DENVER – The Phillies began the season with such dysfunction that it almost seemed fitting in early April when they had a losing record.
There was Aaron Nola's quick hook on Opening Day, Hoby Milner pitching without warming up, Nick Williams playing too shallow to catch a game-winning fly ball, Gabe Kapler being booed at the home opener, and then Williams wondering if computers were dictating the lineups.
But then the Phillies made a surprising run this summer to first place. They were no longer a dysfunctional, losing club. But here they are after Tuesday night's 10-3 loss to the Rockies with a losing record for the first time since early April. The Phillies seem to be finishing the season exactly how they started it.
"We have not played good baseball for quite some time," manager Gabe Kapler said. "We have to find a way to perform better. We have to find a way to work harder and prepare better and come out and fight."
The Phillies (78-79) dropped under .500 for the first time since April 9. They have lost six-straight games and have to win three of their final five games to avoid finishing with a losing record. All five games come against teams with postseason stakes. They will not play in the postseason, but they are seeing how playoff teams take care of business in September. The Rockies are fighting for a playoff berth and the Braves are jockeying for home-field advantage. It won't be a push over to secure a winning record.
The Phillies were 15 games over .500 on August 5 with a first-place lead over Atlanta. Their brutal collapse pushed them all the way to third. And it might not be over yet.
"I think every individual here wants to have that mentality that we are a winning ball club," Vince Velasquez said. "There's a lot of games left. I think we can still go out strong and finish above .500. With all the talent we have here, there's no doubt in my mind that we're capable of doing that.
Velasquez lasted just 32/3 innings as he allowed six runs on eight hits. He is scheduled to start this weekend in the final series of the season but he is unsure if he will make that start. Zach Eflin, who is also scheduled to pitch this weekend, returned to Philadelphia Tuesday for testing on a sore left side. The Phillies could be trying for a winning record without two of their starters. Wilson Ramos left the game when his sore wrist flared up and his status for the final five games is uncertain. The Phillies could be down two starters and two catchers as Jorge Alfaro is still injured.