Flirt – v.: 1. To come close to reaching or experiencing something.
Over the past few games, the Phillies have flirted with the idea that they would, for good, break out of their three-week-long slumber. It didn’t happen.
For 6 1/3 innings tonight, Cole Hamels flirted with a no-hitter. It didn’t happen.
In the 9th inning, the team flirted with a comeback against Padres closer Heath Bell. You can tell where this is headed.
What did happen was another failure to produce a victory on a night where a win was attainable. Cole Hamels pitched eight great innings, tossing 121 pitches, while striking out six and walking two. He baffled Padres hitters all night until he threw two mistakes in order. A fastball right down the heart of the plate was sent into the flowers in left field by Adrian Gonzalez. Scott Hairston, who owns Hamels in his career (5-for-13 with 3 homers) took a curveball and demolished it into left field as well, and just like that, the night was over.
Adjectives are becoming harder and harder to find that can truly demonstrate just how bad things are for the Phillies offense. Hamels has been one of the pitchers who have dealt with this. For the third time this season, Hamels pitched eight innings and did not leave with a win.
Hamels took the high road after the game when discussing the offensive struggles. “We know what job we have to do,” said Hamels. We know that if we keep plugging away with the type of team we have, the good things will come around.”
Raul Ibanez also reiterated that sentiment. “This teams gonna hit. We’re not doing it right now, but I have a lot of confidence that it’s going to happen.” Ibanez also went on to say that it’ll be a battle to kick this awful slump. “The only way to get out of things is to keep fighting through it,’ Ibanez said. “This teams not gonna quit, there’s too much talent in the room and there’s a lot of season left. It’s frustrating, but it’s a confident group of guys that work their tails off.”
Right now, that mix of talent, dedication, and will to succeed just isn’t cutting it. Tonight, Ibanez finished 1-for-3, and like his cohorts, had a few ugly at-bats. The only run was plated by Placido Polanco in a ninth inning comeback attempt that fell short. Ryan Howard knocked him home with two outs, giving Jayson Werth an opportunity to exercise his demons with the tying run on. He could not.
For the second straight night, Werth struck out to end a close game. Afterwards, Charlie Manuel said, “He’s [Werth] trying to hard.” The right-fielder’s slump has reached an unsightly 3-for-38 since May 26.
Chase Utley also watched his average dip to .260, the lowest he’s ever seen at this point in the season since becoming a full-time player in 2005. His 0-for-4 tonight is an indicator of how it’s been going lately for this team. Even the immortal Utley has found a kryptonite.
Two parallels have developed as this slump rolls on. One is the absence of Jimmy Rollins, which began again on May 22. Since that time, the Phillies are 4-11. Coincidence? Also, “Binocular-gate”, or whatever it’s been referred to as, happened in Mid-May. After the game, Manuel was asked if he thought that had anything to do with the downward spiral this team has been on. Of course, Manuel denied it saying, “if we’re stealing them, we got ’em wrong,” which drew a good laugh from the media. Still, this disastrous three-week stretch has been anything but a laughing matter. It’s been more of a joke.
At this point, all they can do is wait it out. Manuel will try to find a way to manipulate the bats. Ibanez will fight on. Utley will remain quiet and calm. Howard will hit home runs. Werth will find a groove.