Philadelphia Phillies manager Rob Thomson blows a gum bubble in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Friday, May 26, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

It’s been a tough spell for the Phillies. They got hammered in California by two different teams, lost a home series to the Red Sox, and barely managed to avoid being swept by the Diamondbacks. 

They did win two series in May and sweep a two-game set against the Blue Jays. But every step forward feels like it comes with a step back. For example: 

  • Aaron Nola hurls a great start against the Cubs, then follows it up with a hideous outing against the Braves. 
  • Trea Turner finally has his first signature Phillies moment, but is still mired in the slump of all slumps.
  • Bryce Harper hits a game-tying home run against the Braves, only for reliever Gregory Soto to blow it.

And sometimes, it’s all steps back. Jose Alvarez still isn’t off the injured list. Ranger Suarez has thrown two absolutely awful starts at Citizens Bank Park. The 1–2 spots in the batting order are putting out some historically awful production. 

So what has the team been saying about their struggles? It’s been the same refrain, over and over: 

“We’ve got to play better.” 

Bryce Harper and Trea Turner said it last week. Manager Rob Thompson has said it more than once during this mediocre period, which has essentially been the entire season up to this point. We heard it in April and May of 2022, and again in 2021, and in 2020, and in — well, you get the picture. If the Phillies had a team coat of arms, that phrase would be on it. 

In their defense, they legitimately may have run out of different ways to describe the situation. And what other response can they really give? 

They could be more specific, but there’s a lot to address. “We need to be better at stealing bases.” “We need to hit better.” “We need to stop making stupid mistakes on defense.” The players are all professionals, and they know what they need to work on and how. Trea Turner told the media even his mother is booing him. 

Unfortunately, there’s no magic way out of this. The only way it gets better is if they keep working until something clicks. 

It’s frustrating to hear the Phillies spout the same vague platitudes every few days when they inevitably lose another winnable game. 

But it’s also frustrating for the players, who are giving their best and not seeing the results they normally would. All they can do is keep trying, keep playing, and keep promising people it will get better. And all fans can do is keep watching and waiting.