Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after powerful Jays pummel blundering Phillies

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It’s an old baseball tradition that when things go bad, the manager holds a team meeting.
 
Things have gone pretty badly for the Phillies lately and on Thursday night the stink got a little too pungent for Pete Mackanin’s olfactory senses.
 
He called his first postgame, air-‘em-out team meeting as Phillies manager.
 
It was impossible to argue with the timing. The Phillies had just suffered an embarrassing 13-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays (see Instant Replay). They made four errors, one of which was actually a boneheaded mental error. They were mocked by the crowd of 22,279 when they finally pushed across an unearned run after being down 9-0 in the seventh inning. There was none of the energy, effort and enthusiasm that club president Andy MacPhail has said he wants to see from the rebuilding club and one had to wonder what he was thinking as he stood in his private box and watched the final inning of the disaster on the field.
 
Mackanin was bothered by the lack of effort, too.
 
“Very much so,” he said. “Not a lot of good to look at; a lot of bad to look at.”
 
Aaron Nola, who is the least of the Phillies’ problems, struggled through his second straight poor outing. He was tagged for eight hits, including two homers and a double, and eight runs while failing to get an out in the fourth inning.
 
Prior to his start in Washington on Saturday, Nola had rung up nine straight quality starts — at least six innings and three or fewer earned runs. But in his last two starts, he has been tagged for 15 hits and 10 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.
 
“He looks out of sync,” Mackanin said. “His breaking ball has been flat. He just looks out of sync. Other than that, we made four errors and not a lot of offense to talk about again. That’s about all I got.”
 
Toronto out-hit the Phillies, 17-5. Former Phillie J.A. Happ returned to town and held his old club to three hits and an unearned run over seven innings.
 
The Jays hit five homers in the game and ended up outscoring the Phillies, 31-7, over the final three games of the home-and-home four-game series.
 
The Blue Jays are clearly a superior club, but they benefitted from an abundance of Phillies’ sloppiness in the series. On Wednesday night, they turned three Phillies’ walks and a hit batsman into four runs. On Thursday night, the Phillies committed four errors. Play like that is the reason the Phillies have lost 20 of their last 26 games to go from seven games over .500 to seven games under .500.
 
All this — and more — prompted Mackanin’s team meeting.
 
OK, it wasn’t an air-‘em-out roof rattler. That's not Mackanin's style. But the manager did want to get some things off his chest and get some guys’ attention.
 
“I didn’t like what I saw tonight,” he said. “We’ve gone from seven over to seven under within about a two-week span. I don’t want to let what we did the first two months get away from us. We’re better than what we’ve played the last two weeks. I don’t want that to slip away. I want the players to regroup and start all over.
 
“I’m not going to tell you what I talked about. It will stay in clubhouse. I just let them know I wasn’t pleased.
 
“It’s hard when you get your rear ends beat day in and day out. We went through this tough stretch. But there’s a choice to be made: You either cave in or you fight your way back. I don’t want to see guys pouting or feeling sorry for themselves. If you want to prove you belong here, you’ve got to fight.”
 
Cody Asche said Mackanin’s message was basically regroup and move forward.
 
Perhaps the tipping point in Mackanin’s calling a team meeting occurred in the eighth inning when centerfielder Odubel Herrera, arguably the team’s best player, lost track of how many outs there were and flipped the ball into the stands, allowing a Jays’ runner to move up two bases. It was one of the lowlights in an inning in which reliever David Hernandez, pressed into mop-up duty because the bullpen has been used so much lately, gave up five hits, including two homers and four runs.
 
“Nobody likes to see that,” Mackanin said of Herrera's blunder. “There’s a few things that I’ve been thinking about and today was the culmination of a lot of those thoughts.”
 
Herrera was not available for comment after the game. Few players were. Mackanin’s meeting delayed his postgame news conference and most of the players were gone by the time the clubhouse opened to reporters. Nola waited around.
 
“It's tough for the team when I can't get out of the fourth inning,” he said. “It's unacceptable on my part.”

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