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

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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.

Manny Machado reportedly traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers

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This has been the worst kept secret all day, but Ken Rosenthal has now reported that, yes, Manny Machado has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The full return is not yet known, but Rosenthal says that outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz — who starred in the Futures Game on Sunday — is part of the package heading back to Baltimore. Rosenthal says that other players, and the amount of money, if any, going from Baltimore to Los Angeles, is not yet known. It would make some sense, however, for the Orioles to do that. First, to secure a better package of prospects in return and second to help the Dodgers stay under the luxury tax threshold.

That this was a done deal well before first pitch tonight is clear. As I noted earlier today, the reporters talking about the deal used far more certain terms than they usually do, keeping themselves just short of announcing that it was official. Before the All-Star Game Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp was seen taking a selfie with Machado. During the game, as Kemp was mic’d up while playing the outfield, Fox broadcaster Joe Buck asked him about the possible trade and Kemp, not at all convincingly said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” and offered a chuckle.

Francisco Lindor pinch-hit for Machado in the top of the sixth inning and, at that moment, Rosenthal asked Machado about leaving Baltimore. Machado spoke of the Orioles in the past tense. Just as they went on the air, Rosenthal tweeted out news of the deal being official. It’s obvious that Major League Baseball or the teams involved asked him to embargo news of the trade until Machado was out of the game.

The mechanics of the deal will not be remembered. The significant thing is that the Dodgers just acquired the best available player at the deadline. Machado is hitting .315/.387/.575 with 24 homers and 65 RBI so far this year. While his shortstop defense has been suspect, his bat will play quite well at a position where the Dodgers are currently in trouble due to the season-ending injury to Corey Seager. Machado will slot right into shortstop for the current NL West leaders, and will add serious pop to what has already been a potent lineup all year long. Machado will be a free agent at the end of the season, but he’ll be an excellent rental for the Dodgers for the final two and a half months of the season and into the playoffs, should the Dodgers make it to October.

Diaz homered twice in the Futures Game on Sunday. He’s only 21, but he’s already raking in Double-A ball, hitting .314/.428/.477 with six homers in 59 games at Tulsa. He’s a top-100 prospect in all of baseball and figures to be a star in the majors at some point in the next year or two.

We’ll update when more is known about the package returning to Baltimore, but for now all that matters is that Manny Machado is L.A.-bound.