All it took were two long fly balls carrying deep into the shrubbery in center field to provide Pete Mackanin with some false hope Saturday.
The first came off the bat of Tommy Joseph and tied the game at one apiece. The second, which was preceded by a Tyler Goeddel triple, came from Cesar Hernandez of all people and put the Phillies ahead 3-1 in the bottom of the second inning.
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Those 10 minutes were enough to have Mackanin convinced things might be different than usual. Things may have gone more like they did Friday and not like they’ve gone all season.
But the Phillies’ stagnant offense reared its ugly head and showed itself in the next seven innings and they lost for the eighth time in nine games, this one a 6-3 defeat to the Milwaukee Brewers (see Instant Replay).
Hernandez’s homer was his first in 550 plate appearances.
“That’s when I thought we were going to be in for a good day because the ball was really carrying well,” Mackanin said.
“But it just ended there.”
Brewers starter Junior Guerra settled in and got better as the game went on. The Phillies tallied just three hits the rest of the way.
Cody Asche’s double in the fourth inning would be the last time the Phillies got a runner in scoring position on Guerra.
“I don’t know what happened,” Mackanin said. “I thought he continued to give us some hittable pitches and we didn’t capitalize. It looked like we were in for a good day offensively and then we just shut down.”
It’s been the same old story, except for Friday’s offensive explosion of six runs.
The lack of offense has officially come back to haunt the Phillies. No matter what button Mackanin has tried to push lately, the same results have shown.
“The key to a winning team is you have to have consistent at-bats,” Mackanin said. “Our guys need to learn how to do that a little bit more. There’s too many giveaway at-bats, too many at-bats that just seem to be too quick. You need those good at-bats, quality at-bats.”
As has been the case for most of the season, starting pitching kept the Phillies close enough Saturday.
Though he wasn’t as good or as efficient as he was on Monday, Jeremy Hellickson labored through five innings but only gave up three runs. He walked three and struck out four while throwing 108 pitches. He gave up a leadoff homer to former Phillies prospect Jonathan Villar, who was dealt to Houston in the Hunter Pence trade.
“He wasn’t the same guy as the last outing,” Mackanin said.
He shouldn’t have to be.
Last outing he tossed seven shutout innings. That win was ruined when Hector Neris allowed a rare home run to blow a save in the eighth inning.
And though Hellickson was long gone from the game Saturday, it was Neris’ 3-1 fastball to Domingo Santana, a former Phillies farmhand sent to Houston in the Roy Oswalt deal, that gave the Brewers the momentum they needed to seize a victory. Santana blasted Neris’ fastball into the seats in left for the go-ahead home run.
“Last two times out - he did a hell of a job the other night with the bases loaded - he just doesn’t look the same,” Mackanin said of Neris. “He looks more tentative. I don’t know why that is. Just going through a period. Hitters go through slumps and so do pitchers at times.”
These are the results when they happen at the same time.