After two disappointing seasons, the Philadelphia Phillies were hoping to get back into the division race this season and return to the playoffs. Needless to say, things have not gone well for the team so far. At first the Phillies just hovered around .500, winning 3, then losing two, and so on. However, things have recently taken a turn for the worst for the Phillies. Before defeating the Cincinnati Reds on Friday, the team was on a six game losing streak that put them in last place in the National League. It is not a question of what are the Phillies doing wrong, but if they can do anything right. It was against the Washington Nationals last week where the team’s struggles in multiple areas were most evident.
The Phillies lost the first game 7-0, once again being shutout, and starter David Buchanan gave up 7 runs in 6 innings. The elephant in the room for the Phillies the past few years has been their inconsistent offense. It has remained just as inconsistent this season despite the core players being healthy. Chase Utley is back in all-star form, Jimmy Rollins is closing in on becoming the Phillies all-time hits leader, and Ryan Howard is heating up, so what is wrong with the lineup? The answer to that question would be on the left side of the field, as third base has been a hole in the lineup, and Domonic Brown has regressed terribly after his all-star 2013 season. On top of that, center field has not had a consistent starter, with Ben Revere and Tony Gwynn Jr. splitting time there.
The other issue is that when the team does score enough to put the team in position to win, the pitching staff is unable to hold the lead. The team ERA is 4.20, 24th in the majors, but the worse ERA between starters and relievers actually belongs to the rotation. The starters have a 4.22 ERA, meanwhile the bullpen has an ERA of 4.15. Neither of which will get you far, and both are guilty of being unable to hold the leads they are given. The starters are ranked 28th in the majors in 1st inning ERA, often leaving the team playing from the very start. Injuries have been an issue as both Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee have been on the DL, showing the organizations lack of quality depth when it comes to pitching.
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The struggle of the team also goes beyond the players, as the coaching staff has made its fair share of mistakes. First year manager Ryne Sandberg made one last Saturday against the Mets in extra innings that cost his team the game. In the thirteenth inning, with Howard on third with two outs, Sandberg let reliever Jeff Manship bat instead of going with a pinch hitter. Manship grounded and then pulled his hamstring, leading to the struggling Antonio Bastardo pitching the 14th, and losing the game for the Phillies. It is a move that had many questioning the new manager, as the Phillies had a chance to end the game with one hit, but Sandberg made it more difficult by keeping Manship in. He called a team meeting before the first game against the Nationals, which did not have an immediate impact, losing 7-0 against their rivals.
As the first third of the season has come to pass, the Phillies have earned the grade of a D. It seems at times as though the team cannot do anything right, from batting, pitching, and even bunting. If it is not one thing it is the other, either not being able to back up strong pitching performances or not being able to hold the lead. On top of this, Sandberg has made questionable decisions in his first season as manager. Also, to the public he does not seem to show much emotion, whether it is positive or negative. It also brings up the issue of great players being able to transition to great managers. As a hall of fame second baseman, Sandberg may not be able to help players develop as much as a not a successful player could as a coach, such as Charlie Manuel. If the team wants to earn a better grade later in the season, then they must improve in all areas.
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