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Monday, June 20, 2016

Hellickson cruises after rough start, but Phillies fall victim to sweep

Odubel Herrera finished 1-for-4 with a single in Monday's loss to the Diamondbacks.
Jeremey Hellickson pitched well enough on Monday afternoon to win. He overcame a tumultuous opening frame where he surrendered three runs, but he settled nicely en route to matching the longest outing of his season with seven innings.

Though all three runs were earned, Monday's 3-1 loss to the Diamondbacks at Citizens Bank Park can be attributed to another sub-par performance by the Phillies offense.

"Well, after a terrible homestand I'm going to cling to Hellickson's performance," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We lost that game in the first inning obviously, but it was good to see him get back on track."

Hellickson battled, tossing 64 of 87 pitches for strikes. He surrendered four hits in the first inning but allowed just two over the next six. He didn't issue a walk and notched six strikeouts.

The loss cemented a four-game sweep, dropped the Phillies to 11 games below .500, and capped a 0-6 homestand where the club was outscored 42-7.

"I still have hopes we're going to get back to playing the way we played before," Mackanin said. "The last two nights we were in both games. When we started the season we were hoping we would be in more games because the starting pitching would get us there and they did the last two nights. So that's a start and I have to build off that, I can't look at it any other way than that."

The Phillies entered Monday's contest with a team OPS of .639, the 13th worst mark in franchise history. The team has also scored two runs or fewer in each their last seven home games, the longest stretch at home since an eight-game streak in 1938.

"Something tells me we're guessing too much at the plate," Mackanin said. "We're thinking fastball and we get a breaking ball and that's something we have to get away from if that's, in fact, the case."

The Phillies threatened briefly in the ninth with Odubel Herrera opening the inning with a single and Andres Blanco reaching on an error, but Tommy Joseph grounded into a double-play and Cameron Rupp went down on strikes to end the contest.

"Things are not working out of us, but we need to keep mentally strong and keep fighting because we know we're talented and it's going to get better," Herrera said. "Our level of energy is still high and we have faith."

The Phillies now head out on the road and open a nine-game trek with stops in Minnesota, San Francisco, and Arizona. Without sounding too dramatic, this jaunt out west may dictate the feel for the rest of the season as the All-Star break draws near.

For the better part of two months, despite a negatively tilted run differential, the Phillies were competitive. For the month of June, however, the team is mired in a tailspin having lost 15 of their last 19 contests. 

"There's a lot of baseball still to be played and we are better than the way we have been playing," Mackanin said. "It's hard to stay patient, but the alternative is to give up and we're not going to do that."

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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com