Manuel frustrated by Phils' effort in loss
Moyer strong in spot start, but Park lets lead slip away
HOUSTON -- First, the Astros knocked around the Phillies, polishing off a four-game sweep with Monday's 4-3 victory before 29,040 at Minute Maid Park.
Then it was manager Charlie Manuel's turn to lay some wood to the Phillies.
Manuel, thinking that perhaps his team is a tad too comfortable with its six-game lead in the National League East, let the players know that coasting to the finish line won't be accepted.
First, though, Manuel complimented the Astros, who rallied to win their third consecutive one-run game in the series.
"They outplayed us," Manuel said. "The truth is that they deserved to win. But we're not going to win many games playing like that. We had a bad series. They outplayed us and deserved to win, but if we keep playing like this, it's going to be hard for us to win."
That's when Manuel began to talk about what he feels might be a sense of complacency in his team.
Last season the Phillies surged down the stretch, holding off the Mets for the NL East title, and Manuel wonders if this year's team is starting to think that it can turn it on and off on a whim.
"I hear some of them talk, some of them saying, 'We play better when we have to,' and stuff like that, like when there's more pressure," Manuel said. "I find that hard to believe when I see us play how we played today. I played 20 years. I like my chances of being relaxed when we have a nice lead. That [sense of complacency] doesn't register with me."
"Last year is dead and gone, man," he added. "We're playing for today. That's what we've always played for."
The players didn't know how to respond to questions about why they've been so flat, dismissing the sweep to the Astros as "just baseball."
"I think you can make a case for something like that [complacency], but I don't know if that's what's going on here," said outfielder Jayson Werth, who was 1-for-2 with a pair of walks. "I really don't have an answer for that. Who knows what the answer is for that?
"Hopefully these four games here in Houston will be a little bit of a wakeup call to us, telling us that we need to get it going. But we are still the first-place team in the East, and a pretty good team at that. We don't need to press and let things bother us too much. We just need to get back to our style of ball."
The Phillies, who were trying to avoid being swept by the Astros, began the day with the news that J. A. Happ had to be scratched from his scheduled start.
|"They outplayed us. The truth is that they deserved to win. But we're not going to win many games playing like that. We had a bad series. They outplayed us and deserved to win, but if we keep playing like this, it's going to be hard for us to win."|
|-- Charlie Manuel|
Happ suffered a mild right oblique strain Saturday while taking batting practice, and Manuel called upon Jamie Moyer to fill in. The 46-year-old Moyer, a former starter who moved into the bullpen Aug. 10, turned in a solid effort, allowing only two runs on three hits in six innings.
But that's pretty much the only positive Manuel took from Monday.
"Moyer was good, really good," Manuel said. "But we didn't pitch when we had to. That's the bottom line in this series -- when we had to pitch, we didn't, and when we had to hit, we didn't.
"You go back and think about it -- [the Astros] did and we didn't. It was a rough series for us, but the way we played we made it rough."
And the seventh inning was the roughest part of Monday's game.
Moyer turned the ball -- and a 3-2 lead -- over to Chan Ho Park, who promptly gave up back-to-back doubles to Miguel Tejada and Hunter Pence, the latter tying the game. Park (3-3, 4.59 ERA) then issued three consecutive walks, the last of which to Michael Bourn brought Pence home with what proved to be the game-winning run.
Park was then lifted for Scott Eyre, who, with the bases still loaded, retired Kaz Matsui and Lance Berkman to end the inning, and Manuel said he didn't consider making the move sooner.
"We were going for a strikeout [of Bourn], and Park has a bigger arm," Manuel said. "I thought that maybe [Park] was more equipped to strike him out. But he didn't do it."
The list is long when it comes to things the Phillies didn't do in this series.
While the Phils' offense Monday was highlighted by back-to-back homers in the fourth from Ryan Howard (3-for-4, two RBIs), his 38th of the season, and Raul Ibanez, his 28th, Manuel was distressed to see players swinging at bad pitches.
That, according to Manuel, is the main reason the Phillies went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners on base -- three on third. And he said it's evidence of players pressing.
"When I see guys chase balls on the ground, swing at balls over our heads and things like that, and I'm talking about professional hitters, then I don't know what it is, whether they're trying to hard or they're tight," Manuel said. "We have no reason to be tight, but I kind of sense that -- when I see us chase balls like we did. It's like we don't have a clue as to what we're doing. That's what I see.
"We're not playing good, and when I see how we're playing, not being able to knock in runs and things like that, I have to think we're a little bit tight," Manuel added. "I think my experience tells me that much. We have to play better. We have to come out and win [Tuesday's] game."
The Phillies move on to Washington, where they start a three-game series with the Nationals on Tuesday.
"We were in a real good position before we came [to Houston], and we're still in good position," Manuel said. "But we have to play, man. We just have to play and win some games."
Michael Murphy is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.