May 24, 2017
These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
OK, I have to come clean. I did not write those words, hence the italics. That’s a famous piece of American history writing from Thomas Paine, of course. It’s over 240 years old.
For some reason, it felt appropriate to go look up as I’m a little bit at a loss of what to write about the Phillies this month, when every day has been like that part of Groundhog Day where Bill Murray is trying out different ways to die, only because he knows there’s another day tomorrow.
Tomorrow. The same day as yesterday. For eternity. But not really.
Just as Murray's Phil Connors woke up and it was Feb. 3 that one morning, the Phillies losing skid will eventually come to an end. Perhaps it will even come Thursday afternoon.
It obviously did not happen on Wednesday night, in one of the more one-sided defeats in a four-week period of ugly losses. The Colorado Rockies (31-17) scored seven runs off Jeremy Hellickson in the third inning and the Phillies (15-29) failed to collect more than one measly hit, prior to Michael Saunders’ eighth-inning home run, in a 7-2 loss that felt more like 77-0 before Saunders aforementioned home run.
The Phillies have lost five games in a row and nine of their last 10 games, too.
The Phillies, in last place in the worst division in baseball and the owners of the worst record in MLB, too, have also lost 20 of their last 24 games.
"It's not easy," Hellickson said of how the team is dealing with the never-ending run of losses. "I don’t know. It’s not fun. I don’t know. Can’t really tell you how you deal with it. It's just something you deal with. It’s not fun. ... We definitely have the guys in here. Up until this series and the Texas series, we played a lot of close games. Just have to get back to being more consistent."
The Rockies, meanwhile, have three more wins than any other team in the National League and tied the Houston Astros for the most wins in baseball.
And, yes, it’s looked quite a lot like the league’s best team matching up against the league’s worst team in the last three days. The Rockies have outscored the Phillies 23-5 in the first three games of the four-game series. (It does feel like it should be a wider run gap, doesn’t it?)
The Phillies still have 118 more games on the schedule, though, and the educated guess here is they probably won’t lose every last one of those in the next four months.
They do need to make some serious changes between today and September, though … perhaps beginning with a rotation that has a ghastly 6.39 ERA in 21 games in the month of May.
Hellickson looked nothing at all like an attractive piece of trade bait matched up against a formidable Colorado lineup. He faced 11 batters in the aforementioned third inning, an inning that saw the Rockies hit for the cycle through the first eight batters, with Charlie Blackmon’s two-run single and Carlos Gonzalez’s three-run home run being the biggest of the big blows.
"It happens," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He’s had a lot of good starts for us. When he doesn’t locate, he gives up a run here or there, but he kind of gets it back. For that one inning, it fell apart on him."
Hellickson’s ERA jumped from 1.80 at the end of April to 4.28 with one more start remaining this month. That’s what happens when you are currently sporting a 7.30 ERA in May.
You can make a pretty decent bet that Jeremy Hellickson won’t be here next year or when the Phillies are contenders again. Ditto Saunders. And probably more than a couple of others who suited up and started in Mackanin’s lineup on Wednesday night in South Philly.
If you’re tired of hearing such talk and sick of watching the Phillies, may I recommend a trip to Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, home of a Triple-A team that’s home through Memorial Day? The Lehigh Valley IronPigs, who came into the day having won 16 of their last 17 games, put up a double-digit run total on Wednesday, thanks to home runs from Roman Quinn, Rhys Hoskins, and Nick Williams.
It’s an easy drive. And you’ll likely see more than a few of those ‘Pigs in Phillies pinstripes before long.
But, yes, this current four-week stretch of baseball in Philadelphia has been bad. It hasn’t been worse, however, than the 6 1/2 week stretch the Phillies endured in 2015, though, when they lost 29 times in a 37-game span between Memorial Day weekend and July 4, a stretch that included an actual waving of a white flag, that led to Ryne Sandberg resigning as manager, and that paved the way for the Phillies to collect the first overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft.
That was Year One of the Rebuild. This is Year Three.
Years of watching sometimes unwatchable games will certainly try Philadelphia baseball fans’ souls.
"I remember when I took over in '15, the team was scuffling, really not playing well," Mackanin said. "Then something clicked and we started beating teams. Last year, we had a good first part of the season and then kind of scuffled at the end.
"Sometimes one little thing clicks and we get better. There's a lot of baseball left, and I know we're better than this. We just have to have some kind of spark to get out of it. Win a couple in a row and it could put us on a winning streak."
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