MINNEAPOLIS -- The numbers could be sliced and rearranged a number of ways, but one thing was undeniable: The Phillies had not seen their rotation struggle like this in a long time.
They're hoping Joe Blanton's complete game on Thursday in a 6-1 victory is the beginning of a much-needed turnaround, because in 24 games from May 19-June 13, Phillies starters were 6-12 with a 5.70 ERA (91 earned runs in 143 2/3 innings).
In 15 games from May 27-June 13, when Roy Halladay pitched his final game for the Phillies before landing on the disabled list with a strained right latissimus dorsi, Phillies starters were 4-7 with a 5.97 ERA (59 earned runs in 89 innings).
"It's a whole gamut of things," Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said.
Much of it is mental.
"One starter thinks I've got to be the guy tonight," Dubee said. "And then when that doesn't happen, the next guy says, 'Oh, geez, I've got to really be good.' It's been a mishmash of all kinds of stuff. Focus. We get distracted easily. Do we press? Yeah, absolutely."
The lack of focus comes from frustration; things that happen on the field out of the pitchers' control. That could be a booted ball in the infield. A broken-bat hit that scores a run. It could be a dropped fly ball in the outfield or an errant throw. Maybe it's a really good pitch down in the dirt that a hitter golfs out of the park or off the wall. It could be the offense being unable to score runs.
"There's a whole combination of stuff out there," Dubee said.
Offense has not been a problem for the Phillies lately. They are fifth in the National League in scoring since May 18, averaging 4.67 runs per game, and third in scoring since Halladay's last start for the Phillies, averaging 5.13 runs per game.
But the errors and a lack of run support over a long period of time can wear on even the most steely minded pitcher. Even Halladay seemed to be worn down from those issues before he got hurt, as the Phillies struggled on offense early in the season.
But what can Phillies pitchers do?
"Stay in your own house," Dubee said. "Control what you can control. Execute pitches. Don't get caught up on a broken-bat hit or a play not being made or runs not being scored. You don't have any control over that as a pitcher. You don't have control winning games.
"Cliff [Lee] hasn't had any luck or control in winning a game. All you can do is execute pitches and grind and grind and grind."