Whenever Kyle Kendrick takes the hill for the Phillies, I can't help but feel like we are on the verge of driving past a horrific car accident. You want to look away, but you can't. The spectacle of the thing -- as grotesque as it appears -- draws you in like a moth to some kind of awful flame.
But when the Phillies lost to the Nationals on Monday night, it was not because of the starter-turned-reliever-turned starter Kendrick, who put in seven fine innings of work, where he allowed all of two runs on four hits.
No, the loss -- which puts the Phillies back under the .500 mark -- could be chalked up, once again, to an offense that is incapable of taking advantage of baserunners and a pair of baserunning gaffes that came back to haunt them in the end.
With lefty Gio Gonzalez on the hill, the Phillies had their work cut out for them. After all, Gonzalez has been as good as advertised for the Nats, and with Jimmy Rollins out of the lineup to be with his wife and new baby, runs were going to be hard to come by.
But Gonzalez wasn't dominant. He had nine strikeouts, sure, but his control was iffy. Of his 108 pitches, only 65 were strikes. He was consistently getting behind hitters -- leaving himself wide open to attack. But, once again, the Phillies failed to take advantage.
In the bottom of the third, the Phillies loaded the bases with two outs, but failed to score when Hunter Pence grounded out to end the threat.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Phillies had runners on second and third with no one out and Pence at the dish. He hit a hard liner to center that outfielder Rick Ankiel had to dive for to catch, but Placido Polanco -- who was on third -- read it poorly and was unable to tag up to score. With one away, Carlos Ruiz hit a hard grounder to first base, but it was corralled by Adam LaRoche, who made a fine play to throw out Polanco when he finally tried to score. John Mayberry flied out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Phillies had runners on first and second, with one away, for Pence, but he swung at the first offering he saw from Craig Stammen, and popped out harmlessly to third. Ruiz followed with an inning-ending groundout.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies appeared to have something in the works against Nats closer Henry Rodriguez, who has been as wild as they come this season. Mayberry walked on four pitches, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and moved to third base on a single from Mike Fontenot. He would then score on a sacrifice fly from Ty Wigginton, which should have tied the game, if not for Polanco's earlier baserunning gaffes. And following a walk to Hector Luna, Polanco -- with the tying run in scoring position and a chance to redeem himself -- lined out to second to end the threat, and the game.
For the third-straight game, the Phillies failed to do anything when they had men on base. They left 10 on base, and thanks to some stupid baserunning, they very well may have cost themselves another victory.
It seems as if there is a theme emerging with this team: When the bats work, the pitching doesn't. When they can pitch, the bats shut down. When they can pitch and hit, the bullpen implodes. If, for just a moment, this team could get everyone moving in the same direction, they might be able to make up some ground in the division and put themselves in a better position to strike when they get some offensive reinforcements.
It's still early in the season, and the Phillies are well within striking distance of the division, so there isn't any serious cause for concern. Yet. But, it will be August before you know it, and these games -- which have been fairly winnable -- could come back to haunt them.