TORONTO - On Monday, J.A. Happ attempted to revive his starting pitching career with five scoreless innings in Toronto's shutout win over the Phillies.
On Tuesday, Cole Hamels was roughed up for the second time in his first three starts, adding another dose to a season that already began with uncertainty and skepticism surrounding the highest-paid player in franchise history.
After getting swept in the home half of their four-game, home-and-home interleague series with the Blue Jays, the Phillies had to be hoping better things awaited them in the Great White North. Cliff Lee was set to take the mound at the Rogers Centre and the Phillies' offense was overdue for a breakout game.
Instead, this happened: The Phillies' offense went nine more innings without scoring a run, and Lee went from being locked in with fellow lefty Mark Buehrle in a pitchers' duel to heading for the showers in the middle of an inning when the Blue Jays put a nine-spot on the scoreboard.
Erik Kratz' two-run home run set off Toronto's offensive fireworks against Lee in the seventh inning, as the Phillies were beaten last night to the tune of a 10-0 decision.
"They flat-out beat us in every way," Lee said.
Given how the game started - the Phils trailed, only 1-0, through the first two-thirds of the night - and how this week has gone - the Phillies have scored in only two innings since Sunday- last night's beat-down was arguably the worst loss of the young season for manager Ryne Sandberg and Co.
The Phillies took six of their last eight games on their last road trip, through Denver, Los Angeles and Phoenix, then took two of three against Washington at home last weekend. They were flirting with the idea of staying north of .500 and gaining momentum with a healthy roster finally fully assembled.
But then Toronto came to town. The Phillies have been beaten in just about every way imaginable in their first three games with the Blue Jays: handcuffed by Happ; put into an early hole by Hamels; and then clobbered in Toronto last night.
"It's frustrating," centerfielder Ben Revere said. "But the main thing is to keep our heads up; it's a long season and we have a good enough team."
For the second straight night, Revere's defensive play in centerfield came into focus.
On Tuesday night in South Philly, Revere's lack of arm strength prevented the Phillies from having a play at the plate when Juan Francisco hit a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning to give Toronto the go-ahead run. Last night, the nightmarish, nine-run seventh began with a triple off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion to dead center.
Revere retreated toward the fence at the start of the play, but the ball arrived well before he did, bounced off the wall and over his head. Sandberg called it a "catchable ball."
"It looked like he gave up on it," Sandberg said. "It hit the bottom of the wall."
Did Revere think it was a home run?
"I dropped back, put my head down and pulled it back up . . . and the ball kind of phased out," Revere said. "My job is to get back there. That's my mistake. I should have been back at the fence . . . I have to get back there and make the catch. That's on me."
Kratz hit the next pitch over the leftfield fence for a two-run home run, giving Toronto a 3-0 lead. Six pitches after Revere's gaffe, the Phillies were down 5-0 as Francisco hit the second two-run home run off Lee in the span of three batters.
"Things unraveled from that point forward," Sandberg said. "I can imagine there would be some frustration with Cliff at that point. He was out there battling."
The game was eerily similar to the first start Lee made in Toronto as a member of the Phillies 3 years ago.
On July 3, 2011, Lee entered the day attempting to throw his fourth consecutive shutout, but settled for taking a 4-3 lead into the eighth inning. Then he allowed home runs to each of the first two batters he faced, and to three of the first five hitters. The Phillies lost that game, 7-4.
Including his days in the American League, Lee is 2-5 with a 6.43 ERA in eight starts in Toronto. It's his worst ERA in a visiting ballpark where's he's made at least two starts.
In his last three trips to the Rogers Centre, Lee has allowed 17 runs on 29 hits.
"They obviously got a good offense," Lee said. "They showed it there in that seventh inning. It was one of those innings where they hit everything. They didn't miss a pitch."
Toronto sent 12 batters to the plate in the seventh, scoring nine times on eight hits. The Phillies, meanwhile, had three hits in the game.
They were handcuffed by Buehrle, whose fastball topped out at 85 mph.
"He has some deception, he knows how to pitch," Sandberg said. "He doesn't give in . . . He is real effective with his stuff."
The Phillies' offense has been shut out in two of three games against the Jays this week. The Phils have scored in only one of the 34 innings they've played since Chase Utley's first-inning, RBI single against Washington on Sunday.
Toronto scored more runs in the seventh inning of last night's game than the Phillies have scored in their last four games (six runs in 35 innings).
"We have to improve on that," Sandberg said. "For the pitchers going out there, that's a tough task. We need to improve in that area."
The Phillies (15-17) are in last place in the National League East. The team's minus-25 scoring differential (123 runs scored, 148 runs allowed) is the third worst in the National League.
"A little inconsistency, ups and downs," Sandberg said of the season as a whole. "At this point, we need to have it go the other direction. That is the other club I've seen up to this point, a team that will bounce back and get it going. That's what tomorrow's game is all about. We're looking forward to that game."