Phils blanked for 9th time; hitters baffle Sandberg

Ryne Sandberg, normally the model of restraint, appears to be at his tipping point. He normally is not the type to throw his players under the bus, but on Sunday Sandberg had trouble putting on the brakes.

And who could blame him?

The Phillies had just suffered their ninth shutout loss this season, a 3-0 defeat by the Chicago Cubs in front of 41,238 on a picturesque Father's Day at Citizens Bank Park.

Former Phils ace Jim Bunning threw out the first pitch, 50 years after he threw a perfect game against the New York Mets on Father's Day 1964.

The Phillies offense didn't do much better than those long-ago Mets, managing just three hits against a Cubs team that won its first road series since last September.

The Cubs took two of three over the weekend, snapping a dubious string of going 0-12-3 in their previous 15 road series.


Should the Phillies trade Jimmy Rollins?

Winning pitcher Travis Wood allowed three hits in eight innings after losing, 7-2, to the Phillies on April 4. Ben Revere broke up a no-hitter with a one-out single in the sixth.

Sandberg had seen enough from his 29-38 team, which somehow remains remotely in contention because of the incompetence of the rest of the National League East.

"Today he pitched up in the zone and got away with it," Sandberg said of Wood. "We couldn't get on top of him. Those are balls that if [hit right], you can drive them, and he got away with pitching up."

If the Phillies made adjustments, they weren't the right ones.

"For us to make an adjustment and not to get on top of some balls on a guy that pitches up, those are hittable balls," Sandberg said.

When told that his manager questioned his team's approach at the plate, second baseman Chase Utley tried talking around it.

"We had some pitches to hit," Utley said. "Some we hit hard right at guys, some we didn't put good swings on."

When asked what Wood was doing well, rightfielder Marlon Byrd answered, "Throwing strikes."

For the record, 67 of Wood's 112 pitches went for strikes.

The Phillies wasted a solid outing by A.J. Burnett, who allowed three runs over eight innings and did not walk a batter.

He allowed a solo home run to Anthony Rizzo in the first, an RBI single by Starlin Castro in the third, and a run-scoring double by former Phillie Nate Schierholtz in the sixth.

Another bright spot was a shutout inning by reliever Ken Giles, who excited the crowd by throwing one pitch at 101 m.p.h. and two others at 100. Giles struck out two.

That ended the positive portion of the day. Back to the offense. Burnett said the nonexistent support did not frustrate him.

"No, man, that's beyond me," he said. "I can't worry about that."

Somebody has to worry about the inconsistency. Another reason for concern is the schedule.

The Phillies went 4-2 on a homestand against San Diego and the Cubs, two teams that are a combined 22 games under .500.

Now the Phillies enter the backbreaking portion of their schedule, with 32 of their next 35 games against teams with winning records. The only exception is three games with Pittsburgh, which is 34-35.

"Every game is big from here on out," said Utley, who went 4 for 22 (.182) with two RBIs during the homestand.

That 35-game stretch will end a week before the July 31 trade deadline. By then, the Phillies should know where they stand, if they are still able to stay upright.