The NBA in late May: Where Amazing Happens.
The Phillies’ offense in late May: Where Nothing Happens.
After the Phillies’ 5-0 loss to the Mets at Citi Field tonight, what else is there left to say about the offense’s slump? (Other than that word “slump” doesn’t come close to quantifying whatever has sapped the offense the past four games.)
When a team gets shut out, that’s normal. Back-to-back nights, well, that happens, too. But three times (nearly four) in four games, and being held scoreless in 37 of 38 innings? That’s no accident. It’s a sign that something isn’t right. The pitchers the Phillies have faced the past four games are Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi. That’s not in the same class as the starting rotation of the 1971 Orioles. If the Phillies faced Tim Lincecum four straight times, they’d probably score more than three runs, which is what they’ve managed against those four … shall we say lesser-caliber pitchers.
The truth is that every offense goes through slumps, some worse than others (and some really, really bad). While the Phillies haven’t had a dry spell quite like this the past few seasons, the combination of a couple of slow starts (Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez) and having two starters either on the DL or severely banged up (Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz) has caused a perfect storm.
I’ll spare the highlights of tonight’s game because, frankly, there aren’t any. But for the Phillies, one moment stood out above the rest. With Victorino on second base in the sixth inning and one out, Chase Utley lined a solid single to right field. We’re used to seeing the fleet Victorino zip around third on plays like that, but he was held at third. With the offense needing a spark, Victorino had to score on that play, but the fact that he didn’t served only to illustrate how the offense has lost its way. Third base coach Sam Perlozzo thought he was playing it safe by holding Victorino, but it was the wrong decision – especially considering Ryan Howard’s propensity to strike out against left-handed pitchers (Howard entered Wednesday with a .308 career OBP against lefties and a nearly 40 percent strikeout rate).
If there’s any positive news from tonight, it’s that Charlie Manuel held a short team meeting after the game. When Manuel gets mad, good things often follow.