Phillies suffer three-game sweep to Braves
BEFORE ONE INNING, Danny Jackson sang happy birthday to a random fan.
After another, a collection of 1993 Phillies sang a pretty awful version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
Before the game, they took their positions on the field, with Mariano Duncan and Mickey Morandini sharing second base, just as they did 20 years ago.
An announced crowd of 37,235 fans descended upon Citizens Bank Park on Sunday night. They came for nostalgia, stayed for the baseball.
But the baseball was so bad during Alumni Weekend in South Philly that the people in the promotions department may want to find 28 more memorable seasons to celebrate in the remaining home dates on the 2013 schedule.
Less than 5 minutes after Dutch, Krukkie and the Wild Thing walked off the field, Cliff Lee gave up a two-spot to the Atlanta Braves. It would be enough to finish a sweep over the light-hitting Phillies.
Chris Johnson's two-out, two-run single off Lee in the first inning helped the first-place Braves leave Philadelphia with a 4-1 win. The Phillies finished the night with four hits, with just two coming before the eighth inning.
The Phillies have lost five straight and 13 of their last 14 games. They've scored fewer than two runs in seven of those 14 games.
"We squared up what, three balls? Four balls? In nine innings?" manager Charlie Manuel said. "We had all our righthanded hitters in there [against Braves lefthander Alex Wood]. We definitely have to stop this somewhere . . . I don't see no really 'getting after it' in those at-bats. We look like we take it very casual. Like it's, 'We'll get 'em next time.' No, that's not good enough."
The victory was Atlanta's 10th straight and completed a clean, three-game sweep of the free-falling Phils.
The Phillies (50-61) are 2-13 since the All-Star break. They are 16 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the National League East standings.
"We got to have more pride, we got to have more fire and play better fundamental baseball, period," Lee said. "If we do that, we'll turn it around."
They should have had a chance to end their woes last night, however, simply because Lee was taking the mound for the first time in 14 days. Before the finale with Atlanta, Lee hadn't pitched since July 21, at Citi Field in New York.
Lee avoided a disabled-list stint but still saw his rotation spot skipped while he battled a stiff neck, the result of sleeping badly in a St. Louis hotel. But instead of reconnecting with his gaudy first- half stats, Lee returned to the mound and now has a three-start losing streak.
Lee was gone after five innings, matching his shortest start of the season.
"It took him a while to get his command going," Manuel said of Lee, who needed 95 pitches to get through five innings. "The more he pitched, his stuff was getting better, but he ran a high pitch count."
With the Phils trailing, 2-1, in the fourth inning, Lee served up a leadoff double to B.J. Upton. The ball was first ruled a home run, but turned into a double after the umpiring crew used instant replay.
It didn't end up mattering since Upton came around to score on a two-out single from Jason Heyward. Justin Upton followed with a double to up the Atlanta lead to 4-1.
Lee allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits; he struck out eight and walked two.
After entering July with a 2.59 ERA, Lee exited his first start of August with a 3.13 ERA. He has a 5.92 ERA in his last four starts.
The Phils are paying Lee a team-high $25 million this season, which doesn't include performance bonuses, like the $50,000 he got for making the All-Star Game. Darren Daulton, who drew the largest applause each time he took the field this weekend, made $25.6 million in his entire 14-year career.
The Phillies have lost five of the six games Lee has started in the last 6 weeks.
"I was a little erratic early, wasn't locating that well," Lee said. "I'm not really happy with the results, but physically I feel good, back on track."
The Phillies' offense did little to help Lee. Wood, 22, making his fourth career starts, held the home team to one run on two hits in six innings.
The Phillies had just three baserunners reach scoring position in the first seven innings. Since the opportunities were few, making mistakes during those opportunities was inexcusable.
In the fifth inning, John Mayberry Jr. was picked off second base with two outs and Chase Utley at the plate.
"I can't explain to you how the guy can be holding him on, how he can have a short lead . . . and he gets picked off," Manuel said. "[Plays like that] are inexcusable. When you're playing like we are now, you've got to really be concentrating on staying focused and playing the game right and cutting down and eliminating mistakes. But at the same time, too, the more that you see mistakes and the more you see somebody keep making mistakes over and over and over and over, that might tell you what kind of player that he is. If I'm going to be responsible, I think other people have to be responsible, too, especially the ones that play the game."