By Chris Murray
For the CM Report and the Sunday Sun
With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on the shelf with injuries, the Phillies (1-3) are still in search of offense and can’t seem to find it anywhere four games into the season.
The Phillies 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Miami Marlins in front of a sell-out crowd at Citizen’s Bank Park in the home opener is yet another example of what happens when one of their best starting pitchers has a bad day and the offense is not clicking.
“We’re four games in and the bottomline is we haven’t been hitting the ball hard enough to score runs,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said in his postgame press conference. “In the last four days, we’ve been putting the ball in play, but not too hard. We definitely have to move the ball a little better than that.”
The Marlins roughed up Phils starting pitcher Cole Hamels for four runs (three earned) on eight hits in during his five and two-thirds of inning of work. Oddly enough, he struck out nine with no walks, but Miami got just enough runs off Hamels to put the Phillies in a deep hole early.
“I thought I made some really great pitches at times,” Hamels said. “I felt like all four pitches were working. I had two or three that I didn’t really throw effectively and gave up a homer.”
Marlins second baseman Omar Infante led the charge with a pair of home runs and two runs batted in by first baseman Gaby Sanchez. Miami also got run-scoring single from Hanley Ramirez and a solo homerun from Austin Kearns off closer Jonathan Papelbon.
As good as Hamels and the rest of the pitching staff are, Manuel said if the Phillies don’t start hitting on a consistent basis, it’s going to eventually take its toll on the team.
“If we don’t score runs, it’s definitely going to add pressure to our pitching,” Manuel said. “But we have a lot of good veteran pitchers, but at the same time, it could take its wear and tear on them if we don’t score runs. We gotta find away to better and we’re going to work at it.”
Meanwhile, the Phillies offense was shut down by the pitching of Miami’s Anibal Sanchez, who allowed just two runs on six hits in six and one-third of an inning—three of those hits came when the Phillies scored two runs off him in the seventh. Up until that point, he had allowed just three hits and did not allow a lead-off batter to reach base until that inning.
The Phils got their only runs of the game on a two-run double by rookie second baseman Freddy Galvis that scored Shane Victorino, who led off the seventh inning with a single and Carlos Ruiz, who reached on a fielder’s choice. It was Galvis’s first major-league hit after going hitless in his first 12 at bats.
But despite of the slow start offensively, the Phillies aren’t stressing about their offensive struggles just first four games of the season. Even without, Howard and Utley in their lineup, Victorino said the offense is capable producing enough runs to win games even in come-from-behind situations like they have in previous years.
“Just because we haven’t done it in four games, don’t worry about it,” Victorino said. “Absolutely, we’re a good enough team that we can come back. I don’t see why we can’t. It’s just that we haven’t done it and so of course that question is going to be asked. Yes, we’re a good enough team that we can come back.”
For all the talk about the Phillies offense without Howard and Utley, the team has always found a way to win games when they’ve had players on the disabled list. Manuel said his team will figure it out at some point during the season.
“We’ve got guys that’s supposed to be able to hit,” Manuel said. “When you take those guys (Howard and Utley) out of the lineup it has an effect on you, but at the same time, we’ve always been able to work through that and that’s what we’ve gotta do.”