SAN FRANCISCO – The first two Phillies batters reached base in Friday night's ninth inning, yet it still did not feel like a threat. Their bats were so dull through the first eight innings of a 4-0 loss to the Giants that there was little doubt their luck would change, even with runners on second and third with no outs.
The next three batters – Carlos Santana, Maikel Franco, and Nick Williams – went down with little trouble. Scott Kingery was stranded on third and Odubel Herrera stayed at second. The rally was not killed, because it was not quite born. The Phillies went 0 for 6 Friday with runners in scoring position. They mustered just four hits before the ninth inning and struck out 13 times. It was their sixth-straight game with double-digit strikeouts.
The Phillies have combined for just four runs in their last three games. They cannot win every game scoring two runs like they did on Thursday in Los Angeles. The Phillies are struggling.
"I think it's probably less about the strikeouts and more about the fact that we're not squaring the baseball up very consistently over the last week or 10 days," Gabe Kapler said. "I think we can do a better job of, at the end of at-bats, putting the ball in play. I don't think that disputable. But I just think at the end of the day this is just about getting on base. We're probably not doing quite enough of that right now."
Scott Kingery, who batted .213 in May, started June with a pair of hits. That was about the lone positive. Cesar Hernandez, Nick Williams, and Dylan Cozens each struck out twice. Carlos Santana and Maikel Franco – the lineup's fourth and fifth hitters – combined to go 0 for 8.
The offensive struggles in May were concealed by a starting rotation that ended the month with a 2.43 ERA. But the offensive warts were hard to hide Friday when the pitching failed.
Nick Pivetta exhausted 91 pitches in just four innings as he allowed three runs on five hits. The righthander had a 1.13 ERA in his last four starts. Friday spoiled perhaps the best stretch of his career. He started the first and second innings with leadoff walks. Both runners would score. Pretty disappointing, Pivetta said.
"That's kind of unacceptable on my part and I take full ownership for that," he said.
The Phillies worked just one walk on Friday. In their last six games, they are averaging one walk per every 4.85 strikeouts. They built their offense around plate discipline and grinding out long at-bats. That approach seems to be lost right now as the strike outs spike and the walks disappear.
"The only way we can say that the strikeouts are not a negative if, is at the end of those long counts, every once in a while we're hitting a home run or we're drawing a walk," Kapler said. "We're not seeing that come together recently. It's just a small stretch of that happening. I'm not concerned about it long term. But there's no disputing that recently the performance at the plate has not been optimal."