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June 02, 2016

Bats keep firing blanks as Phillies lose seventh straight game

With the Phillies seven outs away from their seventh straight loss and the game-tying run on first base, Tyler Goeddel took a called third strike.

Freddy Galvis swung at the first pitch he saw and bounced into a fielder’s choice. Cameron Rupp ended the inning by eyeing up a slider he liked and popping it up 100 feet away, where Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett was waiting for the easy catch.

Rupp angrily slammed his bat into the batter’s box dirt immediately after making contact with the pitch. Frustration is setting in for the suddenly reeling Phillies.

Two innings later, the game was over. Jerad Eickhoff certainly did his part in his 19th career start, coming one come-backer off his foot away from giving the Phillies seven strong innings.

The Phillies offense, though, wasn’t anywhere close to as competent. Matched up against Brewers right-hander Chase Anderson, who entered the game 2-6 with an even 5.00 ERA, the Phillies held up their status as the worst offensive team in baseball.

The Phils managed one run on five hits in a sleepy 4-1 defeat to the Brewers.

"Nothing is really going right for us these days," manager Pete Mackanin said of the Phillies, losers of a season-high seven straight games.

Chris Carter (not the former Eagles wide receiver) and Jonathan Villar (the former Phillies prospect) both homered for Milwaukee. When Villar's two-run shot landed in the Phillies bullpen, it gave the Brewers a three-run lead, which is nearly insurmountable for the home team.

The Phillies haven't scored more than three runs in a game since May 25. During that same span, they haven't scored more than two runs in six of the seven games they've played. 

"The main culprit is our offense – we need more offense," Mackanin said. "We've just got to get it going. Our hitters have to step up."

The Phillies (26-28) have lost 11 of their last 13 games and are slowly inching closer in the National League East standings to the lowly Atlanta Braves and away from the New York Mets and Washington Nationals, two teams they were within a half-game of just two weeks ago.

The Major League Baseball season moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Speaking of “miss,” have you seen new Phillies three-hole hitter Jimmy Paredes?

Paredes, acquired Wednesday from the Toronto Blue Jays for cash considerations, struck out in his only plate appearance on Wednesday and then in each of his first three plate appearances on Thursday night, too.

You think it’s possible Mackanin, who recently had to have a tough conversation with Ryan Howard when he decided bench the former MVP, was possibly sending a message to the front office? Jimmy Paredes? Really? That’s my upgrade? Great, I’ll hit him third.

Maybe not. But the reality is the Phillies played in a major league game on Thursday night and Paredes hit third. Where have you gone Hector Luna, a lonely baseball town turns its eyes to you. Boo, boo, boo, boo. 

(To be fair to Paredes, he did double in the ninth inning).

More encouraging than Paredes' fifth at-bat in a Phillies uniform: their lone run came courtesy of the most important hitter in the lineup.

Struggling slugger Maikel Franco, fresh off a mental day off, went 2-for-4. His second hit of the night was his ninth home run of the year, a bullet that left his bat at 107-MPH and found a home a few rows beyond the left field fence near the foul pole.

The 23-year-old Franco, in his first full major league season, had entered the game in a 1-for-15 skid in his last four games, and hitting just .216 with a .266 OBP and .617 OPS in his last 30 games.

“I think he may be trying to carry the team,” Mackanin said when asked about Franco before the game. “I mean, we're counting on him quite a bit, and he knows that. But that's all part of playing at this level. You've heard that before, this guy is young, this guy is trying to put too much pressure on himself, he's trying to do too much. But you know what? That's part of the business here. You've got to overcome that.”

Franco showed signs of progress on Thursday. In addition to his home run, he singled in his first at-bat of the game and also hit a laser into right field for a line-drive out.

Franco said he felt better at the plate and was seeing the ball well, too.

"Today was much better," he said. "I want to continue to do that every single day, come in and do everything I can to do better, and help my team."

"I know Maikel is a better hitter and he showed that today," Mackanin said after the game. "He’s capable of a lot. And so are the rest of the guys, they’re better than they’ve shown."

Tommy Joseph, making his second straight start in place of Howard, also had an encouraging night, banging out a pair of hits. Franco, Joseph.

Two men down. Eleven more to go.

   • Jerad Eickhoff had an X-ray after taking the aforementioned come-backer off the inside of his left ankle. It didn't sound like it was anything that was going to stand in the way of taking his next turn in the rotation.

"It’s going to be a little swollen, I think, tomorrow," he said. "But I can walk on it fine. It feels OK to move around on so I think it will be alright."

  • Hector "The Hat" Neris pulled off quite the trick in the eighth inning of Thursday's game. He entered with the bases loaded and no one out. He didn't allow a runner to score or a ball to leave the infield, getting two strikeouts in between a ground ball to second that resulted in Cesar Hernandez nabbing the lead runner at home plate. Neris has struck out 35.4 percent of the batters he's faced this season (40 of 113). 

  • Ryan Braun doubled in his fourth at-bat of the night, which wasn't surprising since a hitless night at Citizens Bank Park would have been a rarity for the Brewers slugger, who may be the most lethal Phillies killer in baseball today. Braun is hitting .402 in his career in South Philly; his teammate, catcher Jonathan Lucroy (.483) is the only active player with a higher batting average at Citizens Bank Park than Braun among players with at least 50 at-bats. But Braun kills the Phillies at Miller Park, too.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21