A peek inside the Phillies' early struggles at the plate


As the Phillies look to snap a two-game skid and salvage their series against the Braves with a win in tonight’s finale, they enter Sunday ranked 17th in MLB in slugging percentage, 19th in runs per game and 24th in homers.

They still haven’t clicked offensively. They’ve had one strong game in that regard, Wednesday against the Mets with eight runs and seven extra-base hits. In their other seven games, the Phillies have averaged 3.3 runs and 2.7 extra-base hits.

They’ve had a particularly difficult time getting the first runner of the inning on base, which is often the key to starting a rally. They’ve hit .188 in those situations with a .507 OPS, which ranks fourth-worst in the majors.

On Saturday night in Atlanta, the Phils scored two in the first inning on Didi Gregorius’ bases-loaded single, then added runs in the fifth and sixth on solo home runs by Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper. 

In a close game, the final 10 Phillies hitters who stepped to the plate made outs.

The bottom of the order hasn’t been able to get on base.

Out of the 7-spot, typically occupied by Jean Segura, the Phillies have a .194 batting average and .242 on-base percentage.

Out of the 8-spot, always occupied by the centerfielder, the Phillies are 2 for 27, hitting .074 with no walks and 12 strikeouts.

Phillies pitchers have actually been more productive with their bats so far than the centerfielders.

“I don’t think we are the way we want to be yet,” Gregorius said of the offense after the Phillies dropped to 5-3. “I want us to be close, that’s for sure. I think one of these games, we have to (break out).”

Fortunately from a Phillies perspective, the only ace they’re set to face between now and the end of the month is Jacob deGrom on Thursday. There are some tough matchups along the way — Drew Smyly tonight, Taijuan Walker Tuesday, Kevin Gausman next week. But there are also opportunities to score early against upcoming opponents like lefties David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi and right-hander Carlos Martinez, who is easing back into the Cardinals’ rotation.

The lack of offense early in the season is not a problem specific to the Phillies. The league this season has hit .234/.313/.393. The Phillies have hit .242/.321/.373 so they’ve been essentially a league-average offense through the first eight games despite how quiet it’s been. The Mets have hit .222 as a team and the Braves .204.

Even by chilly April, early-season standards, this is a lack of offense around the game. In 2019, the last time games were played in April, the league OPS was 36 points higher.

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