Sunday, February 7, 2016

Here's something about nothing

Forty-five minutes after it was over, Ryan Howard dressed and declined comment in a most fitting manner.

Here's something about nothing

Charlie Manuel called a team meeting after the club´s fourth straight loss last night. (Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer)
Charlie Manuel called a team meeting after the club's fourth straight loss last night. (Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer)

Forty-five minutes after it was over, Ryan Howard dressed and declined comment in a most fitting manner.

"I got nothing for you today," the Phillies' first baseman said.

That could easily serve as the Phillies' team slogan right now because there's been a whole lot of nothing going on.

So much so that both manager Charlie Manuel and right fielder Jayson Werth felt something needed to be done after the Phillies' 5-0 loss to the New York Mets Wednesday night at Shea Stadium.

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Manuel called a team meeting immediately after his team's season-high fourth straight defeat. Werth did something even more drastic: he shaved off all but a small patch of hair from his chin.

We'll see if those two moves have any affect on the Phillies' comatose offense when the team tries to avoid a three-game sweep Thursday night at Citi Field. All we know for sure right now is that those Mets fans chanting "Go home Phillies" near the completion of Wednesday night's game are insane. "Please stay Phillies" would be far more appropriate considering how lost Charlie Manuel's offense is right now.

Nobody, including Manuel, would reveal exactly what the Phillies' manager said after the game, but reading between the lines you got the sense he wanted to see a better approach at home plate in the near future.

"It's disappointing," Werth said after rediscovering a razor. "Obviously we feel like we should win every game that we play, regardless of who's pitching and who's playing. There is no reason to panic or take it too hard. It's part of the game."

A four-game losing streak is to be expected over the course of a long season, but it's surreal to see an offense like the Phillies' disappear the way it has over the last four games. The Phillies have batted .192 as a team during this losing streak and .203 in their last eight games. With runners in scoring position, they are batting .133 (4-for-30) in their last four games.

"We're not very good right now," Thompson said. "They have to trust themselves and go out and play. A slump is mental. Hopefully we'll come out tomorrow and we'll come in the right frame of mind, score in the first inning and go on from there."

Thompson said he offered words of encourgagement during the game: "Who wants to be the hero and take the plug out of the dyke?"

There was no response and for the third time in four games the Phillies were left with no runs.

"We haven't had a lead in a long time," Thompson said. "(Tuesday) blew my mind. We got nine hits and five walks and didn't get a run."

Facing two starting pitchers from Japan -- Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Mets' Hisanori Takahashi -- and two knuckleballers -- Boston's Tim Wakefield and the Mets' R.A. Dickey -- the Phillies haven't scored in 28 innings.

So now Manuel has had a meeting, Werth has shed most of his facial hair and the Phillies get another shot to score when they go against the Mets' Mike Pelfrey Thursday night. He isn't Japanese and he doesn't throw a knuckleball, but with a 6-1 record and 2.86 ERA, he isn't the prescribed remedy for a slumping team either.

"It's baseball and it can be a frustrating game at times," second baseman Chase Utley said. "In the past, we've done a good job of being resilient and battling through the bad times. Times like this can build the character of a team. When things aren't going your way and balls aren't bouncing in your favor, it can be tough. When you have a group of guys that will stick with each other and battle through, you'll be OK."

Nobody in the Phillies' clubhouse is naive enough to believe this slump is nothing, but it was clear long after Wednesday night's game ended that all those nothings being strung together on the scoreboard have become a real source of frustration.


Inquirer Columnist
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