May 26, 2017
Pete Mackanin likes to crack a joke to break up tension or uncover gallows humor when the situation seems fit.
On Friday night, there was none of that. The wise-cracking manager looked exhausted.
When you’re team has gone a month without stringing together back-to-back wins, perhaps that’s expected. When you’ve lost 21 of 26, free-falling into last place with your starting pitching pitching you out of games early (a 6.26 ERA with 26 home runs allowed in 23 games this month) and your offense unable to muster up any kind of attack (nine runs in last six games, just three hits in four of those games), you’d expect even the most jovial of gents to crack.
The Phillies managed called for a meeting following a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night, a game that saw his team get down early (Aaron Nola served up two home runs in the first two innings) and his offense held to one hit entering the ninth inning (they rallied to bring the tying run to the plate in that inning, but Maikel Franco struck out to end the game).
The opposing pitcher, Reds right-hander Tim Adleman, entered the game with a 6.19 ERA in seven games this year. He held the Phils to one hit in eight shutout innings.
“Are we not hitting the ball like we should or is the pitcher that good?” a frustrated Mackanin said. “It seems like I look up and every other pitcher we face has a 6.00 ERA, but I think it’s all because we’re missing good pitches to hit. We’re getting pitches to hit and we’re not hitting them.”
And his message in the postgame team meeting?
“I’ll keep it amongst us,” he said.
The message was pretty clear, though: play harder.
“He just wants to see us play with a little more fire and a little more energy,” said Aaron Altherr, who doubled in the ninth inning. “You know, it’s something we’ve got to do. Today wasn’t too great. But, like I said, hopefully we can right the ship and start winning some games again.”
“There's a pretty good understanding that we need to get going in here and that was really it,” Joseph said. “I think the rest is pretty self-explanatory and what he had to say is between us.”
For the season’s first six weeks, the Phillies weren’t sporting a winning record but they were competitive on a nightly basis against some of the best teams in the league. They played 12 of their first 35 games of the season against Washington and went 5-7, with 10 of the games decided by two or fewer runs.
They haven’t looked like the same team for the majority of May, however. Has there been an effort or energy deficiency in the last four weeks?
"It's definitely not a lack of effort,” Joseph said. “Everybody is out there trying to get the job done. I think there are certain nights when the job is getting done. When things start to spark a little bit everybody feeds off that. Obviously there are some nights where that doesn’t happen. It's definitely not from a lack of effort. Everybody is going out there busting their ass so it's just a matter of sometimes it goes our way and sometimes it doesn't.”
Whether it’s benching cleanup hitters, juggling his lineup for a combination that works or calling team meetings (Mackanin had at least one other this month), the manager is attempting to resuscitate his struggling team. But he looked like he was at a loss after another lifeless night from his team Friday night in South Philly.
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