In the Daily News today, John Smallwood writes the Phillies will only make the playoffs if Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell start hitting now and don’t let up until the end of the season. He writes:
Starting tonight, the Phillies have a stretch of 10 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mets and Chicago Cubs.
Unless they are counting on another late-September choke by the Mets, this is as close as they can get to “put up or shut up” time as it gets. It absolutely cannot happen unless Rollins, Utley, Howard and Burrell step up to the plate and start leading this club the way they are supposed to.
He’s absolutely right. I can write all I want about how the bottom of the order could be key to the team’s success, but they’ll only do so much. As Smallwood writes, you can’t keep relying on Shane Victorino to get on base and some combination of Greg Dobbs groundout/Carlos Ruiz single/Pedro Feliz hit by pitch or whatever to get him home.
We can say “move Vic up in the lineup,” but what good does that do when 3-4-5 ground out, strike out and ground out?
To be short, these guys need to produce. Rollins had a couple weeks of production back in May. Utley had two months of solid production earlier this season. Howard has produced in short spurts. Burrell has been somewhat consistent, but nothing dangerous since May.
If there’s no way these four can find some magic potion, or get conked over the head, or somehow stumble into their late-season 2007 selves, this team is not going to the postseason.