When they pull the plug on this Phillies season, the obituary will say that the team died at home. The list of causes will be long, but ultimately the Phillies’ inability to win in their own ballpark will be the primary reason they faded out of contention in a winnable division.
Citizens Bank Park had always been the place where the Phillies flourish. They had a winning record in nine of their first 10 seasons here, playing at a .563 winning percentage. This season, it is the place where they give away games and lose the modicum of momentum they have sometimes gained on the road.
Fresh from a 5-2 road trip that started with a three-game sweep of the Braves, the Phillies had a chance to gain more ground in their own division during an eight-game homestand. Instead, they settled for a four-game split with the Miami Marlins and opened their series with Atlanta on Friday night by losing, 4-2.
They slipped to 18-24 at Citizens Bank Park, the second-worst home record in the National League.
“Yeah, I really don’t have an answer for that,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “I would say the one thing is we haven’t hit the ball out here as often. Extra-base hits have been harder to come by. I’ve seen improvement with guys getting on base, but the power ball and getting a few runs on one swing, that’s something we have to get better at.”
It was a bad day for the Phillies before the game, with the news that catcher Carlos Ruiz was headed to the disabled list because of concussion symptoms. It got worse quickly. The Phillies were down by three runs before Kyle Kendrick recorded an out.
B.J. Upton singled, Andrelton Simmons drew a walk and Freddie Freeman jumped on a first-pitch cut fastball. The ball was caught in deep center field, but unfortunately for Kendrick and the Phillies it landed in the glove of Comcast SportsNet’s Tom McCarthy, who was broadcasting with Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs for the first time ever in the bleachers.
By the end of the inning, Kendrick had faced eight batters, allowed three runs on three hits and two walks, and his first-inning ERA had ballooned to 8.44. He needed 33 pitches to get through the inning. It did not appear as if Sandberg was going to get either quantity or quality out of his starting pitcher.
He, in fact, got both.
“We found ourselves in the hole early,” Sandberg said. “Then KK did a nice job of hanging in there and putting zeroes out there. He did a nice job with his length. Going the distance he did, that was good for the bullpen.”
Not good enough for a victory, however.
Kendrick allowed the fourth run in the second inning when Simmons reached on a two-out single and Freeman again attacked a first-pitch offering. This time, the all-star first baseman lined a sinker into right-center field for an RBI double.
Kendrick delivered six scoreless innings after that while throwing a career-high 123 pitches, but the Phillies’ wildly inconsistent offense could not recover from the early deficit against Braves ace Julio Teheran.
“I obviously wasn’t as good as the other guy,” Kendrick said. “He gave up two and I gave up four.”
The Phillies’ only offense came to life in the fourth when they cut Atlanta’s lead in half. Ben Revere, who had three of his team’s seven hits, tripled to open the inning and scored on a grounder to second by Jimmy Rollins.
After Chase Utley singled, Ryan Howard reached on a Simmons error and Marlon Byrd delivered an RBI single to left field. But Cody Asche flied out to left field and Ruiz’s absence was felt when catcher Cameron Rupp struck out to end the inning.
The Phillies finished the night 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and with another home defeat.