Lack of timely hits continues to plague Phillies

Byrd swats pair, but club goes 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position

Lack of timely hits continues to plague Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies returned to Citizens Bank a week ago on the heels of a successful road trip in which they won five of seven games, including a three-game sweep of Atlanta. Any momentum from that series quickly disappeared as Sunday marked another long day with an eye to getting away from a building in which have struggled mightily this season.

"I don't know," said Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who went 0-for-3 with a walk. "I really don't know. We have a road trip coming up -- a big road trip -- and we'll see if we can make up some ground."

The Phillies lost for the eighth time in 10 games, a 3-2 defeat to Atlanta to close out a 2-6 homestand. This was the first four-game sweep in Philadelphia for the Braves since Sept. 24-27, 1964. They embark on a 10-game road trip to Miami, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, at which point the front office may have enough information to be a buyer or a seller at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

"The time has been now for two or three weeks," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "No question about it. We had a good stretch there, we had a winning streak, and we weren't able to come home and continue. But that's what we need now, to go on the road after an off-day, where we've played well, and hopefully pick it up and have a road trip like we did on the last.

"On our end, we talk about continuing to grind and try to make something happen, turn it around, do things better to allow us to do that. Hitting in the clutch and hitting with men on base is a component that we have to get better at. The talk on our end is to grind it and play hard."

Marlon Byrd was the Phils' bright spot as the outfielder provided all of the offense with a pair of solo home runs off Braves starter Aaron Harang. Byrd's two-spot was the first such outing for a Phillies hitter since June 29, 2013, when Chase Utley, whose single in the seventh Sunday was the 1,500th hit of his career, belted a pair of home runs against the Dodgers.

With one out in the second, Tommy La Stella drew a walk off Phillies starter David Buchanan. Buchanan allowed three runs in five innings and kept the club in the game as he struck out four, but couldn't get out of the second unharmed.

A strikeout by Gerald Laird was followed by a single by Harang to put runners on first and second. B.J. Upton followed with a drive to dead center that turned Phillies center fielder Ben Revere in circles.

The ball carried to the wall as Revere tried to get under it and came down just out of his reach. Revere jumped into the wall just to the left of the 401-foot sign, then scrambled to pick up the ball. La Stella and Harang scored easily as Upton pulled into third with a triple and a 2-0 lead.

"I'm not really known for walking guys, especially today and the last outing," said Buchanan, who allowed five hits and five walks. "You can't go out there and walk that many guys and expect to have a good outing. You've got guys making good plays behind you and you can't leave them out there for that long. It's not fair to them and it keeps me out there longer, so that's something I have to get rid of."

The first of Byrd's home runs in the second pulled Philadelphia within 2-1, but Harang settled in after that as the Phillies -- with the exception of Byrd -- struggled with the veteran righty.

La Stella again figured into Atlanta's next run as he led off the fourth with a double. Laird followed with a double to score La Stella and give the Braves a 3-1 lead.

Byrd's second home run of the day and his 14th of the season pulled him into a tie with Howard for the team lead, moving the Phils to within 3-2 in the fourth.

The Phillies threatened in the fifth when Jimmy Rollins reached on a one-out double and moved to third on a groundout by Utley. After a walk to Howard, however, Byrd grounded out to short to end the threat.

Philadelphia finished with 13 hits, but went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 baserunners. The Phillies went just 3-for-32 with RISP in the series.

"The last week or so that's what's been lacking, a big hit, whether it's an extra base hit driving in a couple runs or a popped home run with a couple guys on," Sandberg said. "That's what made us successful on the past road trip, putting up some numbers early in the game, coming up with clutch hits, and that's what we've lacked this homestand."

Michael Radano is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.