Cigar smoke no longer lingered in the air and the music was muted Sunday afternoon as the Phillies ended their homestand by packing their bags in a quiet clubhouse.
The same room in the bowels of Citizens Bank Park had been the site of four straight nights of raucous celebrations and postgame toasts last week when they swept a three-game series with the Cubs and then beat San Diego on Friday. The Phillies, it sure seemed, were ready to rattle off a string of wins and rocket through the standings.
Instead, they played listlessly for the second straight day on Sunday in a 3-2 loss to the Padres and dropped a series against a team that playoff contenders can not afford to drop series against. The Padres arrived in Philadelphia on Friday eight games below .500, placed rookie phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. on the injured list with a likely season-ending injury, and started looking ahead to 2020.
They ended it by spoiling what had been a feel-good week in South Philly.
The Phillies had just four hits on Sunday, two of which were RBI doubles by Jean Segura to account for both runs. The rest of the lineup went 2-for-27. Bryce Harper, who triggered the celebrations earlier in the week with a series of big homers, left the game with dehydration. But he was not the only hitter who appeared sluggish.
The players packed their red duffel bags at their locker and prepared for a five-game road trip to Boston and Miami that can either keep them in the wild-card race or allow more teams to pass by.
“Disappointing to lose a series to the Padres,” first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “But we talked about this a couple nights ago. You could feel the difference in here this week. It just feels a little different. There’s a little more swagger and a little more confidence. We’re going to play a good team [in Boston]. We’re going to be ready to play, I can tell you that. We’ll be excited to get there and hopefully we can get the first one on Tuesday.”
Hoskins nearly tied the game Sunday with a fly ball in the eighth inning but it was caught against the wall by center fielder Manuel Margot. That was about the best threat the Phillies could piece together. Hoskins has hit four homers in 34 games since the All-Star break and has a .586 OPS in his last 108 plate appearances.
Segura gave them a one-run lead in the first by doubling in Harper and then tied the game in the sixth by doubling in Adam Haseley, who replaced Harper after the fifth inning.
Gabe Kapler praised his lineup for the pitches they made the Padres throw on Sunday as they averaged 4.53 pitches per plate appearance. He was proud of the “grind” he saw from his hitters. But all of that hard work amounted to just two runs, six baserunners and a series loss.
“More importantly, at the end of those at-bats, we weren’t able to consistently get the barrel on the ball. We did have some loud outs across the board,” Kapler said. “It’s a round ball, it’s a round bat.”
Jason Vargas allowed two runs for the third time in four starts since being traded to the Phillies. And the Phillies have scored three or fewer runs in each of those starts. He allowed two runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings, but once again it was a wasted effort.
No one is expecting the Phillies to pitch their way to October, not after the team opted against upgrading the rotation this winter and was forced to scramble for reinforcements in the middle of July. But it is just as hard to expect the Phillies to reach October when they receive quality pitching and their offense goes flat. For Vargas, it was nothing new.
“It definitely wasn’t what we were thinking coming into the series, but it happened and it’s over with,” Vargas said. “We have to go to Boston and do the job there. There’s really no time to think about what happened here and what could have, should have. We have to go to Boston and do the job.”