WHAT THE HELL HAS HAPPENED TO PHILLIES’ ONCE-SOLID PITCHING?

By Sarah Berkowitz

The struggles of the Phillies’ pitching staff has been well-documented.

Against the Blue Jays and D-backs, Phillies pitchers have allowed 17 home runs over their last four games — a franchise record going back to 1883!

Manager Pete Mackanin believes they didn’t challenge Toronto hitters inside enough. He saw Cameron Rupp set up inside on multiple occasions only to have to reach across the plate to catch the pitch outside.

He saw a similar pattern from Adam Morgan in last night’s loss.

“We’re just making a lot of bad pitches, over the plate, up in the zone,” Mackanin said. “[Morgan’s] got to keep the ball down in the zone and locate on the inner part of the plate. He tried to locate, but he didn’t get the ball in enough.”

Earlier in the week, Mackanin implied the lack of offense could be getting to his pitchers.

Whether it’s a lack of command or confidence, they’re not attacking hitters like they were to start the season. Reliever Elvis Araujo gave up three homers, including back-to-back solo shots from Welington Castillo and Peter O’Brien in the seventh inning.

“That’s one thing we need to work on,” Morgan said. “Just making hitters uncomfortable, not necessarily doing anything irrational, but you have to throw on both sides of the plate.”

Morgan exited after giving up seven runs (four earned) over 4 1/3 innings. Although Mackanin said Morgan was leaving his pitches up all night, he had yet to allow an earned run until the fourth and tied his career high with eight strikeouts.

The two unearned runs in the second came on two Cesar Hernandez errors. One, he unsuccessfully tried to barehand a ball for a play at the plate. The other, he let a ground ball go right through his legs. Hernandez was not available for comment after the game.

“I’m not going to criticize guys for making physical errors,” Mackanin said. “Mental mistakes I have a problem with, but physical errors I don’t. I don’t like them, but it’s part of it. You strike out, I’m not gonna criticize you. You make an error, I’m not gonna criticize you. I wish you didn’t strike out or make an error, but it just is what it is.”

But it is those errors that cost teams ballgames, especially teams that have lost 21 of their last 27. It is also those errors — and those strikeouts — that can begin to affect the one cog that was working on a once surprising team.

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