Mistakes crushing struggling Phillies down the stretch

Nick Pivetta Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta, right, handing the baseball to manager Gabe Kapler. (Photo: Getty Images)

The excitement level surrounding the Phillies a month ago was palpable – they were atop the National League, in talks of landing All-Star shortstop Manny Machado and Aaron Nola got to pitch in his first All-Star game.

But things have gone very south in the meantime. Since the All-Star break, the Phillies have gone just 17-19. Their defensive inconsistencies and struggles at the plate are a nightly issue and they’re playing like national pundits pegged them to before the season – like a young and growing team.

In addition to those struggles, the acquisitions of hitters like Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilson Ramos, Justin Bour haven’t worked out up to this point, but management is trying to inject life into the offense with the latest acquisition of Jose Bautista from the Mets.

In terms of the standings, the Phillies have a record of 70-61 and are still right in the mix. They’re also just 3.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves (73-57) for the N.L. East lead with 31 games left to play.

“We need the Braves to lose a few, and we need to play better, that’s it, ” Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “There’s really nothing magical you can say. We need to play better. The Braves need to not play as well. If those two things happen, we’ll be fine.”

But in a 5-3 loss to the Nationals on Monday night, the Phillies did not play better. A couple of defensive lapses by pitcher Zach Eflin and outfielder Rhys Hoskins in the fourth inning turned a 2-2 tie into a 4-2 Nationals lead. The Phillies could not find a way to muster any offense in the following five innings.

“We are three games out of the division,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “We are two games out of the wild card and we are a team that has lost 90-plus games three years in a row and hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2011. There are 31 games left to play, seven of which are against the Braves. We are in a good spot. We get hot and play well in September, we can do some damage and play some October baseball. That is the goal for these players, for this coaching staff and for this organization.”

The Phillies have lost seven of their last nine games and 13 of their last 20. Saying that this trend will be reversed come September is easier said than done, but Kapler’s optimism is good for the team.

They need to dig deep at the plate and limit mistakes on the field to get out of this slump.

“We need to stay locked into the game,” Arrieta said. “In the dugout, on the field, you know what I mean? We’re still in it. We’re still right there. We need guys pulling for each other. Play good baseball. Have a little luck on our side. We still have a ton of games to play. Plenty of time. We all know we have seven games left against [the Braves]. So we’d like to even it up a little bit more before we get there.”

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