The Phillies can’t hit, can’t field and can’t win. Those are all big problems, but just part of the challenge faced by this year’s Phils. The other part is that the Atlanta Braves are just good and have been for a while. The Braves looked a whole lot better than the Phils over the past two games, but just about everyone is looking better than the Phils during the recent funk. The problem is that Atlanta winning more than the Phils isn’t a recent development. Here’s what the teams have done in the regular season going back to the start of August, 2009:

Games after July 31 in the 2009 season
Team W L Scored Allowed Dif
ATL 34 25 283 214 +69
PHI 34 27 276 243 +33

Team W L Scored Allowed Dif
ATL 30 22 255 206 +49
PHI 28 23 237 203 +34

Regular season games after 7/31/09
Team W L Scored Allowed Dif
ATL 64 47 538 420 +118
PHI 62 50 513 446 +67

The Braves are 2 1/2 games better than the Phils since the start of last August. The scarier part is how much better their run differential has been than the Phillies over those 110 games or so. In those games the Phillies have scored 67 more runs that their opponents. Atlanta has nearly doubled that, scoring 118 more runs than they have allowed.

There is good news, though, and that’s that the Phillies are simply better than Atlanta. They finished comfortably ahead of the division in 2009, six games ahead of the second-place team and the second-place team wasn’t even the Braves — it was the Marlins. The Phillies played well enough to win and the Braves didn’t win anything as well as they played.

Sooner or later, the Phillies are going to start to hit and field and win again. When they do, my guess is they win often enough to outpace the Braves. I’m feeling a little less sure than I did couple of weeks ago, though, and they didn’t do a lot last night to make it look like they were about to turn the corner.

The Phillies are 28-23 on the year after a 7-3 loss to the Braves. The Phils fall a game and a half behind the Braves in the NL East. They have lost eight of their last ten.

Hamels got the start for the Phillies and got two outs in the first before a rain delay that forced him from the game. He allowed three runs on a double, a homer and two walks and struck out one. Hamels did not return after a delay of an hour an four minutes in the first inning. Atlanta’s starter, Tim Hudson, did and allowed two runs over six innings in the game.

Martin Prado doubled to left to start the bottom of the first. Jason Heyward flew to right for the first out before Hamels walked Chipper Jones. It put men on first and second for Troy Glaus and Glaus hit a 2-1 pitch out to left to put Atlanta up 3-0. Hamels struck out McCann before rain stopped the game. When it started back up the Phils had Durbin on the mound. Durbin walked Yunel Escobar before getting Omar Infante to pop to second to end the inning.

Hamels was behind Escobar 2-1 when rain stopped the game, so when Durbin walked him when the game resumed the walk was charged to Hamels.

Durbin struck out Melky Cabrera to start the second inning before the pitcher Tim Hudson singled to center. Durbin got the next two to leave Hudson stranded.

He walked Glaus with one out in the third and McCann moved Glaus to third with a single. Escobar hit a double-play ball to Castro at third, but the Phillies didn’t get a double-play. They didn’t even get a single play, cause Castro didn’t handle the grounder cleanly and was charged with an error. Glaus scored to make it 4-0 with McCann going to second and Escobar safe at first. Infante was next and he singled to left, scoring McCann (5-0) and sending Escobar to third. Durbin got out of it without any more damage, getting Cabrera to line to short and Hudson to ground to short.

Big error for Castro at third. With both Valdez and Castro in the starting lineup, the Phils put Castro at third and Valdez at short. That presumably means that the Phils think Valdez is better at short or worse at third.

Bastardo threw a 1-2-3 fourth.

He was back for the fifth and walked McCann with one out. Escobar was next and he singled into center, sending McCann to second. Herndon came in to pitch to the righty Infante and walked him to load the bases. Cabrera hit a ground ball to second. Utley went to Valdez for the second out, but that’s all the Phillies would get. McCann scored to put Atlanta up 6-0 with two down and men on first and third for Hudson. Hudson grounded to second to end the inning.

Bastardo threw 1 1/3 innings having thrown 22 pitches the day before. He’s been charged with five runs on 14 appearances for the season, three of which have scored in the last two days.

The lead was cut to 6-2 when Romero started the sixth. He walked Heyward with one out and struck Chipper out swinging before Heyward stole second. After the stolen base, the lefty Romero put the righty Glaus on intentionally and got McCann on a fly ball to right to end the inning.

Baez pitched the seventh. He gave up a leadoff single to Escobar, but got Infante on a fly ball to left for the first out before getting Cabrera to hit into a double-play.

Baez was back for the eighth. Lefty Eric Hinske hit for the pitcher Takashi Saito to and singled to right. Werth mishandled the ball for the Phillies second error of the game, which allowed Hinske to go to third. Gregor Blanco ran for Hinske and came in to score when Prado followed with a fly ball to right, putting Atlanta up 7-2. Baez walked Heyward and Contreras came in to pitch to Jones, getting Chipper to hit into a double-play to end the inning.

