Phillies Hurt by Base-running Blunders, Pitching Mistakes in Loss to Pirates

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Phillies manager Pete Mackanin disclosed that he and his coaching staff will have a meeting with general manager Matt Klentak on Friday to go over the team's disappointing first half and discuss an approach for the second half.

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No one expected these Phillies to contend this season, but no one expected them to be this hellaciously bad either. The Phillies' 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates (the Bucs took three of four in the series) on Thursday night dropped them to a majors-worst 28-56 (see Instant Replay). They are the only team in the majors with less than 30 wins. The Houston Astros have 31 wins - on the road.

As an icebreaker to Friday's meeting, the Phillies' braintrust can talk about the club's latest loss and the series of self-inflicted wounds that led to it.

Starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson hung a pair of changeups in the fourth inning and they led to a pair of Pittsburgh home runs and three runs.

The Phillies, who scored the game's first run on a bizarre three-base throwing error by Pittsburgh catcher Elias Diaz that allowed Andrew Knapp to score from first base, forged back to tie the game on a two-run single by Aaron Altherr in the bottom of the seventh inning only to see reliever Joaquin Benoit give up four hits and three runs in the top of the eighth as the Pirates surged ahead by three runs. Josh Bell broke the tie with a double down the first-base line and Mackanin didn't mince words after the game.

"I thought he should have caught it," Mackanin said of first baseman Tommy Joseph.

The wounds that cost the Phillies most were three - count 'em, three - base runners that were cut down at second base trying to stretch singles into doubles. Pirates leftfielder Jose Osuna got them all - Altherr twice and Odubel Herrera once. And the plays weren't close. Osuna entered the game with just one assist and ended it with four.

Having three runners wiped off the bases in a close game is a killer.

"You know what's interesting about those plays is I encourage the guys to be aggressive, to try to turn a single into a double," Mackanin said. "However, when you take that hard turn going to second base you should have time to decide whether or not to go, and I think those guys, if they had to do it all over again, would have stopped and went out back to first.

"If they were closer plays it wouldn't have been a big deal, but when you're out by that much, I think they should have shut it down."

Altherr got nailed in the second inning on a scorcher off the left-field wall. Herrera got nailed on the next play, a blooper to left. Altherr was cut down again on a ball to left-center on his game-tying single in the seventh.

"I thought I had both of those, easy doubles, and then all of a sudden he makes a perfect throw and got me out," Altherr said. "I'm going to have to think twice next time on that guy. He made good plays.

"There's not too much I can do about that, just read it a little better and stay at first next time."

Altherr said the Phillies went over Osuna's arm before the series.

"We know all the guys," he said. "It's just matter of I'm trying to make something happen and I didn't make it happen. It's all good, though. Just keep battling and come back tomorrow."

With only three runs of support, Hellickson could not afford any mistakes. He made two of them in the fourth. Bell hit a 1-0 changeup for a two-run homer. Gregory Polanco hit a full-count changeup for a solo homer.

"I'd definitely like to have those two back," Hellickson said. "I more aimed them and babied them. I made sure I threw a strike and it hung up. Those pitches both hurt me."

Hellickson is one of a handful of trade candidates on the Phillies' roster. This was his final start before the All-Star break. He is 5-5 with a 4.49 ERA in 18 starts.

"Inconsistent is the best word to describe it," Hellickson said of his first half.

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