Their heart clearly wasn’t in it.
The Phillies finished up their four-game series with the Mets on Thursday with a listless 11-3 loss that was likely forgotten by all involved almost immediately after the last pitch was thrown.
Except maybe for Ethan Martin, who is still trying to convince the Phillies he can be a Major League starter but who, with every outing, appears more and more destined for a prominent bullpen role in 2014.
Martin lasted only 4 innings on Thursday, giving up three runs on four hits with three walks. But perhaps the most important number was the nine strikeouts Martin piled up in those four innings, showing once again that he is an extremely effective pitcher in short bursts. From MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki’s recap…
He retired seven of the first nine batters he faced. He allowed one hit and one walk the first time through the lineup, striking five consecutive batters at one point. But the Mets started to get a better idea about him, going 3-for-8 with one double, one home run and two walks the rest of the way. Opponents have hit .208 (10-for-48) with one double, one home run, five walks and 21 strikeouts the first time they see Martin in a start. They have hit .333 (19-for-57) with four doubles, four home runs, 11 walks and 11 strikeouts after that.
After the game, Martin continued to sound hopeful that he’ll be given the chance to be a starter, but also recognized why some see his future in the ‘pen.
“I felt pretty decent almost every start,” Martin said. “Even [pitching coach Rich] Dubee said something. He said around that 60-pitch mark, I kind of have a little struggle in there. I’ve got to get through that. Hopefully I can get to that point this year.”
Offensively, Ryne Sandberg used his 14th different lineup in 14 games, to no avail on Thursday. The Phils could muster just three runs and seven hits against the Mets, with two of those runs coming on a Roger Bernadina homer in the 8th inning with the team down 10-1. Sandberg has admitted that this team needs to improve on offense.
“There’s guys to build around,” Sandberg said. “Chase Utley, J-Roll. With a healthy [Ryan] Howard back. That’s big. Ruiz … there some ifs. If you have [Cody] Asche or Ruf in the mix, there definitely are some pieces there. There are some young guys getting some experience now that are doing some good things. It’s definitely something to build on. Having Ryno in the four spot and producing would be a big bat that’s been missed.”
Of course, the Phillies have to keep telling themselves that Ryan Howard will once again become a power-hitting threat in the middle of the lineup. Despite the fact he hasn’t been that guy in two years, the Phillies are still paying him $25 million a year to be that guy. So they have to hope that Howard will be fully recovered from his Achilles and knee surgeries and have a phoenix-like rebirth next year.
With so many spots on this team already filled, the only possible upgrade the Phils could make is at one of the corner outfield spots. And that help would likely come in the form of a trade of some kind, or by signing a free agent like Nelson Cruz or Carlos Beltran. Both would be risky signings.
No matter what they do, the Phils’ offense will look largely the same next year as it does this year. That’s not encouraging when you consider the Phillies have been shut out 13 times this year, second only to the Marlins’ 15. More from Zolecki…
The Phillies entered Thursday averaging just 3.79 runs per game, which was tied with the Giants for the second-worst run production in the National League. Their .247 batting average ranked 11th, their .304 on-base percentage ranked 13th and their .389 slugging percentage ranked 11th.
Hey, can we just sign Cliff Lee again?