x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Phillies are sick of losses

Injuries have frustrated a Philadelphia team, who still have the backbone of a club that won the past five NL East titles.

Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, right, talks with Chase Utley who has a balky knee.
Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, right, talks with Chase Utley who has a balky knee.

One word explains the plunge by the Philadelphia Phillies to the bottom of the National League East: injuries.

Their Nos 3 and 4 hitters, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, have been out all season. Utley has a balky knee; Howard's Achilles tendon ruptured on the final out of last year's Division Series loss to the St Louis Cardinals.

Roy Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner and one of the best pitchers in baseball, has been on the shelf all month with a sore shoulder.

Still, Charlie Manuel, the manager, expects more out of a team who still have the backbone of the club who have won the past five NL East titles.

The Phillies began June by losing 13 of 19, and their only series wins came against the Minnesota Twins and Colorado Rockies, teams with losing record at or near the bottom of their respective divisions.

After the Phillies lost last weekend in extra innings to the Toronto Blue Jays, Manuel lost his cool, first with the team behind closed doors, then in his session with the media.

"We could have more wins," Manuel said. "We don't have them because we don't play good baseball. We just keep making the same mistakes over and over, and it goes right from our defence into our offense and also to our pitching. That's how we play. We find a way to lose the game."

Jimmy Rollins, the shortstop, made a costly throwing error, giving the Phillies 14 errors in 10 games. The 10th inning featured a costly balk by the pitcher Joe Savery as the Phillies fell to 1-8 in games decided in the final at-bat.

That defeat kept the star left-hander Cliff Lee winless over 11 starts this season.

"I can only control what I can control," Lee said. "Obviously, I would like to have more wins. I would like for us to win more, period. What's the point in getting frustrated about it?"

Lee was victimised by a lack of run support, early in the season, but lately he's been mediocre, too, with a 4.87 ERA in his previous six starts.

The left-hander Cole Hamels, who got off to a torrid start, going 8-1 with a 2.43 earned-run average in his first 10 starts, is 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in his past four. His eight-game winning streak was snapped in a 5-4 loss to Miami.

Freddy Galvis, the second baseman who had filled in for Utley, just tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug and was hit with a 50-game suspension.

Utley is expected to return in early July and Howard in the middle of the month. But heading into the final week of June, the Phillies are last in the division, nine games out of first place, with lots of ground to make up as they get healthy.

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