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Off Night

Off Night
WASHINGTON - Before last night's 8-2 loss to Washington, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel sat in the visitors' dugout, shaking his head."It seemed like we were just starting to get it together, and then we had two days off," he said of his team, which before yesterday had won four of five games after beginning the season with two losses. "We were just starting to hit."Hours later, Manuel's complaint proved prescient, as his team allowed the Nationals to win their first game of the season. The Phils had not played since Monday, when they defeated Washington hours after broadcaster Harry Kalas collapsed in the press box and later died of heart disease.

The next day's scheduled visit to the White House was canceled because of the death, and Wednesday's game was rained out. The loss and subsequent layoff made focusing on Baseball a more difficult task than usual last night."We need to get settled in and start playing," Manuel reiterated after the game, noting that between Kalas' death, standard early-season off days and World Series celebrations, the 4-4 Phillies have endured an inordinate number of distractions. "We've had a lot of stuff that's gone in this first part of the season," he said. "I want to see us get all that behind us and start playing Baseball. . . . We won a World Series last year, but that was last year. I know there are still ceremonies that linger in the front part of the year, and Harry passing away, that definitely has played a part on our team."Starting pitching has been a major weakness for the Phillies so far this season. Joe Blanton started last night and surrendered a three-run homer to Adam Dunn in the first inning. But Blanton stabilized, following the homer with 52/3 shutout innings and providing the team with its first quality start of the season. (A pitcher earns a quality start when he allows three or fewer runs in at least six innings.) Blanton pitched six innings and allowed three runs on eight hits, walking one and striking out five."My command was worse" than his season debut April 8, when he surrendered seven runs in four innings to the Atlanta Braves, Blanton said. "But it was one of those games when I just battled."When Blanton left, the Phillies trailed, 3-2, but the team's bullpen allowed three homers and five runs. The pitching staff has now given up 12 home runs in eight games. "Our pitching, it has to get better," Manuel said.But beyond the inconsistent pitching and offense the team has shown so far, players admitted that Kalas' death had shaken the team - and, with various memorials planned for today and tomorrow, that threatened to remain an issue."Anytime you lose someone like that, it's tough on everybody," said Jayson Werth, who went 0 for 4. "So it will take a few days, maybe it will take longer than that to get over it . . . [but] we're going to have to go home and say goodbye and put him to rest." More at staff writer Andy Martino at 215-854-4874 or

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 17, 2009

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