those situations to put some crooked numbers up there," Sandberg said. "This is a place where you need to score runs. There's no question about it."
The Phillies commenced this 10-game road trip with two clunkers and occupy last place in the National League East through 17 games. Their recent offensive impotence is astounding.
They are the first major-league team to play four consecutive games without an extra-base hit since the expansion Florida Marlins in September 1993. The Phillies last did it in May 1968. They are the fifth team since Coors Field opened in 1995 to not muster an extra-base hit in back-to-back games.
"We're a better team than this," centerfielder Ben Revere said.
The Phillies either grounded or struck out 46 times in their first two games at Coors Field. That is 85.2 percent of their total outs, and a sign of an entire team's failure to drive the ball. They have batted 129 times since their last extra-base hit, Domonic Brown's dramatic eighth-inning home run Monday against Atlanta at Citizens Bank Park.
Brown batted Saturday in the fourth inning with the bases loaded and one out. He hit the first pitch, a Jordan Lyles fastball, right at shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. He turned an inning-ending double play.
The Phillies have seven hits in two Denver nights. They were nearly held scoreless if not for a Rockies error in the eighth inning. Their lone run later scored on a Jimmy Rollins groundout.
Third-inning chaos emanated from a Rockies hit-and-run play. Nolan Arenado dashed for second, Rollins abandoned his position to cover the bag, and D.J. LeMahieu smacked a grounder where Rollins originally stood. The ball rolled into left-center field.
It was a busted play. Colorado third-base coach Stu Cole watched Brown aim his body and throw for second. So Cole waved Arenado home. Chase Utley quickly relayed the throw home, and Carlos Ruiz tagged out Arenado.
Ruiz, however, blocked the path of the runner without possession of the ball. That is no longer permitted under Rule 7.13, an experimental guideline designed to limit home-plate collisions. Rockies manager Walt Weiss requested a replay review. A 1-minute, 38-second conference overturned the original "out" call. Colorado led, 1-0.
The correct interpretation of the vague rule was enforced after replay. But Sandberg expressed frustration because the exact same play cost the Phillies a run last Sunday. Major League Baseball later informed the team that an incorrect call was made.
"Both went against us with two different interpretations of the same play," Sandberg said.
That is the sort of luck the Phillies have faced. An inning later, Ryan Howard could not snare a bouncer that Sandberg thought he should have grabbed. Then Justin Morneau cracked a Kyle Kendrick cutter for a two-run homer. The three-run lead was insurmountable.
It was not Kendrick's fault; he provided seven solid innings and was removed after a mere 82 pitches because the Phillies were forced to pinch-hit in the eighth.
The game was twice stopped in the third inning when a squirrel ran across the infield. The Phillies last encountered a squirrel in St. Louis during the 2011 National League division series. It was then that pitcher Roy Oswalt lamented his inability to shoot the critter. These Phillies, right now, cannot hit a lick.