Young team unable to drive in runners in sixth straight loss
By Nick Suss
PHILADELPHIA -- Twice in 10 days, Eddie Butler has started against the Phillies. But based on the disparity of results, Philadelphia might as well have faced off against two pitchers.
On May 20, the Phillies feasted on Butler. The Rockies right-hander struggled to survive three innings, requiring 77 pitches to find nine outs against 18 batters. The Phillies jumped on the rookie, scoring four runs, two earned, on six hits, two walks and a home run.
Fast forward to Saturday, and Butler manged to avoid Phillies' bats this time. He stifled the Phillies' offense in the Rockies' 5-2 win, allowing just four hits and one run in six innings with an economical 78 pitches.
If you were to watch Butler's two starts back-to-back, you would think he was starting against two different Phillies teams. And given the way manager Ryne Sandberg assessed his team's play over its current six-game losing streak, he kind of did.
"For a stretch there a couple of weeks ago, we were getting the big hit and the timely hit and we had a winning streak, and we blanked out in this cold streak with men on base," Sandberg said.
Saturday was no exception to this "blanking out." The Phillies were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base. In the eighth and ninth innings alone, the Phillies stranded four runners, two of whom were in scoring position. This continued a trend from Friday when they stranded runners in the last two innings of a 4-1 loss.
Power has been lacking for the Phillies. Before Cesar Hernandez's eighth-inning solo home run, the team hadn't put a ball in the stands over the losing streak. To Sandberg, this is one area where the offense needs to turn things around immediately.
"It's pretty good hitting weather out there," Sandberg said. "The flags are blowing. We have guys capable of that. We like to see more contact first and then the ball going out of the park will definitely give us a jumpstart with the offense."
The Phillies are now a season-worst 13 games below .500. Two weeks removed from a six-game winning streak, the team is now on its longest losing streak of the year. With the offense stagnating, the bullpen struggling and the starting pitching doing everything it can to keep this team in games, Philadelphia looks to have lost its way.
To Saturday's starter Aaron Harang, this is a by-product of being on a young baseball team and can easily be remedied.
"It's just a matter of kind of getting everybody synced together," he said. "You have some games where your pitching isn't doing well and your offense has got to pick that up, and other games where your offense isn't doing well and your pitching has got to pick that up. It's just you've got to find the right lane on the road and make sure you get on it and go from there."
Nick Suss is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.