10/24/08 3:05 AM EST
Phils struggle with scoring chances
Powerful offense is 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
The Phils' offensive output was virtually identical from one night to the next -- lots of baserunners, lots of opportunities, few runs. But thanks to Cole Hamels' brilliance on Wednesday, Philadelphia was celebrating a 3-2 win. On Thursday, Brett Myers wasn't quite as good, and two runs weren't enough to beat the Rays.
Given that Hamels won't start again until Game 5, it's clear that the tune needs to change.
Score three runs in a win, and everyone talks about timely hits and big-time pitching. Score two runs in a loss, and everyone asks what's wrong. Context is a funny thing. Nonetheless, Philadelphia has scored five runs in two games, and for a team that finished second in the National League in scoring, that's uncharacteristic. And it's not good enough.
"We're not doing it," Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino said. "That's the bottom line."
The good news is the Phillies are creating chances. They picked up 17 hits and 10 walks in two games at Tropicana Field, despite facing the American League's best run-prevention team at a pitcher's park.
The bad news is that all those hits and walks added up to five runs. The Phils are an almost impossible 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position and have stranded 22 runners.
In fact, the Phillies' 0-for-19 skid with runners in scoring position to start the World Series is the longest since the 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers went 0-for-22 for the entire four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Victorino ended the skid with an infield single in the fourth inning Thursday, but the hit did not produce a run.
"We're not panicking at all," said Ryan Howard, who is 0-for-4 with four strikeouts with runners in scoring position in the series. "We're not going to panic. We know what the situation is. We've had little bits of lulls. But I wouldn't really say it's been so much of a lull. It's just a matter of getting the runs in."
|How the Phillies have fared with runners in scoring position so far in the World Series:|
|Player||Game 1||Game 2||Total|
Howard is emblematic of the pattern. With the bases empty, he's 2-for-4 with a walk in two games. But in RBI situations, he hasn't come through. The same is true for Victorino, who's 3-for-5 with the bases empty.
It's true that you'd rather be creating chances than getting shut down entirely. But it's also true that the Phillies may not get so many chances in the upcoming games. The problem is that there's not really anything that can be done. Hitters hit -- eventually.
"If you start putting too much on it, you will start pressing and the hill only gets taller," said shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
One way the Phils can change their offensive efficiency is by hitting the ball out of the park. Manager Charlie Manuel's offense led the National League and finished second in the Majors in home runs. Whether there's a man in scoring position or not, a big fly is a sure way to plate some runs.
But through two games, the Phillies have hit only one homer. They hit 10 in nine games through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Perhaps returning home to Citizens Bank Park will help. Tropicana Field surely wasn't very friendly.
"It works itself out," Manuel said. "We can talk about it. We can go out and take extra hitting, things like that. You can hit a lot. You can practice, but, yeah, at the same time, it kind of works its way out."
It needs to. And soon.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.