PHILADELPHIA − It wasn’t supposed to be this way where the Phillies are off to the same slow start that they faced through the first two months last season.
Sure, that turned out well in 2022 as the Phillies reached the World Series. But through all the delirium, the Phillies fortified themselves heading into this year, spending $300 million on All-Star shortstop Trea Turner, who offered this candid assessment of his season so far: “I’ve sucked.”
That is, until his two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday tied the game for the Phillies, who then beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 6-5 in 10 innings on Alec Bohm‘s run-scoring single.
By rallying from a 5-0 deficit, the Phillies avoided a sweep and improved to 23-26.
But it has been a struggle for Turner, Kyle Schwarber, and really, just about everyone else for the Phillies this season.
“It seems like the nights we pitch, we don’t hit,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “And the nights we hit, we don’t pitch. We’re just going through one of those times right now. We just gotta smooth it all out and get consistent. And then we’ll be fine.”
That didn’t happen Tuesday, when the Phillies didn’t pitch or hit well enough in their 4-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. And it certainly wasn’t happening Wednesday through five innings, when the Diamondbacks took a 5-0 lead before the Phillies finally showed some signs of life.
Sure, there’s plenty of time for the Phillies to turn it around. After all, they were two games worse at this point last season at 21-28, and manager Joe Girardi was two days away from getting fired. He was replaced by Thomson, who then led the Phillies to the World Series.
Yet the hitting has been inconsistent, the starting pitching ranks 22nd in baseball with a 4.86 ERA, with both aces Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola struggling, with $72 million signee Taijuan Walker sporting a 5.79 ERA, and with prized phenom Andrew Painter still working back from elbow trouble.
Ranger Suarez, who started Wednesday, allowed 5 runs in 5 innings in his third start back from the injured list. He has an ERA of 9.82.
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“It’s a new team, different team,” Bryce Harper said. “You never want to bank on having success the year before or anything like that. That year’s over. It was a lot of fun with what we did, and what we were able to do. But also, this is a new team, a new club. We gotta go out there and play our game, understanding who we are and what we are.
“Understand that we’re a really good team, and we just gotta play good baseball.”
The problem for the Phillies is that they’re struggling through the first two months of the season despite not playing either the Braves or the Mets, who are first and second in the NL East. That’s about to change as the Phillies will play 13 of their next 29 games against those two teams beginning Thursday with four games in Atlanta followed by three in New York.
That’s why Thomson said it was “real important” to get some momentum against the Diamondbacks. It finally happened Wednesday because of Turner.
He was 0-for-4 Tuesday, and didn’t get a hit in his first four at-bats Wednesday until he came to the plate in the ninth inning with two outs, one on, and the Phillies trailing 5-3.
Even with the home run, Turner is hitting .250 with an OPS of .683, well below his career OPS of .833. Turner has just 5 homers, 13 RBIs and 6 stolen bases. Last season, Turner hit 21 homers with 100 RBIs and 27 stolen bases.
Harper has no doubt that Turner will figure it out.
“He’s a great player. That’s why he’s here,” Harper said. “He’s done it his whole career. He understands what he needs to do. He’s going to get there. I have no doubt that he’s going to be Trea Turner and play the game he knows how to play. He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever been around my whole career.”
Then there’s Kyle Schwarber, who also went 0-for-4 Tuesday, and 0-for-3 on Wednesday. He’s hitting .170 with 12 homers and 24 RBIs so far this season. His OPS is .721. Still, that compares favorably with Schwarber‘s stats at this point last season, when he was hitting .203 with 10 homers, 22 RBIs, with a .722 OPS.
Remember, Schwarber ended up with 46 homers last season, 38 of them from the leadoff spot.
Thomson has kept Turner at No. 2 in the batting order despite admitting that he has thought about dropping him lower.
“I’m just waiting for him to come out of this thing,” Thomson said. “It’s just a matter of time. And when he comes out of it, I want him there in that spot.”
It worked Wednesday, but it didn’t on Tuesday. In that game, Tuner came up in the eighth inning, the Phillies down by a run. He grounded out softly to second as the fans booed him. Harper followed with a rocket off the fence in right center. Had Turner and/or leadoff man Bryson Stott gotten on base, they would have scored.
Then Schwarber sent a liner to center that Dominic Fletcher slid for in order to catch. Schwarber slammed his helmet in frustration.
It was emblematic of Schwarber’s night. In the second inning, he ripped a liner to right that was caught. In the fourth, he lined out to second base, before popping out to first in the seventh.
They are hardly alone. There’s also J.T. Realmuto and Brandon Marsh, who was a late scratch Tuesday with shoulder inflammation before returning Wednesday with a key two-run double in the Phillies’ three-run sixth inning.
“Really, the bulk of the guys aren’t really where they’re normally at,” Thomson said.
Then Thomson said this about Schwarber: “The popup at first base (Tuesday), he just missed that. He hits the ball on the nose to right field. He hits the ball on the nose to center field. He’s starting to get it.”
The Phillies have to hope that it won’t be too late when that finally happens.
Contact Martin Frank at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: As Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber struggle, can Phillies find 2022 magic?