Long day for the pen, especially Durbin who threw 51 pitches after throwing seven in Monday’s game. Durbin also pitched three days in a row May 26-28. That’s too much Durbin and you’re not likely to see him for a while. Bastardo was also pitching for the second day in a row. He threw 23 pitches last night after throwing 22 on Monday. Before Monday’s game he hadn’t ever thrown 20 pitches in relief in a game. Now he’s done it twice in two days.

Baez threw 31 pitches in the game. Herndon 12 and Contreras six.

The Phillies lineup against righty Tim Hudson went (1) Victorino (2) Valdez (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Werth (6) Ibanez (7) Castro (8) Ruiz. Valdez at short. Castro at third. Werth back in the lineup after sitting with his 0-for-19. Ruiz catches. Valdez came into game hitting 333/350/513 over his past 41 plate appearances, but he has a .269 on-base percentage for the season and .272 for his career. Hitting him second in the lineup is a poor idea.

The Phils went in order in the first.

Werth walked with one out in the second and the Phillies down 3-0. Ibanez flew to center and Castro grounded to short.

Ruiz reached on an infield single to start the third. Durbin tried to bunt him to second and couldn’t, striking out for the first out. Victorino struck out too, bringing Valdez to the plate with two outs and Ruiz still on first. Valdez singled to left and Infante mishandled the ball for an error, letting Ruiz go to third and Valdez to second. Utley struck out swinging to leave both men stranded.

Durbin can’t get the bunt down.

Ibanez singled with two outs in the fourth and the Phils down 5-0. Castro grounded to short for the third out.

Ruiz walked to start the fifth. Dobbs, who had entered with Bastardo in the bottom of the fourth, was next and he grounded to third with Ruiz forced at second for the first out. Victorino struck out again before Valdez grounded back to the pitcher.

Second time in three innings the Phillies put the leadoff man on base but didn’t score. Victorino struck out in both innings.

Utley started the sixth with a double. Howard followed and hit a 2-2 pitch out to right, cutting the Atlanta lead to 6-2. Werth and Ibanez went down behind him before Gload hit for Herndon and grounded to short.

First home run for Howard since May 21. Including last night, he has hit 139/244/222 in his last 41 plate appearances.

Ruiz singled off of lefty Eric O’Flaherty to start the seventh. Dobbs stayed in the game and singled to right, sending Ruiz to third. Victorino popped to first with the runners holding for the second out. Valdez was next and hit a ground ball to third. Chipper fielded and went to second for an out as Ruiz took off for home. Prado took the throw at second and made a strong throw home, where McCann applied the tag and held the ball as Ruiz slid in to end the frame and turning the Phillies away.

Wow. Great play by Atlanta.

Just a miserable game for Victorino, who can’t bring the runner in from third with less than two outs. He went 0-for-5 and left six men on base in the game.

Dobbs gets a rare at-bat against the lefty with the Phils out of third baseman and comes through with a single. Valdez, Castro and Dobbs are presumably the healthy players on the Phils who could play third. Valdez was playing short and Castro was double-switched out of the game in the fourth.

Werth doubled to center with two outs in the eighth, finally breaking his long slump (he’s 1-for-his-last-22). Ibanez struck out looking for the third.

The Phillies were down 7-2 when they hit in the ninth. Francisco, who had entered with Contreras in the bottom of the eighth, led off with a single to center. Ruiz walked. Dobbs again got to hit against a lefty, this time Jonny Venters, and this time he struck out. Victorino was next and he hit a ground ball back to the pitcher. Venters went to second to force Ruiz for the second out. It brought up Valdez with men on first and third. Victorino took second without a throw before Valdez singled to center, scoring Francisco (7-3) and sending Victorino to third. Utley was hit by a pitch to load the bases and bring Howard to the plate as the tying run. Billy Wagner came in to pitch to Howard and got him to ground an 0-2 pitch to short to end the game.

Victorino was 0-for-5 and struck out twice.

Valdez was 2-for-5 with an RBI and still shouldn’t be hitting second.

Utley 1-for-4 with a double. He’s hitting 176/288/294 over his last 59 plate appearances.

Howard 1-for-5 with a two-run homer. He’s on pace to hit 29 home runs this year and walk 54 times.

Werth 1-for-3 with a walk and a double. He’s still on pace to set the single-season doubles record with 73.

Ibanez 1-for-4.

Castro was 0-for-2. He’s 4-for-his-last-22. You kind of get the feeling he’s not a Manuel favorite.

Ruiz was 2-for-2 with two walks. He’s 6-for-his-last-12 with four walks.

Kyle Kendrick (3-2, 5.04) faces righty Derek Lowe (7-4, 4.86) this afternoon. Lefties are hitting 343/412/586 against Kendrick for the year. He comes off of a strong start against the Marlins in which he allowed two unearned runs over six innings. Lowe ended April with a 5.79 ERA but has a 2.88 ERA and a 1.16 ratio over his past four starts.

This article suggests that Polanco may play again on Friday.