Monday, June 29, 2009

Straigthening Out Themselves & Their Engine

The Phils took two out of three from the Blue Jays in Toronto over the weekend, no mean feat given their futility against AL Eastern division clubs and their sad history in the Dominion over the years. One of the wins was a laugher but the other was of the skin-of-their-teeth variety. No matter, they both count equally.

Coming after losing three straight series and a closed-door meeting, the two wins provided a little breathing room between themselves and the fumbling Mets, hot-and-cold Marlins and Braves. In other words, only the nearly-equal ineptitude of their division rivals has prevented the Phillies dismal journey through interleague play from being a total as opposed to nearly complete disaster. When you lose nine of twelve and only drop 1.5 games in the standings your competition leaves something to be desired.

Luck played a role in yesterday's win. So, too, did the absence of Roy Halladay from the Jays' rotation. You take what they give....

Jimmy Rollins, the engine that hasn't all season, sat for a fourth straight game yesterday marking his longest tenure on the bench as a healthy major leaguer since he took over the starting position. The thinking goes that a guy who is struggling badly needs a few days off to clear his head. The always talkative and approachable Rollins decided to stop speaking to the press during his mini sojourn in the wilderness, which can be interpreted as taking a complete break or merely pouting. Whatever is going on with Jimmy's psyche, his batting average and on-base percentage have been dismal all year and his always sure glove and hands haven't been consistent either. This may be the last chance for him to salvage his personal season. If he continues to struggle the Phillies are going to have to permanently drop him in the order and look to someone like Shane Victorino for a spark. One thing seems certain: the Phils won't be able to wait for the "real" JRoll to show up forever.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Things Are Looking Down

So, this is what rock bottom looks like.

The Phils dropped their third straight interleague series and eightth of their last nine games last night and now move on to Toronto where they've never had success. In the process, they surrendered their four game lead over the Mets and fell into a tie for first place in the increasingly inept NL East. The Marlins are only a game back. If the trend continues, the Phils could be in third place by the end of the weekend.

The relentless losing is bad enough but the way the Phillies are losing is particularly depressing and, frankly, galling. Runners are getting inexcuably doubled off, ending rallies. Usually reliable fielders are making bonehead plays. Veteran hitters aren't. Relief pitching isn't. For the last month or so the Phillies haven't been fun to watch; in the last ten days they have been painful to watch.

The press keeps waiting for Charlie Manuel to throw a fit. Lot of good that'll do! As the saying goes, he can't pitch or hit for them, especially when they can't hit or pitch for themselves. The few good starts the staff put together over the last week, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton come to mind, were wasted.

The injury bug has certainly hurt. Any time you take your leading hitter in every offensive category out of the lineup the results are going to suffer. Still, the loss of Raul Ibanez is hardly the whole story. The Phils bullpen just can't get anybody out any more and the alleged brain trust is unable to come up with a solution. Sergio Escalona is the poster child for all that ails them. He's been up and down to AAA Lehigh so many times already he's probably used up half his remaining options.

If they bring Kyle Kendrick back we'll know the white flag is next.