Phillies lose to complete worst homestand since September 1964



On Sunday, the Cavaliers gave Cleveland a championship, something it hadn't experienced since 1964.

On Monday, the Phillies gave Philadelphia something it hadn't experienced since 1964: an 0-6 homestand.

Prior to these six abysmal games, the Phillies hadn't gone winless in a homestand of at least six games since the epic collapse in September 1964, when they blew a 6½-game lead with 12 to play.

That skid hasn't and won't ever be forgotten. This 0-6 homestand? It will be merely a minor blip when you look back at a 2016 season that is getting uglier by the day for the Phils.

"From 1 to 10? Nine," manager Pete Mackanin said when asked about his level of frustration. "But I still have hopes that we're going to get back to the way we played. The last two games, we're in both games. 

"When we started the season we were hoping we'd be in more games because the starting pitching would get us there. And they did the last two days. So that's a start. I've got to build on that, I can't look at it any other way."

On Monday, Jeremy Hellickson pitched well enough to win. He allowed three first-inning runs before shutting the Diamondbacks down through the seventh and retiring the final 10 batters he faced. 

The problem, of course, was that the Phillies mustered only one run of their own in a 3-1 loss (see Instant Replay). The Phils were outscored 22-5 in the series, out-homered 10 to 1 and had just six extra-base hits to the D-backs' 19.

"Once again, three runs," Mackanin said. "We couldn't score four runs. Under normal circumstances we might have 10 more wins with a better offense."

Hellickson pitched an inspired game after the first inning, which has been problematic for him three years in a row, but when these Phillies spot a team a three-run lead, it's usually game over.

From a future standpoint — and let's face it, that's all that matters in a season in which the Phillies are now on pace for 94 losses — Hellickson's performance Monday was a welcome sign. It showed that he can still be a decent mid-rotation option for a team that needs his services more than the Phillies. 

Hellickson remains a trade chip, one the Phillies won't get a ton in return for because of his impending free agency. But with the Aug. 1 trade deadline nearing, every start Hellickson makes is an important one, so the front office was glad to see him bounce back like this after a couple rough outings.

"Without question, he could be a big trade chip for us," Mackanin said. "We don't know, but he's had so many good outings — he’s had some bad ones — but he has enough good outings that I like him pitching for us."

Hellickson didn't seem satisfied by how Monday went. He took solace in pitching seven innings but nothing else, saying that even though he settled in, you can't remove the first inning.

Offensively, the Phils continue to be pathetically bad and uninteresting. They had six hits Monday and scored just one run in 6 2/3 innings against Shelby Miller, who entered with an ERA over 7.00 and an average of 4.5 innings per start. Weak groundball after weak groundball, popup after popup. The Phillies faced Zack Greinke once in this series but it seemed like they faced him four times.

Mackanin was asked to assess the seasons of Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis, who went 1 for 8 atop the lineup Monday. Hernandez is hitting .248 with a .293 on-base percentage. Galvis is hitting .210 with a .244 OBP. Both are singles hitters who don't walk often, so it's not a good look.

"Up to this point, disappointing," Mackanin said of the duo's performance to date. " ... I think teams are starting to figure out those two guys in particular, and now they have to make adjustments to what the pitchers have started to do. [Pitchers are] softening up, they're making them expand the strike zone and that's what they have to overcome.

"I remember when I was here when Jimmy [Rollins] and [Shane] Victorino were here and [pitchers] started softening up, they weren’t hitting the way they did earlier. ... It's just about somehow regaining control over the strike zone. Something tells me we’re guessing too much, looking for a fastball when we get a breaking ball and vice versa. And that's something we have to get away from, if in fact that is the case."

It sure seems to be the case with many a Phillie, most notably Maikel Franco, who did not play Monday. But up and down the lineup, up and down the rotation, up and down the bullpen, nobody is hot. Cameron Rupp is this team's second-leading hitter at .264. Andres Blanco has the second-highest OBP at .319, which is below the MLB average.

"It's very frustrating. It's very hard because we are giving 100 percent and it's not working out for us," Odubel Herrera said. "But we need to keep mentally strong and keep fighting because we know it's going to get better."

If you say so.

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