PHILADELPHIA — Phillies manager Charlie Manuel found a depressed Shane Victorino sitting in front of his locker Sunday morning.
With the way Victorino and the Phillies have been playing, Philadelphia fans probably can identify with how the center fielder felt.
Manuel pulled Victorino from the lineup an hour before the game, giving the player “a mental health day.”
Victorino’s replacement, Jason Pridie, knocked in three runs, but these days there are no feel-good stories for the Phillies.
The Atlanta Braves beat Philadelphia 4-3 before 43,881 fans at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies (37-50), who won the National League East from 2007-2011, are in last place in the division — 14 games behind the first-place Washington Nationals.
Philadelphia squandered two-run and one-run leads Sunday.
“We just don’t play good enough to win,” Manuel said. “(Sunday) was a good example of most of our games. We get to a point, and something happens. We don’t execute. We make a mistake and we end up losing.”
The Phillies are under .500 at the All-Star break for the first time since they were 40-47 in 2006. Philadelphia hasn’t been this bad at the break since it was 24-61 in 1997. The Phillies head into the break with one win in their last 11 games. They are 10-25 since June 1.
Victorino epitomizes the team’s struggles. The former All-Star is batting .245 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs this season. But he is 3-for-24 in July and has not had an extra-base hit since a ninth-inning double on June 13 against the Minnesota Twins.
Victorino was scheduled to hit seventh Sunday. Manuel said the low spot in the batting order did not bother the player.
Victorino is known for his energy and upbeat personality. He has one of the loudest voices in the clubhouse. Manuel said he had never seen the center fielder like he was Sunday morning.
“He was down,” Manuel said. “He has a lot on his mind. He was upset. I felt it was best to take him out of the lineup. He’s going through a tough time.”
Pridie was hitting in the indoor batting cage when he got the word he would start.
“You have to stay ready in a bench role,” Pridie said, “and when your name is called upon, go out there and produce and try to help the team win.”
It appeared the Phillies might have gotten a break with Pridie’s first Philadelphia start.
His two-run home run in the second inning gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead. His RBI double in the fourth inning put Philadelphia up 3-2.
But the Phillies couldn’t hold either lead. Braves catcher Brian McCann hit a home run deep to center field in the seventh inning to give Atlanta a one-run lead it never relinquished.
Victorino didn’t speak with reporters after the game. The Phillies’ clubhouse was quiet. Few regulars were spotted. Jimmy Rollins declined to speak with reporters.
“I think we’re looking forward to the break to clear our minds,” said pitcher Vance Worley, who started Sunday and allowed three runs in six innings.
The losses have dulled the atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park. Each Phillies game was an event the past five years. The streets around the park buzzed with activity before a game. Fans dressed in red marched toward the park. Cars fought for parking spaces. Tailgaters were everywhere.
On Sunday, the streets outside the stadium were calm an hour before first pitch. Traffic was light.
There were plenty of empty seats when the middle of the Phillies’ order came to bat in the bottom of the ninth.
While Pridie was 2-for-3, the rest of the Phillies’ lineup was 4-for-28.
“When you’re not hitting the ball, you look tired and lethargic,” Manuel said. “The game kind of drifts along.”
The only thing in the Phillies’ favor is the schedule. With four days off, they can’t lose again until they start the season’s second half in Colorado against the Rockies on Friday.
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