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May 05, 2016

Offensive performance: Phillies suffer first shutout loss of season in 4-0 defeat

The Phillies entered St. Louis, the first stop on a three-city, 10-game trip, as baseball’s hottest team, riding high on a six-game winning streak, victors or nine of their previous 10 games.

Even as they entered Thursday’s finale of the four-game series with the Cardinals, a matinee at Busch Stadium, it didn’t feel quite like they were in a position to lose the series. After getting clobbered on Monday night, the Phils rode Ryan Howard and Aaron Nola to an impressive win the next night and lost a hard-fought, one-run game on Wednesday.

But when they departed St. Louis en route to Miami (to take on a Marlins team that had won 9 of 10 entering Thursday night), the Phillies had lost three of four to the Cardinals in a series that saw them score a grand total of eight runs.

Thanks to an early solo home run from Brandon Moss and a dominating effort from Jaime Garcia, the Cardinals handed the Phillies a 4-0 loss on Thursday.

Cue Dennis Green, please.

It was the first time in 29 games that the Phillies have been shut out in 2016. Yes, that is surprising, isn’t it? The Phils may have avoided being shut out prior to Thursday, but they left Busch Stadium having scored two runs or fewer in 12 of their 29 games (which translates to in 41.2 percent of their games).

The latest pitcher to shut the Phillies woeful offense down was Garcia, just the sixth left-hander starter Pete Mackanin’s club has faced this season.

As expected, Mackanin rested Ryan Howard, despite his impressive career numbers in St. Louis, against the left-handed Garcia. He also sat Maikel Franco down for the first time since April 8, which wasn’t too surprising either, since Mackanin has referenced the second-year slugger’s unimpressive numbers against lefties recently (.200, .693 OPS in 143 career plate appearances), and since, overall, Franco entered Thursday 2-for-24 in his last seven games.

But taking Howard and Franco out of the starting lineup also meant subtracting the two bats that had accounted for 12 of the team’s 24 home runs this season. And since all five runs the Phillies scored in the previous two games came from home runs, perhaps that wasn’t an ideal set-up, either.

Maybe it really wouldn’t have mattered. Mackanin still started three hitters batting under the Mendoza line on Thursday: Darin Ruf (.149 after an 0-for-4 on Thursday), Tyler Goeddel (.161), and Peter Bourjos (.165). 

No matter who you put in the lineup, it's not one that's going to offer a lot of help to guys like Jerad Eickhoff (who allowed three runs in six innings, a quality start, but also one when he took a 1-0 game into the seventh inning).

The Phillies offense has struggled against left-handers, scoring 2.33 runs per game in the six games when lefties have started for the opposition. Overall, the Phillies have hit .158 against left-handed pitchers this season, regardless if they’re starters or relievers. That’s the worst batting average in baseball vs. LHP.

The Phillies also entered Thursday with a .251 OBP against lefties (also worst in baseball) and a .569 OPS (second worst, behind the Atlanta Braves).

Then again, the Phillies have struggled to score runs, period. Following Thursday’s defeat, the Phils have averaged 3.1 runs per game in 29 games this season.

That’s only slightly better than the woeful Atlanta Braves (3.07), who entered Thursday with 20 losses in their first 27 games. Should be a real treat when the two teams meet next week at Turner Field.