"Our pitching has got them behind the first inning. Our guys are always feeling like they are fighting back. That's sort of the situation. If you have good pitching, then you have a different situation."During a six-game losing streak that started in the final game in Washington, D.C., the Phillies have led for a total of one half-inning. In the first five of those games, they've trailed after the first inning, then waited until the second inning on Sunday. The starting pitchers had an ERA of 9.21 during the skid. Gillick's been around long enough to know that the manager sometimes take the fall. The Phillies haven't dismissed a manager during a season since 1991, when Jim Fregosi replaced Nick Leyva after 13 games. This doesn't include 2004, when Larry Bowa was dismissed with two games remaining, or 2000, when Terry Francona was relieved hours before the final game -- since in those two situations, the manager basically stayed all year. Gillick has replaced a manager in-season once in his 24 previous seasons as a general manager, replacing Jimy Williams with Cito Gaston in Toronto in 1989. Gillick explained the tough stretch as a lack of focus, a disturbing trend on a veteran team, with the exception of first baseman Ryan Howard, who's in his first full season.
"These are guys that, no matter what, should fundamentally know what to do base running wise and otherwise," Gillick said. "I would think maybe a lack of concentration. We're not dealing with real, real young people here."Doesn't that fall on the manager and the coaches? "I think they've tried to keep these guys focused as much as possible," Gillick said. "We talk about it almost on a daily basis. Right now, some of it is getting through and some of it isn't. But I know there is effort there." Gillick simply said evaluations of personnel, are going on "continually," and that includes the next six weeks leading up to the July 31 trading deadline. The general manager is also aware of the negative fan reaction. "I listen to the fans," he said. "They're voicing their displeasure. I would boo, too, sometimes." The players in the clubhouse also voiced their support for their manager. "Charlie doesn't go on the field," outfielder Shane Victorino said. "We go out there and play. He puts out the lineup. It's not his fault for what we're doing." Manuel's greatest asset is the relaxed, positive atmosphere that he creates in the clubhouse and dugout. The Phils won 88 games last season, their highest total since 1993. They're struggling again, but the players say they're rallying. "We've stayed positive," second baseman Chase Utley said. "We have to." Added Howard: "He has a way of keeping you focused and motivated. That can go a long way."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.