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July 11, 2014, 6:00 am

Struggling Phillies searching for answers

To say the Phillies are struggling after a terrible road trip where they went 3-10 in their last 10 games would be an understatement. After getting swept by the Toronto Blue Jays, the Phillies will be trying to get back on the winning side Tuesday night, June 19 when they face the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park. Cole Hamels (9-3, 3.34 ERA), who has been the Phillies best pitcher this season, will step on the rubber. Hamels will go up against Josh Outman (0-2, 8.44 ERA) of the Rockies.

The Phillies have a 31-37 record and are firmly in last place in the National League East, nine games out of first place in the standings. They’re five games out in the race for the two NL Wild Card spots. The San Francisco Giants (37-30) and Atlanta Braves (35-31) are the top two teams in the standings for those playoff berths.

Dennis Eckersley, Hall of Fame relief pitcher and baseball analyst for TBS, feels the Phillies still have a chance to get back into the playoff race and land a spot in the postseason. Eckersley knows the Phillies are trying to tread water until they can hopefully get second baseman Chase Utley and possibly first baseman Ryan Howard back in the lineup. Utley has been suffering from chronic knee problems. Howard has a torn left Achilles. He realizes the Phillies have to climb out of a big hole with the injuries to Howard and Utley as well as pitching ace Roy Halladay (right shoulder injury).

“When you really think about it thank goodness for the extra Wild Card for a lot of people and then particular with the Phillies,” Eckersley said. “Will they overcome those injuries? I would assume I don’t know. I’m not close enough. Like Halladay, what’s going on with him and the Howard-Utley situation? But they had a hard time last year offensively with those guys and the pitching was there. They’ve been good for so long and everything went well for them. They were good, but you have to have the right things happen. This year, it seems like everything is not clicking. Right down to (Cliff) Lee hasn’t won a game yet. That’s hard to do. I mean he’s so good. Sometimes things just don’t happen and let alone have all these injuries like they’ve had.”

The NL East is one of the best divisions in baseball. The Washington Nationals (38-26) and Atlanta Braves are the two top teams respectively in the division. The Phillies would have to leap frog over them as well as the New York Mets (35-31) and Miami Marlins (33-33) who are both ahead of them. But with Major League Baseball adding the second Wild Card, that keeps the Phillies season alive.

“The problem is too many teams in that division who have gotten better,” Eckersley said. “So, it’s going to be difficult even if they’re full force. I think more than the Phillies being right this year. You have to be happy with the extra Wild Card. It gives you a chance.”

The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series last year. The Cardinals got hot at the right time and got into the postseason as the Wild Card. In fact, St. Louis defeated the Phillies, who had won 102 games last year. So, anything is possible.

“When you have Halladay, Lee and Hamels, you can beat anybody,” Eckersley said. “Last year, I was shocked when St. Louis beat them. I really was. It took a 1-0 game to beat them. I’m sure that Phillies fans think that any way they can get there. They got a shot to win it. That’s a great example in St. Louis.”

The Phillies have a big home stand with Colorado, Tampa Rays and Pittsburgh Pirates this week. There’s 94 games left in the season. That’s a lot of baseball yet to be played. Nevertheless, the Phillies are going to have to start winning some series in order to turn this season around.

 

Contact staff writer Donald Hunt at (215) 893-5719 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .