By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
With the Phillies inability to score more than four runs over their last four games has folks around these parts, including Phillie manager Charlie Manuel, worried and wondering when will this power outage end.
In Wednesday’s win over the Milwaukee Brewers in the final game of the their six-game home stand, it was the return of that ongoing, longest running Phillies TV series, “Dr. Longball.”
The Phillies rallied from a 3-0 deficit and came away with a 4-3 win on the strength of a three-run homerun by Placido Polanco in the sixth and a what turned out to be a game-winning solo shot by Shane Victorino in the bottom of eighth.
“That’s the quickest way I know to score runs, especially if you’re getting four or five hits,” Manuel said with a smile. “We have to hit and we will hit some homers if we have good at-bats. It’s just a matter of us being consistent in our hitting. We got off to a slow start and we werent’ playing very good at the start. We got a big homerun from (Polanco) and that definitely changed things in the game around.”
In the first two games of their three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Phillies managed just one extra-base hit. Things might have hit the proverbial tipping point when not even their great starting pitching could rescue them from a 9-0 shutout and their first two-game losing streak of the season.
After a 17-inning scoring drought, the Phillie finally ended their scoring drought in dramatic fashion with homeruns from Polanco and Victorino. For this upcoming West coast road trip, the win was a huge shot in the arm for a struggling Phillies offense.
“With a doubt we turned a page, we lost (Tuesday) and we won (Wednesday),” Polanco said. “Hopefully, we’ll keep it going.”
Because it’s only April, it’s too soon panic or to be in crisis mode if you’re a Phillies fan. As the same time, the Phillies current lack of power is reflection of the temporary loss of Chase Utley and the permanent loss of Jayson Werth to the Washington Nationals.
It’s something that none of the Phillies players want to talk about these days, but the reality is that their current lineup hasn’t shown so far that they are capable of producing runs and getting those big hits on a consistent basis.
“We’ve definitely given up some power with Utley being out of the lineup,” Manuel said earlier this week. “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.”
Last season, Werth batted 296 with 27 homeruns, 46 doubles and 85 runs batted in. Meanwhile, Chase Utley, whose return is uncertain at this point, was averaging over 20 homeruns per year until injuries slowed his 2010 season down.
Someone other than Ryan Howard has to come forward and be a consistent power hitter on this team. Actually, the Phillies do have a few guys capable of coming up with some extra bases hits and some homeruns, but they haven’t so far.
“We do have guys in our lineup that are capable of hitting anywhere from 10, 15 and 20 homeruns and of course we’ve got Howard and some can hit even more than that,” Manuel said.
Right now, Manuel is not getting much from guys like Raul Ibanez, who’s batting .219 so far with just one homerun and 10 RBI. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins has just one run batted in hitting from the No. 3 spot in the lineup.
For the last two games, Manuel has started John Mayberry Jr. on nights where he replaced Ibanez and Ben Francisco, who has cooled down considerable since his hot start. He said he is hoping to get hot enough to convince the Phillies him to keep in the starting lineup. In his two starts, Mayberry was 1-for-6 with a double.
“I think if you get consistent at-bats the obviously there are some advantages,” Mayberry said. “I guess my role is undetermined. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and contributing and being productive more often than naught.”
While panic may not be setting in about the Phillies offensive woes just two weeks into the season, there is a tendency for players, especially players hitting around Howard, to try to hard to come up with the big at-bat to win.
“I think the only that’s changed is trying to make things happen instead of just letting them happen as far as the guys that are hitting around me,” Howard said. “I would say that guys are trying to take it upon themselves to go the extra-mile to make something happen instead of letting come to us.”