By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel would have been an excellent spokesman for that old Nike ad, “Chicks dig the Longball.”
Scoring runs in bunches with a couple of three-homers thrown in for good measure is something Manuel would prefer even in the midst of his team winning close 3-2 victory over the Florida Marlins on Sunday afternoon.
Manuel said winning with small ball and a minimal amount of runs is nice, but he wants to see his team score more runs and not allow teams to hang around in the late innings.
“I think it’s something that’s going good for us right now,” Manuel said. “I think in the last four games I think we’ve got to be able to hit the ball and be able to get more runners in scoring position because we definitely got to be able to score more runs.”
Against the Marlins on Sunday, the Phillies needed a sacrifice fly from Carlos Ruiz that scored Ryan Howard in the bottom of the eighth inning and a solid effort by closer Jose Contreras to pitch his way out a tense situation in the ninth inning to pull out the win.
But as much as Manuel wants Howard and company to knock the ball out of the park, the Phillies shouldn’t take a gift horse in the mouth and ought to be happy that they are able to come away with wins.
I can remember back in 2008 when the Phillies were jacking the ball out of the park on a regular basis when Manuel used to complain about his team inability to score runs on ground outs and other small ball situations during times when they were going through times when they couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.
And so when Manuel was expressing his worry about his team not scoring runs in droves like his previous teams, that prompted me to say really, Charlie—didn’t you guys like win the game? It should be good that you have the ability to pull out games like that when you’re not launching balls into the seats at Citizen’s Bank Park.
“We don’t take nothing from winning the game if we win ugly or beautiful,” Manuel said. “Anytime you win it’s good.”
It definitely says something about this team’s ability to win when you consider the firepower this team has lost over the years. Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth, a couple of guys who are capable hitting 25-30 homeruns per year, are gone. Chase Utley is on the diabled list. Jimmy Rollins, who hasn’t a good year hitting homeruns since his MVP season back in 2007 when he hit 30, has just one run batted in so far this season.
“We’ve definitely given up some power with Utley being out of the lineup,” Manuel said. “When he’s good, he’s a 25-30 homerun guy. We can talk about small ball, big ball whatever you want to talk about when you have 170, 180, 200 homeruns up, that kind of hitting would help our lineup.”
Oddly enough, the Phillies players have been talking about their renewed to commitment to not relying on the the longball or the big inning to win games, especially considering the strength of their starting rotation with their famed four aces and Joe Blanton.
“The mentality is that you want to go out and try to score as many runs as you need to win the game,” Howard said. “Everybody’s got to realize you’re not going to put up seven or 10 runs every single night. Sometimes, it’ll take three runs or it will take 10. For us as long as we have more than they do, that’s all that matters.”
In a long 162-game season, the Phillies are going to have their peaks and valleys in terms of scoring runs and as much as Manuel wants to outscore the Philadelphia Eagles offense (Yeah, I know it’s football) winning more games like Sunday’s squeaker over the Marlins helps you to get through times when you’re not tearing the cover off the ball.
“Those are character builders, character testers for guys coming out of the bullpen, those close games,” Howard said. “You gotta have those to see where you are.”