05/17/2003 6:31 PM ET
Notes: Burrell battling slump
Outfielder looking for answers at the plate
HOUSTON -- No question about it, Pat Burrell is in a slump.
Following Friday's loss, the slugger spent what must have seemed like hours staring into space, and wouldn't look at the cup of coffee he occasionally brought to his lips.
More than likely, he was playing over in his head the four painful at-bats from that game, which included three strikeouts, the first of which came with one out and a runner on third in the first inning.
"There's no excuse. I've got to find another gear and get it going," Burrell said. "I wish I had the answer."
Burrell, though on a similar pace to last season in terms of his RBIs, walk and strikeout totals, is a little behind with his home run numbers. He is way down in the batting average department, though, at .213 and falling.
"I'm so low right now that a few hits can change that, though," he said.
Coming off a stretch where he's hit four homers in his past 12 games and 16 of his past 28 hits for extra bases, Burrell is now in the midst of an 0-for-10 stretch, with five strike outs. May has historically been his best month, but he is hitting .186 so far this month.
I've felt comfortable at times. I felt great [Friday]," Burrell said. "I have to gut it out. I have to keep going out there and it'll come around."
Manager Larry Bowa said he's seen better swings lately from his cleanup hitter, but is growing concerned that Burrell is carrying some of those bad at-bats into the field with him. He referenced a second-inning double by Gregg Zaun on Friday, which dropped between Burrell and Byrd. That cost starter Vicente Padilla another 12-15 pitches, Bowa thought.
"What happened is it snowballed," said Bowa. "You have to separate [offense and defense], and I know it's hard."
Bowa understands that the hitters are working extremely hard, as opposed to last season when he doubted the dedication of a few players. He would like to see a lot fewer strikeouts from Burrell and others. The Phillies are fourth in the NL in that department.
Putting the ball in play is the key for Bowa, because there's always a chance something might happen. And on the road against a team like Houston, with dominating relievers like Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner, they need to take advantage of opportunities.
"They're has to be a killer instinct. We're not putting guys away," Bowa said. "You have to put the ball in play. When you bring it back to the dugout, you're making it easy for them. When you swing and miss, the only [good] thing that can happen is it gets past the catcher.
"With the way we're hitting right now, if we didn't have good pitching, we'd be eight or nine games under. I really believe that."
As it stands, the Phillies are five games over .500, though they have fallen to six games out of first place.
Injuries: Turk Wendell has a sore right groin, though the reliever doesn't believe it's serious.
Wendell, who was scored on Friday for the first time this season, said he tweaked it last week while pitching, and would be able to pitch if needed.
No chance said Bowa, who wasn't planning on pitching him on a third straight day, regardless.
Doctor, doctor: Carlos Silva. sent home before yesterday's game with a 102-degree fever, returned on Saturday, but still looked under the weather. Dan Plesac has also been battling flu-like symptoms.
Pay up: Joe Roa was fined $750 for throwing behind Arizona's Craig Counsell on May 5.
This day at the Vet: 1991 -- Dickie Thon's game-winning single scores Dale Murphy to end the longest 1-0 win in Veterans Stadium history. The win over the Cubs takes 16 innings and spans four hours and 30 minutes.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for
MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball
or its clubs.
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com