Saturday, December 20, 2014

Anatomy of a slump

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Phillies are a second-place team.

Anatomy of a slump

Chase Utley tags out the Giants´ Mark DeRosa in a rundown between first and second base during the Phillies´ 6-2 loss. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Chase Utley tags out the Giants' Mark DeRosa in a rundown between first and second base during the Phillies' 6-2 loss. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Phillies are a second-place team.

OK, OK. Relax. Right now they are. The Mets are a half game ahead of the Phillies, who are looking up in the standings for the first time since May 29, 2009. It was going to end some time, right?

"I think we need to pay attention to what we're doing ourselves," lefthander Jamie Moyer said. "If you look ahead, look behind, it's probably not the best way to look."

But at the beginning of the season, who would have ever thought the Phillies would be trailing the Mets headed into their first meeting of the season? It could happen if Tim Lincecum shuts down the suddenly anemic Phillies offense Wednesday.

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So what is going on?

"When got into Arizona, since then, we haven't played good baseball at all," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We've left runners on base. We haven't hit. And tonight, everything about it fell apart -- our baserunning, our defense, and of course, we didn't hit."

With that, here are some numbers to digest:

4-for-41 -- That is what Chase Utley and Placido Polanco have done at the plate in their last 41 at-bats combined. Utley is 2-for-his-last-20 and Polanco is 2-for-his-last-21.

"That's life," Manuel said. "I've seen the greatest hitters in baseball go 0-for-30, 0-for-40, 1-for-54."

2 -- The number of runners the Phillies had thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double Wednesday. In the second inning, Ryan Howard led off with a rope to right field. He casually sauntered into second base only to be tagged on the backside by Matt Downs. That prompted some playful heckling from Giants fans.

"Mental lapse," Howard said.

Manuel was less than complimentary of the play.

"Howard didn't realize," he said. "He thought he had it made. He kind of coasted in instead of sliding. ... I don't have to talk to him because he knows it was a mistake."

In the ninth, Utley hit one into the rightfield corner and tried to make it to second even with the Phillies trailing by four runs. He was thrown out on a bang-bang play.

Manuel was OK with that play.

"When he hit the ball there, he was hustling," Manuel said. "The guy made a good play and threw him out. That many runs down, he knows he doesn't need to go there. But at least when he came out of the batter's box, he was running for a double. He ran hard."

.200 -- The Phillies' batting average with runners in scoring position in the first eight games of this nine-game road trip. They are 14-for-70.

3.6 -- The average number of runs the Phillies have scored per game since April 15. What happened April 15? Shortstop Jimmy Rollins strained his calf before the game. Before then, the Phillies had averaged 8.0 runs per game while getting off to a 7-1 start.

135 -- Consecutive regular-season games the Phillies spent in first place until Wednesday.

Will that make a team complacent?

"It's part of what you go through," Manuel said. "I don't call it complacency. This is game that when you think you're playing real good and everything, if you drop your guard for a while, all of a sudden you can hit rock bottom. This is a game you stay with every day. That's what we talk about. You can be flying high. That's why teams can be up and down."

Howard said he doesn't pay attention to the standings this early in the season. As for Manuel?

"I always like to be in first place."

Matt Gelb Inquirer Staff Writer
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The place for up-to-the-minute Phillies coverage from The Inquirer beat writer Matt Gelb and columnist Bob Brookover.

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