More than an hour after the game had ended, hundred of older folks from the greater Philadelphia region took the field at Citizens Bank Park for a popular sporting good store’s “Senior Stroll the Bases” promotion. Each senior’s stroll ended with them touching home plate and posing for a photo, too.
The obvious, unavoidable easy joke: the senior citizens - every, single one of them - made the journey around the bases on Wednesday afternoon more often than any member of a Phillies team known around baseball for its advanced age.
But if anyone wanted to take any positives out of a dull 3-0 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels: each member of the Phillies aging core, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz, all had at least one hit in the game.
Beyond that, well, avoid self-criticism and praise the other team, I guess.
“Teams are getting hot,” said Marlon Byrd, who had his second straight 0-for-4 game. “We had Toronto, we had Texas, we had the Angels – all good teams. Good hitting, good pitching.”
In the last 11 days, the Phillies had neither, with a splash of poor defense too. The result: the Phils gave lost seven of their last nine games.
The Phillies (17-21) are a season-low four games under .500.
It’s the same record the Phillies had after 38 games in 2013, when the would finish the season in fourth place and 24 games behind the Atlanta Braves. The current Phillies are in last place and were five games behind Atlanta following Wednesday’s defeat.
But it’s beginning to feel a lot like Groundhog Day at the ballpark just like last season, with no Bill Murray to keep the mood light.
“Very frustrating - very,” said Cody Asche, who went 0-for-3 and has gone hitless in 12 of his last 19 starts. “I don’t think anybody is happy. You just have to keep working.”
“I see starting pitching as our strength and that starting pitching gives us a chance to win if we play defense play behind them,” said manager Ryne Sandberg, trying to find a positive. “We need the timely hitting, especially here at home. We need to tune up the bats here at home and score some runs and put the two together to create a chance to win.”
Wednesday’s matinee marked the third time int he last nine games that the Phillies offense has been shut out. First J.A. Happ, then Mark Buerhle, and, on Wednesday, Garrett Richards.
The 25-year-old Richards, who the Angels selected 17 picks after taking Mike Trout in the 2009 draft, allowed just five base runners in seven innings. Richards (4-0, 2.42 ERA) allowed five hits while striking out eight and walking zero.
The righthander retired 15 of the 16 batters he faced from the end of the first inning through the first out of the sixth.
“He had a power sinker – 96, 97 – with real good sink that our guys didn’t really have a history with him, but he gave us a tough time creating a lot of ground balls,” Sandberg said.
The manager went on to say only one of his hitters - Tony Gwynn Jr., who pinch hit in the fifth - had ever faced Richards. Such is the nature of interleague play.
Not surprisingly, then, the Phillies have lost eight straight interleague contests and are 13-31 against American League foes since the beginning of 2012. The good news: they won’t play an American League team again for three months, when they travel to Anaheim to play the Angels in August.
“Interleague play is what it is,” Sandberg said. “It’s a chance to see all the players. Chase Utley had a good day with two doubles. He does a good job with video and video is available. Guys have a chance to use video and that goes a long way with not seeing somebody. We have film on him and guys had a chance to see him.”
Since you mentioned it, Ryno, is the rest of the struggling offense utilizing video and putting in the proper pre game preparation?
“Preparation is fine,” Sandberg said.
Execution, though, is not.
The Phillies offense accounted for a grand total of five hits on Wednesday. Byrd, Asche, Domonic Brown and Ben Revere were a combined 0-for-15 with four strikeouts.
Revere, the center fielder’s whose defense has already been called into question this month, entered May hitting .299. But in the first 12 games of the month, Revere is 8-for-42 (.190) with one walk.
Among the 24 major league leadoff hitters with at least 100 plate appearances, Revere’s .284 on-base percentage ranks 23rd.
Following another team-wide lackluster offensive effort, Sandberg was asked if lineup changes were in order.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I have an off day to think about it.”