The questions keep flying like discarded shotgun shells at the OK Corral.
When is the offense is going to turn it on? How can the Phillies score runs without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard anchoring the order?
After Sunday’s latest disaster — a 5-1 loss to the dismal Chicago Cubs — the Phillies’ clubhouse looked like a tomb. There was no music blaring. There were no high-fives. They didn’t even have the Flyers-Devils game on the TV’s.
“We didn’t get nothing going,” skipper Charlie Manuel said. “I think [Matt] Garza had a lot to do with it but, at the same time, our hitting, as we’ve talked about just about every day, our hitting is inconsistent and we’ve got to be more consistent with our hitting.”
Garza (2-1) pitched a gem for the Cubs, limiting the Phillies to one run on two hits while striking out 10. He retired a season-best 18 straight batters after Jimmy Rollins’ lead-off single in the first inning. That was it until Hunter Pence legged out an infield single in the ninth.
“It’s tough, especially with the makeup in the past of the Phillies, from being an opposing guy,” said Juan Pierre. “You just always had that thunder in the middle of the lineup and now you just have to create more runs. You have to be on base, number one.”
Pierre, who went 0-for-3 against Chicago, has been one of the Phillies’ better hitters this season. The veteran has been in lineups built around power. He’s also been in those built to manufacture runs. Right now, this offense is still trying to find its identity. Until it does, expect the questions concerning Utley and Howard to keep coming.
“I think everybody knew what it was from the outset, even coming into spring training,” Pierre said “You’re missing those two guys and, as a team, we realize it doesn’t matter what we do, we’re going to have to answer questions about Utley and Howard not being in the lineup. Those guys are just very impactful like that. As a team, I don’t think we’re concerned with it.”
Kyle Kendrick (0-2) took the loss, which dropped the Phillies to 10-12 on the year. They are stuck in fourth place in the NL East, 4.5 games behind the Washington Nationals. No panic, though. Not yet.
“It’s early. We’ve been through struggles like this before and the bats came through,” said Kendrick. “It’s a long season and we got to start swinging it and we’ll be fine.”
Kendrick bounces back
Kyle Kendrick had a wry smile on his face following Sunday’s 5-1 loss to the Cubs. The right-hander was far from perfect, but he battled and did what a good starter gets paid to do. He kept the Phillies in the game.
Kendrick allowed three runs (two earned) over six innings before being pulled for a pinch-hitter. It was quite a reversal of fortune from his last start. The emergency starter/long reliever was called into action last week after Cliff Lee was placed on the disabled list. Kendrick was rocked for 11 hits and seven runs in just three innings in that one.
“I was excited to pitch at home, felt pretty good today and I really was just trying to give us a chance to win,” said Kendrick, who tied a career-high with seven strikeouts.
Kendrick struggled to find his spots early Sunday, keeping quite a few pitches up in the zone, then he settled down. He worked out of a key jam in the third after overthrowing Laynce Nix at first base and allowing one run to score.
“I’ll take the blame. I threw a sinker over there,” Kendrick said. “But those things happen, the ball just moved. You never want to give up runs like that.”
Especially not when your offense can’t get on base. The Phillies only had six players reach base all afternoon, and they stranded four of them. It’s hard to believe an epic power outage can’t play on a pitcher’s mind, yet Kendrick quickly shot down that notion.
“I just try to give us a chance to win the game, keep us in the game, let the offense do their thing,” he said. “If you go out there worrying about that [the offense], then you have problems and it makes it tough to pitch.”