4/18 – 4/24
It is almost like Ruben Amaro Jr planned for this very time of the season. The Phillies offense is notoriously known for going cold at times. See 2010 National League Championship Series, 20 runs in six games.
Apparently with more rabbits in his hat Amaro enticed Cliff Lee to come back to the City of BrotherLEE love for another go around. Could this have been Amaro’s admittal that pitching, and not home runs, will take his team back to the World Series?
Well for whatever reason we are all glad he did it. It’s only the third full week of the season but the Phillies offense, minus Chase Utley, is struggling to put runs on the board. I know this ‘crying wolf’ thing seems a little silly with the Phils owning the best record in baseball (15-6).
This was their busiest week playing all seven days. Their run total of 19 for the week was still two shy of the amount they scored opening weekend against the Astros (21). And that was only three games.
The Phillies opened the week welcoming in the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew left Philadelphia taking two of three games and leaving Philly fans thinking ‘what just happened.’ The Ace, Halladay, was shelled for six runs in 6.2 innings and the offense was held to just two hits. In fact, in the three game series, the Phillies only managed 17 hits. Shane Victorino led the offensive charge with four hits and a home run.
This was the first series of the season where a starting pitcher did not pick up a win. In the final game against the Brewers Ryan Madson worked a scoreless eighth to get the win.
If people hadn’t started noticing the offensive draught yet, they sure would once the Phillies landed in San Diego for a four game series. The Padres lead the National League with a .294 ERA. However, they are also third from last in hitting (.214).
This was Amaro’s time to shine. The Phillies were sending three out of the four aces to the hill and their number five starter so desperate to show he was better than that. And he was. They all were.
Philadelphia pitchers only allowed three runs in four games against San Diego. On the flip side, the Phillies only managed three runs a game for the series. For this series, though, it worked. Joe Blanton stepped up going seven innings and only allowing two runs; a very similar line to what he put up against the Brewers earlier in the week.
The pitching is good. We all knew it would be. The hitting was supposed to be better. With Chase Utley on the disabled list and Jayson Werth playing in Washingtom we knew there was going to be some holes. Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard have really stepped up in an attempt to fill those holes. Polanco (.376) is batting near the top of the league and Howard is second to Prince Fielder in RBIs (19).
Victorino has just dropped below the .300 mark (.295) and Wilson Valdez is starting to cool off from his hot spring (.263). Ben Francisco could be hitting better (.247) but he is showing some signs of power with three home runs and six extra base hits already this season.
Now here’s the goat. Raul Ibanez is hovering. Hovering above a bottomless pit. How low can he go? Well, he is only hitting .187 and is just not seeing the ball well. Charlie Manuel opted to start John Mayberry Jr. in left field in the series finale against the Padres and with good reason. Ibanez in his last seven games is 2 for his last 24 with only one RBI. And you all know what he is making this year salary wise.
It’s not time yet to pull the plug on the 38 year-old left fielder, but something needs to happen. I like the idea of platooning Mayberry into left and right field when needed. He is hitting .375 in the limited action he’s seen. He is getting fooled badly at the plate with the off speed pitches but that will change with more regular at bats.
At the end of the day (week) the Phillies can survive their offensive woes. They won’t be able to do it every week however. This pitching staff is incredible, the best in majors perhaps but even they can’t bail the team out every game. The Phillies still lead their division in runs but have dropped to seventh in the National League in hitting (.260).
The Phillies finished off the week 5-2 despite their hitting troubles and are Major League best 15-6. For a team who loves playing at Citizens Bank Park they also lead the Majors with their road record (8-2).
They had some issues with hitting this week, but the pitching bailed them out. It won’t be like that all season. The pitching will sustain, but even great pitchers give up runs. If the Phillies plan on continuing to look down from the top of the division then they will have to find that groove once again.
This week the Phillies will stay out West for a three game series with Arizona before heading home and welcome division rivals the New York Mets into town.