Pete Mackanin is wondering the same thing many people in the Delaware Valley and around baseball are.
“I don’t know if we can sustain the pace of scoring two or three runs a night,” the Phillies manager said following Saturday’s 2-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves at rain-soaked Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
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The Phillies are now 24-19 despite being minus-36 in the run differential category. They’re one of only three teams (Kansas City, Miami) that entered play Saturday playing above .500 with a negative run differential.
They’re 29th in the league in runs scored, ahead of only the Braves. They entered play Saturday tied with Houston for the second-worst batting average in the league. Then they went out and mustered just two hits and three base runners Saturday.
No one reached second base.
Something’s gotta give.
“We’ve known that since the beginning, know that we’re a team that’s not going to score a lot of runs,” said shortstop Freddy Galvis. “We have to play good defense and get good pitching. And hopefully we’ll start swinging the bats better. Sometimes we score a run or two and we win the game. Not this time. We have to help the pitchers. We have to do a better job of hitting the ball.”
Look no further in that category than the middle of the order.
Both Maikel Franco and Ryan Howard - the 4-5 combo on this occasion - went hitless Saturday. Howard was 0 for 2 with a pair of strikeouts. Franco went 0 for 2 with a walk.
As a pair they’re hitting .161 in the month of May, with Howard's May average at .091. Miraculously, the Phillies are 10-8 during that stretch.
“I think the last two days we haven’t been swinging the bat very good,” Galvis said. “We don’t have to put that on on someone’s shoulders. This is a team. Nine guys go to bat. And everyone has to do something to win some games.”
Still, a team struggling for offense needs to get help from its power threats.
“You’ve gotta have a good middle of the lineup,” Mackanin said. “You gotta drive runs in and we’re not doing it. The team today, we just didn’t look good.”
That was an understatement.
Braves starter Williams Perez, for the second-straight time, held Phillies batters to just two hits. The 25-year-old righthander tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings while surrendering just two hits. He walked one - his last batter - and struck out four.
“Because our offense is not the greatest, it’s easy to say, ‘Well, we’re not hitting,’” Mackanin said. “But when you face a guy who pitches the way he did, it makes it even tougher.”
Phillies starter Adam Morgan wouldn’t admit it, and none of his rotation-mates have, but it’s going to be very difficult for the pitching staff to continue to sustain the same level of success while having such a small margin for error.
Perez retired the first eight batters he faced before allowing a single to David Lough with two outs in the third. Six straight outs were interrupted for a moment by a Tyler Goeddel single in the bottom of the fifth. And the Phillies never threatened again.
Odubel Herrera and Galvis each were struck out by Arodys Vizcaino to begin the bottom of the ninth before Andres Blanco popped up to end the game and send the remaining faithful into the rainy night with a second straight defeat.
The Phillies are now 2-4 in their last six games and have a tough stretch ahead.
“It’s obvious that we haven’t been hitting the ball the way I think we’re capable of hitting,” Mackanin said. “Sure, it gets to you after a while.
“As good as our pitching has been, at some point it’s gotta affect everybody. But it hasn’t affected our guys yet. They looked a little down today but we gotta come back tomorrow and get it going.”