The Phillies showed up at Oracle Park on Sunday afternoon given a chance to finish a tough west coast swing with an even record. Instead, they were pantsed from the jump in an 11-2 beatdown by the Giants, a loss that dropped them back below the .500 mark while also capping off another week of uninspired and frustrating baseball.
The result was unsurprising, though it did provide yet another reminder of the reality that try as they may, the Phillies remain frozen in a perpetual state of mediocrity. They are now 13-23 on the road this season and have managed to win just one series in 12 tries away from Citizens Bank Park.
Their latest loss exposed all of the warts. Again.
Defensively, the Phillies are a mess. Offensively, they remain both injured and inconsistent. And beyond Zack Wheeler, a rotation of piggyback setups in the back and erratic performances in the front have recently too often overexposed a middling bullpen.
A harsh assessment? I don’t know, but what I do know is that 69 games into this season, there’s no way anyone could describe what they’ve seen from this disjointed team as, well, nice.
Had to do it.
Now, the Phillies briefly return to Philadelphia this week for a quick pair of games with the surging Nationals. As you know, the city is dealing with the premature death of its basketball team’s season, a death caused by a variety issues that were magnified in recent weeks but had been there all along.
As Sixers fans try to pick up the pieces this morning, they will almost certainly (and rightfully) call for the team to move Ben Simmons. Blow things up. Do better for Joel Embiid. The team’s front office will likely spend the summer trying to accomplish those things.
While expectations for the two organizations aren’t quite the same, the Phillies face a similar problem of trying to rectify obvious fatal flaws. It has become almost impossible to look at the Phillies and not wonder if they are nearing some aggressive reconstruction of their own, whether it occurs at the July trade deadline or this winter.
Certainly, they are running out of chances to avoid one.
The two games against the surging Nationals serve as the opening act before a four-game set in New York with the first-place Mets. Starting the week four games off the division lead and clearly behind a number of wild card contenders in both the standings and in talent, the Phillies’ path to the postseason is already narrowing.
From this perspective, they are about to open a make-or-break week.
“Well, I think it’s a really important week,” Joe Giardi said after his team’s latest loss. “Make-or-break is probably fairly strong, but I think it’s a really important week, yes.”
Zach Eflin, who surrendered four homers in yesterday’s loss, downplayed the upcoming stretch. Here’s what he said when I asked him about entering the week with increased urgency.
Not necessarily, we’re all grown men. We know what we need to do. We’ve got to show up everyday prepared and ready to go. There’s not a guy in the clubhouse that’s not doing that, so like I said, we play 162 games. Stuff like this is going to happen. It happened earlier in the year, too, but we just have to keep fighting, man, and charge forward and good things are going to happen.
Maybe that’s true, but far too often good things haven’t happened with this current core.
Maybe these guys can plug along with another 2-4 or 3-3 week and make their move another day. Slow grind it over 162, or whatever — but another bad week here and tough questions about the future likely amplify, even if those questions have no obvious answers.