Phillies stumbling out of second-half gate

Optimistic at break, club has lost five of seven and resides nine back in Wild Card race

Phillies stumbling out of second-half gate

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies' high hopes for the second half have suffered a setback.

They exited the All-Star break believing they could make a long-shot run at a National League Wild Card. Why not, they said? But after the Phillies managed just three hits and Jerad Eickhoff struggled Thursday night in a 9-3 loss to the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park, they have lost five of seven games since the break to fall to 44-53 and nine games behind the Marlins for the second Wild Card.

"I'm not giving up hope for that Wild Card, because I've seen us better," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.

But the Phillies still have to play 30 more games at home this season, which is not necessarily a good thing.

They scored just 17 runs in the seven-game homestand against the Mets and Marlins, and they are hitting .218 with a .627 OPS and averaging just 2.9 runs per game at home. Their runs-per-game average ranks last in baseball, a half-run worse than the Braves.

Conversely, the Phillies are hitting .260 with a .724 OPS and averaging 4.3 runs per game on the road, which ranks 22nd.

"I don't know, man, it's crazy," said shortstop Freddy Galvis, who hit a solo home run in the eighth. "We were talking about it. I don't know if we try to do too much here at home, but every time we go on the road, we click, man. Everything goes good, you know? I don't know, it's crazy.

Galvis' solo homer

"We don't hit the ball that good. I don't know if it's a little bit of us trying to do too much here. And if we're trying to do too much, it's not going to happen. We have to just let it go and do what we have to do, and that's it."

The Phillies' pitching had been pretty good in the first six games of the homestand, posting a 2.84 ERA. But Eickhoff allowed nine hits, six runs (five earned runs) and struck out six in five innings. He threw two wild pitches and hit a batter in a four-run fourth inning.

"Eickhoff, he's got one of the best curveballs in baseball," Mackanin said. "I didn't think he used it enough, especially in that fourth inning. It's a really good pitch for him. He got away from it for some reason."

Eickhoff agreed with Mackanin's assessment.

"Looking back after the outing was over, there were definitely times I could have used it more," he said. "It was just unfortunate I wasn't able to realize that myself and throw that more in the game in that fourth inning."

Eickhoff can incorporate the curveball into his next start next week in Miami. But can the Phillies' offense pick it up on the road?

"I've been concerned about the hitting all year," Mackanin said. "It's a constant issue that we have to improve upon. If we improved our hitting, we would have won more games."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for since 2009. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.