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Shut out again: Phils still scoreless with Sandberg
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Sooner or later the Phillies are going to score a run. One has to imagine that the odds are in their favor, especially since no team has gone 42 straight games without scoring a run.

But in the first two games with Ryne Sandberg as the manager of the Phillies, the club has had just three men make it to third base with home plate remaining a mere rumor.

The Phillies fell to the Dodgers, 5-0, on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, marking the club’s fourth straight loss and 21st defeat in the last 25 games (see Instant Replay). It also was the 12th time the Phillies have been shutout this season, which is the most in franchise history since 1991.

At 53-69, the free-falling Phillies are hardly putting up a fight to stave off the last-place Marlins in the NL East.

From 102 wins to last place in two seasons?

Then again, the Phillies had the deck stacked against them again on Saturday night. A day after Charlie Manuel was dismissed as manager and they had to face former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, the Phillies had to line up against lefty-ace-extraordinaire Clayton Kershaw.

Out of the fire and into an inferno.

“Facing those two guys, you see that they are hot and you see the roll they’re on,” Sandberg said. “They come as advertised.”

Kershaw allowed three hits and a walk in eight innings to go with eight strikeouts. He also did not face a three-ball count until the eighth inning, had 11 0-2 counts and carried a perfect game into the fifth inning. In the eighth, the lefty labored a bit, allowing a one-out double to Casper Wells and a walk to John Mayberry while nursing a 2-0 lead. But neither Erik Kratz nor Carlos Ruiz could deliver as Kershaw danced away from the briefest of uprisings.

“We have faced two very tough pitchers, and they came as advertised, showing very great stuff. Kershaw had very live stuff and he dominated the strike zone, getting ahead of the hitters and mixing pitches very well,” Sandberg said. “We had one shot with two men on with two chances in a 2-0 game.”

In either a silver-lining moment or in a spoonful dose of cold, hard reality, Sandberg said the two games against the Dodgers’ and their aces were a measuring stick. In going against the hottest team in baseball and two of the game’s top pitchers, the Phillies were able to learn how they measure up with the elite teams in the league.

Quite clearly, the Phils aren’t very close. The Phillies got six hits, stranded 11 runners, committed three errors and gave up nine runs.

Then there is that big fat goose egg in the runs column.

It’s one thing to get shut out against a couple of great pitchers — that will happen. It's just that the errors and mistakes make any chance at victory that much more difficult.

“Clean games look good and feel good. If you play a clean game it gives you a chance to win,” Sandberg offered. “Defense is a priority. Pitching and defense work together. What errors did tonight was put [Kyle Kendrick in a tough spot].”

Indeed, it was a fairly gutsy effort from Kendrick, who allowed two runs (just one earned) in six innings. But an error by Mayberry and a hit batsman led to the first run in the opening inning. Back-to-back doubles from Juan Uribe and Kershaw plated the second run in the fifth.

If it hadn’t been for the Dodgers running into outs in the first couple of innings and four double plays, it would have been a much tougher night for Kendrick.

“I gave up some hits, but I battled, gave us a quality outing and gave us a chance to win,” Kendrick said. “That’s all you can ask. Against a guy like [Kershaw], who is pretty good, you just try and keep the game close.”

In the meantime, Sandberg appears to be trying to iron out a few rough spots with the Phillies. On Friday, he pointed at some “lackadaisical play” from the team that had reared its head recently. Perhaps to tighten things up, Sandberg held a team meeting before Saturday’s game and every player in uniform stood in front of the dugout during the national anthem.

With 11 players on the roster who opened the season at Triple A, maybe it’s the little things that can get the Phillies back on track.

“I see enthusiasm on the bench and guys are getting after it. I see hustle on the bases even though it’s minimum,” Sandberg said. “But effort is definitely there. When you’re facing the best right now, you get a gauge where you’re at.”

Fortunately, the Phillies won’t face Greinke and Kershaw every night. A run or two could go pretty far if Sandberg’s team can figure out how to get one.