Phillies' offense sputters during loss to Reds

Ryan Howard takes his helmet off after striking out to the third inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Friday, May 16, 2014, in Philadelphia. The Reds won 3-0. (Chris Szagola/AP)

It’s difficult to believe when computing the math with the distraction of thousands of blue seats beyond your calculator, but the following sentence is true.

The Phillies average home attendance this season is 30,370 per game.

While that’s still down more than 7,000 per game from last season’s average attendance, and almost 14,000 fewer per game than in 2012, it’s still among the top half of baseball’s teams. Only 11 teams can boast a better average attendance per game in the season’s first seven weeks.

But, Mike Trout has made his last trip to Citizens Bank Park in 2014. And the Phillies offense has 63 more home dates on its schedule.

Expect that attendance number to plummet, or at least get used to more of the scene from Friday night, when a much smaller number than the announced 27,316 came down to the 10-year-old South Philly ballpark to watch another offensive effort from the Phillies lineup.

For the second straight game - and the third time in their last five at Citizens Bank Park - the Phillies were shut out. Cincinnati catcher Devin Mesoraco's three-run home run in the first inning was all the Reds needed to beat the Phillies 3-0 on Friday night. 


Who has been the biggest disappointment for the Phillies so far?

The Phillies have been shut out four times in their last 10 games.

The Phillies haven’t scored a run in 20 innings. Dating back to their last win at home, a 1-0 victory on May 4 against Washington, the Phillies have failed to score a run in 82 of the last 101 innings they’ve played.

"We create some opportunities and get men on base," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It’s not getting that hit to bring in a run and get that crooked number we’ve been lacking." 

"It just comes as a team, man: when you struggle, everyone struggles," said Domonic Brown, who’s batting average dropped to .214 after an 0-for-4 night. "But we have some professional hitters here. I think things are definitely going to turn around for us. For myself and for everyone. Right now it’s just not going that way. Thats baseball. You just have to keep moving forward. Keep battling."

With Friday night’s loss, the Phillies (17-22) fell to a season-low five games under .500. It’s their worst start after 39 games since 2005, when they were also 17-22.

The Phillies’ struggles are amplified at their home ballpark, where boos are becoming as commonplace as the empty blue seats.

The Phils have two wins at home in the last month. The Phillies are 6-12 this season at Citizens Bank Park; only the woeful Arizona Diamondbacks (4-17 at home, 16-27 overall) have won fewer games on their home field. 

Kyle Kendrick, making his fourth start of the season at home, wasn’t the problem. Kendrick served up a three-run home run in the first inning, but he probably should have been out of the inning before Mesoraco batted. 

After giving up a leadoff single to Reds leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton to begin the night, Kendrick got Skip Schumaker to hit a lazy fly ball to shallow left field. Domonic Brown, however, was late upon arrival to the lazy fly ball, which fell in for a hit.

"It looked like he started out too deep for that hitter," Sandberg said. "He didn’t get a good jump on the ball."

Said Brown: "I just didn’t think I could get to it. I didn’t want to try to force it. … A couple years ago I probably would have dove after that, maybe missed it and it goes to the wall or whatever. I know early on I want to keep everything in front of me, keep the double play in order. It just didn’t work out."

After retiring the next hitter, Kendrick served up a long fall ball that landed over Brown’s head and in the left field seats. 

Kendrick held the Reds to one infield hit over his next six innings.

He is in the midst of a nine-game losing streak (spanning 15 starts since last August). It’s the longest losing streak for a Phillies pitcher since Matt Beech lost 11 games over 21 starts in 1996-97.

In Kendrick’s streak, he hasn’t had a whole lot of help: the Phillies have been shut out in five of those 15 games and held to 1 run or less in 8 of those games. 

"I’ve just got to go out there and take care of my job and give my team a chance to win," Kendrick said. "The first inning has been tough for me this year. That’s something I need to work on. I think I need to be more aggressive in the first or something."

The Phillies offense, meanwhile, was shut down by former Phillies farmhand Alfredo Simon. The 33-year-old Simon, traded away 10 years ago with Ricky Ledee in the deal that netted reliever Felix Rodriguez, held the Phils to five hits while striking out eight and walking one in 7 1/3 innings.

He was just the latest pitcher to manhandle the Phillies bats in their own home.

The Phillies have scored 52 runs in 18 games at Citizens Bank Park, for a major league-worst average of 2.89 runs-per-game at home. They’ve averaged 1.91 runs in their last 11 home games.

The hundreds of people that left those blue seats empty must have had a premonition another weak offensive effort was on deck: the Phillies entered Friday’s game with the fifth worst team OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) at home. That OPS number: .666.

"It’s definitely weird," Brown said of the struggles at the hitter-friendly ballpark. "I know it’s weird for me, going up there and seeing us as a whole not driving in runs with runners in scoring position. We definitely have to do a better job. I think it’ll come."