PHILADELPHIA — Joe Girardi spins even the worst Phillies losses. It is a manager’s job to make things sound better than they are, even when the team is playing poorly.
But Girardi could not hide his frustrations following Friday night’s 11-2 loss to the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park to fall 4 1/2 games behind the Braves (75-65) in the National League East with 21 games to play. The Phillies (71-70) have lost four in a row and six of their last eight. They are not hitting or pitching well. Perhaps his irritation stems from that. Or maybe it is something else. Maybe it is a lack of urgency or a lack of hustle.
Or just a lack of something.
“I’m not going to get into that publicly,” Girardi said. “But we’ll take care of it.
“I’m just not happy. I hate to lose.”
Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper said he understood why Girardi sounded as frustrated as he has been since he became manager in 2020.
“It’s definitely warranted,” Harper said. “We just got beat by the Colorado Rockies twice. We just got blown out actually. Definitely warranted with the way he’s feeling. The irritation is there. The embarrassment is there as well. It’s not good. It’s just not good the way we’re approaching the game. It’s not good the way our at-bats are going, our pitching, everything. It’s just not good. Not right now.
“We just need to be better. I’ve said it so many times. I’m sorry I keep saying it, but that’s the simple truth. We need to be better. Our pitching needs to be better. Our hitting needs to be better. Playing every day needs to be better. Guys playing every single day. I think just being a team, being a whole, not worrying about individual numbers, not worrying about if you’re a free agent or if you’re in your first year of [arbitration] or second year of arb or anything like that. You can’t worry about any of that stuff. You have to worry about us as a team, as a whole. What we can do to make the Phillies better.”
The Phillies have scored three or fewer runs in each of the team’s last six losses. Harper is doing his part. He is almost single-handedly keeping the Phillies relevant as he builds his case for the National League Most Valuable Player Award. But in the past week, almost nobody else is hitting.
Harper (1.215) Jean Segura (.889) and Brad Miller (.857) are the only three Phillies with more than 20 plate appearances in the last eight games and a .656 OPS or better. Behind them are Didi Gregorius (.655), Andrew McCutchen (.619), J.T. Realmuto (.483), Ronald Torreyes (.432) and Odúbel Herrera (.385). Gregorius homered in the ninth to score the Phillies’ first run. He donned the team’s home run hat afterward, which some considered a bad look, considering the circumstances. Girardi said he didn’t care about that. He has other things to worry about.
But that same offense scored seven or more runs in seven consecutive games from Aug. 26 to Sept. 2.
What the heck happened since?
“We get guys on base and we might be trying to hit the ball over the fence a little too much, instead of just trying to get a guy over,” Harper said. “We can’t just keep leaving guys out there.”
Rockies right-hander Germán Márquez pitched six scoreless innings. He had a 7.77 ERA in his previous five starts. Asked what made him so effective, Girardi said, “Not sure.” Asked if he was unhappy with his players’ at-bats, the skipper said, “I’m just unhappy with the way we’re playing.”
He is not alone. Harper shouted an expletive after lining out to left field in the third, stranding a runner on second. He slammed his helmet after striking out swinging in the fifth, stranding two more runners.
“I feel like I need to get the job done in that situation,” Harper said. “But as a whole we just need to be better. I’ve said it multiple times in the last three, four, five weeks. We don’t have time to sit around and wait and see what’s going to happen. We have to win games. We’ve got to beat teams when they come into our ballpark. We can’t get embarrassed like we did tonight and this late in the season.”
The Phillies have put themselves in a position to need a 2007-style comeback to win the NL East. Consider this: if the Braves stumble to a 10-12 finish, they will have 85 wins. The Phillies would need to finish 14-7 to tie.
They have not played better than 13-8 over a 21-game stretch this season.
“We just need to be in striking distance when we get to Atlanta,” Harper said. “If we can do that, if we can be in striking distance as we go into that last road trip and we pick up the way that we’re playing right now, we’ll be OK going in there. I don’t fear that.”