PITTSBURGH – Have some doubts that the Phillies can make a second-half run?
So does their manager.
“The question to me is whether we are capable of running off a winning streak,” Charlie Manuel said Tuesday afternoon.
“Are we capable? Can we put together 12 out of 16 [wins]? It’s not impossible, but at the same time I would question that.”
Manuel spoke before the Phillies opened a three-game series at PNC Park against the Pirates, whose 51-31 record is the best in the majors.
The Phillies are teetering on the brink, 9½ games behind the Braves in the NL East and eight games out in the wild-card race. Since their only day over .500 this year -- they were 31-30 on June 6 -- the Phillies are 9-14.
Can the Phillies get back into the race? They’ve averaged 49 wins in the second half in eight seasons under Manuel. But it might take a lot more than 49 to reach the postseason.
“We’re going to have to play like hell,” Manuel said. “We have to play right, fundamentally well. We have to hit, we have to pitch and catch the ball. But I’ve been saying that two years now, and I’m still saying the same thing.”
Asked what the Phillies should go after at the trade deadline, Manuel was blunt.
“I think we need anybody who can help us improve. If there is any way we can improve, whether it’s a pitcher or a hitter or whatever, any players who can help us improve.”
Meanwhile, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said there’s plenty of people to blame for the Phillies’ recent struggles.
“These guys get paid to play,” he said Tuesday afternoon in the Phillies’ dugout. “They need to do their jobs. I think it’s all of us taking part of it. It’s all of us that are a part of it. It’s a team effort. We all have to be better, including me. ...
“Guys have to start playing better. Only way we can win is if they start playing better. Hitting better, pitching better, running the bases better. Playing better defense.”
The Reds are in the No. 2 wild-card spot, on pace for 92 wins. For the Phillies to catch them, they would have to go 52-26. That’s .667 baseball.
“We can’t let ourselves get too far behind,” he said. “It’s just too much of a haul. It’s the point where we’ve got to start making some hay.”
Under Manuel, the Phillies have played .605 baseball in the second half, second best in the majors since 2005.
“[We’ve been] very, very good in the second half,” Amaro said. “They’ve had an uncanny ability to be able to do that, so we’ll see.
“We haven’t played well enough, that I can tell you. Not to this point, there’s no question about that. I think they’re a better club than they’ve shown so far, but maybe they’re not. ...
“What’s been disappointing for us this year is the fact that we’ve generally had most of our guys on the field for most of the time. Not the whole time. We lost Chase [Utley], we’ve lost Doc [Roy Halladay].
“I felt like we’d be playing a little bit better baseball overall and we haven’t.”
The trade deadline is July 31, and Amaro said these next few weeks will determine what direction the Phillies take.
“Every single day, it’s an assessment of what’s best for the club, what might be best for the club,” he said.
“Right now, we’re putting ourselves in a position to be prepared for anything. Whether we have to go right, left, up or down, we have to be prepared for everything.”