Swaggerless Phillies can't help out Moyer

Swaggerless Phillies can't help out Moyer

PITTSBURGH -- There has been a different feel in the Phillies clubhouse this season.

Its swagger is lacking.

"It's a little different," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said after Friday's 2-0 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park. "Fortunately, we've always been a healthy ball club. We might lose one guy, but it's usually not one guy after another guy after another guy after two guys. That hasn't been us. All of those people bring something to the table, so you can definitely tell when their personality is missing -- no matter who that guy is. If he's out there every day, and he's not here, you're always missing something."

He paused as Wilson Valdez walked past.

"My man right here, he's got some swag," Rollins said, smiling. "We'll be back."

The road back will be difficult. The Phillies are missing Chase Utley, who will be out about eight weeks after thumb surgery Thursday, and Placido Polanco, who will miss three to four weeks with inflammation in his left elbow.

The Phillies had averaged 6.8 runs per game in an 11-game stretch from June 16-27, ending talk of a slump that had lasted more than a month. But since Monday, the Phillies have averaged just 3.4 runs per game, and that includes a nine-run effort Tuesday in Cincinnati.

It seems more than just coincidence this week's struggles started on the day Utley injured his thumb.

"I look up at the scoreboard, and I see goose eggs, and I think [Utley and Polanco] could help some," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

The Phillies have been shut out eight times this season, one more than last year. They are on pace to be shut out 17 times, which they have not done since 1971.

Things need to turn around quickly or the Phillies could find themselves buried in the National League East standings. Philadelphia is already five games behind Atlanta.

"The middle of our lineup just needs to loosen up," Manuel said. "Get back to relaxing. Looking for good balls to hit. Swinging the bat. Being more aggressive. I think that's definitely the trouble. I think we're trying to do too much. I think they know what kind of shape we're in. I feel they're definitely trying too hard right now."

There has been plenty of focus this week about the Phillies improving their offense while Utley and Polanco are out. They could acquire Miguel Tejada, Ty Wigginton or Kelly Johnson in a trade. But one of those players (or anybody else the Phillies might covet) cannot single-handedly save the offense. They need Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino and Rollins to step up.

Those five were just 3-for-20 in Thursday's 3-2 loss to the Pirates and just 2-for-15 Friday.

They lost Thursday to Daniel McCutchen, who entered 0-3 with an 11.00 ERA. They lost Friday to Ross Ohlendorf, who had 16 consecutive starts without a win. Ohlendorf allowed five hits and struck out eight in seven scoreless innings to earn his first win since Aug. 18, 2009.

It wasted another good pitching performance. Phillies left-hander Jamie Moyer allowed five hits, one earned run and two walks in six innings. He struck out eight.

Moyer had trouble only in the fourth. He allowed a leadoff single to Andrew McCutchen before striking out Garrett Jones and Lastings Milledge. Ryan Doumit reached on a swinging bunt single down the third-base line, and Bobby Crosby walked to load the bases.

Andy LaRoche then hit a 1-2 pitch between the mound and third-base line. Moyer picked up, spun and heaved the ball toward Howard, but the ball sailed away from him to allow two runs to score to give the Pirates the lead.

"I knew it was going to be a close play," Moyer said. "I didn't even know if I had a play in picking it up. It was a little deeper than the first swinging bunt. It took a little more time to get there. I felt like it was a do-or-die play."

In the end the second run didn't matter. But Moyer made it clear he will not use injuries as an excuse for the team's struggles, despite the fact the Phillies have seven players on the 15-day disabled list: Utley, Polanco, J.A. Happ, Ryan Madson, Carlos Ruiz, Chad Durbin and Antonio Bastardo.

Rollins, Joe Blanton, Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero and Brian Schneider have also spent time on the DL this season.

"We haven't played well with or without the injuries, in my opinion," Moyer said. "I'm not going to dwell on the injuries. You guys can, but I'm not going to dwell on them. It's very unfortunate, but we've got to dig a little deeper."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.