Jimmy Rollins

Jimmy Rollins on the Phillies’ struggles: “It’s getting out of control now”


WASHINGTON — For the past week, Phillies front office executives have been able to divert their attention away from the slop they are currently selling as big-league baseball by focusing on the annual first-year player draft.

The first round came and went Thursday night and the Phillies pinned some of their future hopes on the right arm of LSU pitcher Aaron Nola, who they selected with the seventh overall pick (see story).

Now, Phillies officials must hold their noses and turn their attention back to the present.

It ain’t pretty.

In fact, it’s downright ugly.

The Phillies’ losing streak reached six games in a 4-2 loss to the Washington Nationals Thursday afternoon (see Instant Replay). The loss dropped the Phillies to 10 games under .500, a level of ineptitude that is likely to hasten management’s decision to sell off players and start a long-talked-about rebuilding effort.

“It’s getting out of control now,” Jimmy Rollins said. “We have a chance to go out and change that tomorrow. If not, that’s a decision management is going to have to make either way.”

Ten games under .500. There’s something symbolically futile about that number, isn’t there?

“I don’t look at it, honestly,” Rollins said. “I know we aren’t winning and we haven’t been winning. You’re going in the wrong direction if you aren’t winning.

“Everyone is just looking in the mirror, looking around, trying to find that spark.”

Only a quick and lengthy winning streak could persuade management to keep this club together. And what are the chances of that happening? The Phillies are an NL-worst 9-20 since May 5. They haven’t won more than three games in a row since last June. They have been above .500 just five days since last All-Star break. And no matter how mediocre the NL East is, the winner of the division will be well over .500.

Prospects for turning things around in Cincinnati Friday night are not good as the Phils face right-hander Johnny Cueto, who leads the National League with a 1.68 ERA.

Phillies starter Cole Hamels has dominated the Reds in his career, but he hasn’t gotten much run support this season.

Being swept three games in Washington appeared to take its toll on manager Ryne Sandberg. He called a team meeting before the series opener then watched his team get outscored, 19-6, in the three games.

“Definitely frustrated,” Sandberg said. “Frustrated that we haven’t been able to put a game together with pitching and offense. In the meantime, our bullpen has been on a good roll for eight or nine days. We need the whole package to come together.”

After 58 games this season (eight have resulted in shutout losses) and a 73-89 record last year, it’s difficult to envision the whole package coming together. This is what the Phillies are. They are a bad team and the losing has gotten to them, turning them into a lifeless bunch that stirs no fear in opposing pitchers.

Washington starting pitchers went 22 innings in the series. They struck out 20 and walked just one. Translation: They went right at Phillies hitters and threw them strikes. Why not? This is not a team that can hurt you, at least consistently, with the bats. The Phils hit just two homers in the series and both came off the bat of reserve John Mayberry Jr.

Thursday’s series finale started promisingly enough with a double by Ben Revere, a bunt by Rollins and a single by Chase Utley to give the Phils their first and only lead of the series.

The lead was short-lived as Kyle Kendrick allowed a two-out run in the bottom of the inning. He prolonged the inning with one of his five walks.

Kendrick allowed three more runs in the fifth inning, two on a homer by Adam LaRoche.

Kendrick is now 1-6. The right-hander is one of the most affable people in the Phillies’ clubhouse, but all this losing has taken a toll on him, as well. He was unusually snippy with reporters after the game. No foul there. There’s nothing to be happy about.

“I wasn’t good enough,” Kendrick said. “We lost, so I wasn’t good enough. Walked five guys, so that’s not good.”

Kendrick has been here for the good times and now the bad — 10 games under .500, the Phillies’ worst start in over a decade.

“It’s not good,” he said. “We’ve got to play better. We’ve got to find a way to start winning.”

The Phils had just four hits Thursday and are now hitting .239 as a team. Their run differential is minus-54, the second-worst in the majors.

What is wrong with the offense?

“That’s a good question,” Rollins said.

Any answers?

“That’s a good question,” he said.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.