By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
You can certainly point to several reasons why the Phillies swept away the Washington Nationals in their three-game set at the Citizen’s Bank Park. One of them is something, the team is happy to talk about and the other is something very obvious, but for some bizarre reason they won’t talk about.
Let’s deal with the first one, they’re somewhat mum about the reshuffling that the Phillies have done at the start of the lineup. Putting shortstop Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino at the top of the order with Placido Polanco at the third spot has paid dividends this week.
The three games against the Nationals, the duo of Rollins and Victorino were 10-for-24 this week with two stolen bases. If anything else, they have sparked a Phillies offense that goes through periods of being hot and cold. After the way things have gone this week, Manuel is not to change the lineup anytime soon.
“I think you’ll see it for while,” Manuel said. “I’ve always liked Rollins and Victorino hitting one-two and that’s our speed and that’s how we manufacture a lot of runs. We pulled a double-steal (Tuesday) and that’s how we’ve always played in our big run-producing years and that’s how I like to do it.”
Rollins, who didn’t want to talk about the lineup change, did talk about the running game and attempting more steals, which was a by-product of Manuel moving him and Victorino to the top spots in the batting order.
“We would like to run a lot more, there’s no doubt about that,” Rollins said. “Sometimes you’re just shutdown. The pitcher is not giving you enough time. Stealing bases is like running up against the clock. If a guy is under 1.3 seconds to the plate and combines his time with the catcher, it’s not a good makeup to run on.
“Now if a guy is 1.35 and above combine that time with the catcher, your talking about five tenths of a second. We’ve been taking advantage of the guys that are slow and when guys are too quick, you can’t just run into an out and take the bat out of the next guys hand you’re not on bats for that double.”
Rollins said the Phillies have to be selective when they steal a base, but it’s not something they do for the sake of doing it.
There is no doubt that Raul Ibanez has gotten past his slump in a big way. In Thursday’s 7-3 win, Ibanez went 3-for-4 with three runs batted including a homerun that flew into the second deck in right field. Ibanez has eight hits in last 11 at-bats, five were for extra bases—three doubles and a homerun.
“Just trying to see it and hit. Really not trying to do too much and it’s working it and we were able to win,” Ibanez said. “I’m just trying to put an easy stroke on the ball and it works out. I’m trying not to put too much thought into it. I’m just trying to have a quality at-bat and put a good swing on the ball.”
Rollins said it was a gradual process for Ibanez to break out of the slump and regain his confidence.
“It starts before that there’s a little bit of belief and then when you get that hit, it’s like okay it worked, but you’re still not sure,” Rollins said. “You walk away with three hits and by the third one, you’re like okay I got three hits tonight, but I still have to do it again tomorrow.
“Then tommorow comes, you get three more hits and say this is feeling pretty good and I can keep doing this. By that time, you’ll believe that you give yourself a chance to get hits. Whether you get a hit or not, you can live more so with I did everything right and the ball didn’t fall in and they catch it as opposed to I have no chance. (Ibanez) he believes that the swing he has now is going to produce hits even if they catch them.”
With the exception of two games against the New York Mets in which they combined to score three runs, the Phillies have been hitting the ball better and scoring more runs. Rollins said it’s a matter of the team not dwelling upon the outs. He said it was something he discussed with Manuel.
“Everybody is starting to understand that this is baseball and that I do make outs,” Rollins said. “It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean that my swing is bad. If I’m off let me go the shop and let me see the mechanic and get it adjusted.”
Even with one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, Rollins said the Phillies offense can’t put too much of the burden on the Phils starting rotation.
“We have to do our part. We do our part, we make their job easier,” he said. “They throw less stressful pitches. They’re up 6-0 as opposed to a 1-0 ball game where every pitch counts. We don’t want to rely on them too much to support us, but they shouldn’t rely on us too much to support them.Everbody stays focused and hopefully in the ninth inning, we’re in the winning column.”