Rough patch ahead could finish off Phils

Domonic Brown in baseball action against the Chicago Cubs Sunday, June 15, 2014, in Philadelphia. (H. Rumph Jr/AP)

Had the Phillies shown up on Father's Day and played like men intent on having some say in the National League East race, this would have been a good time to point out that they are about to begin a brutal sequence of games against a lot of good teams and some great pitchers.

There is no reason to do that, however. None whatsoever, because it was obvious after the offense's latest disappearing act that this team has no chance to be anything but dead and buried by the end of the 35-game stretch that begins Monday night against the first-place Atlanta Braves.

If you lose two of three at home to the wretched Chicago Cubs, as the Phillies just did, you have no chance against what lies ahead.

After three games in Atlanta, it will be on to St. Louis for four, home against Miami and Atlanta for eight, away against Miami, Pittsburgh, and Milwaukee for 10, home against Washington for three, away against Atlanta for three and home for four against San Francisco, owner of the best record in baseball.

That will bring us to July 24, exactly one week before the trade deadline. If general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. doesn't have a "Fire Sale" sign on his office door at that point, it will only be because nobody wants his players or he has been fired. The former is more likely than the latter because the inventory when you examine the Phillies' lineup isn't all that appealing unless you are an opposing pitcher.

Travis Wood found the Phillies' lineup to be a deliciously appetizing bunch Sunday and, according to manager Ryne Sandberg, it wasn't because the Cubs' lefty was a master chef on the mound, mixing a recipe of nasty pitches.


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"Wood was pitching up in the zone and we were hitting fly balls," Sandberg said. "We were underneath him the whole game. He pitched up in the zone and got away with it. Those are balls . . . you can drive them, and he got away with pitching up."

Wood didn't just get away with it; he flirted with a no-hitter for a while on a day when the Phillies were celebrating the 50-year anniversary of Jim Bunning's Father's Day perfect game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. Wood, of course, also pitched eight perfect innings against the Phillies in 2011 when he was a member of the Cincinnati Reds.

That Phillies team, however, ended up winning a lot even when the hits were hard to come by: They beat the Reds in 11 innings in that game.

This Phillies team finds ways to lose, and often it is because they cannot score. They were blanked for the ninth time this season and managed just three hits.

This time, it disturbed the manager. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Carlos Ruiz all were invited into the manager's office after the game. Howard was blameless for this defeat because he did not play; Rollins had one of his team's three hits to break his own franchise record. (The shortstop said after Saturday's game that he would consider waiving his no-trade rights if the Phillies "blow everything up.")

Answers for the maddening inconsistency of the offense were difficult to find in the home clubhouse.

"I definitely think things can get better," Utley said after an 0-for-4 performance left his batting average at .229 for June and a season-low .303 overall.

Utley was hitless in three at-bats with runners in scoring position, and the Phillies were 0 for 6 in those situations.

"The goal is to try to improve," Utley said. "Some games we have executed well and some games we haven't. We have to continue to stay positive and focused and go from there."

Marlon Byrd also went 0 for 4, including two at-bats with runners in scoring position. He is hitting .182 in his last 12 games, but don't ask him about being frustrated.

"You used the word frustrating; you're done," Byrd told a reporter who had the audacity to ask the rightfielder whether he was frustrated after the Phillies were blanked for the seventh time at home this season.

What was Wood doing to shut down the Phillies?

"Throwing strikes," Byrd said.

A lot of days, that really is all you need to do to beat this Phillies lineup. And that's why you can expect to see a lot of changes when the Phillies get finished with the 35-game stretch that is sure to leave them dead and buried.